Jia Zhangke

"Jia Zhangke wasn’t the first indie filmmaker in China, but he’s been way more influential than such predecessors as Zhang Yuan, Wang Xiaoshuai, and Wu Wenguang... The key to understanding Jia is to notice that his aesthetic excellence goes hand-in-hand with his brilliant analysis of the methods needed to maintain intellectual, economic, and political independence in state-capitalist China." - Tony Rayns (Cinema Scope)

Jia Zhangke

Director / Screenwriter / Producer / Cinematographer
(1970- ) Born May 24, Fenyang, Shanxi, China
Top 250 Directors / 21st Century's Top 100 Directors

Key Production Countries: China, Japan, Hong Kong, France
Key Genres: Drama, Social Issues, Documentary, Romantic Drama, Ensemble Film, Urban Drama
Key Collaborators: Nelson Yu Lik-wai (Cinematographer), Zhao Tao (Leading Character Actress), Shozo Ichiyama (Producer), Wang Hongwei (Leading Actor), Lim Giong (Composer), Kong Jing Lei (Editor), Li Kit Ming (Producer), Liang Jing Dong (Production Designer/Leading Character Actor), Yoshihiro Hanno (Composer), Liu Qiang (Production Designer), Ren Zhong-lun (Producer), Matthieu Laclau (Editor)

"Jia Zhangke has emerged as the leading figure of the sixth generation of Chinese filmmakers and one of international cinema’s most celebrated artists. Merging gritty realism with elegance and originality, he tackles contemporary subject matter in both documentary and fiction projects—and often fuses the two approaches to great effect. In little more than a decade he has created a body of work that reflects the enormous changes of the past fifty years of Chinese society." - The Museum of Modern Art, 2010
"Jia Zhangke is a leading figure of what is known as the “Sixth Generation” of film directors in the People’s Republic of China, following the “Fifth Generation,” whose members include Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige. The Fifth Generation directors occupy themselves mostly with spectacle-driven mythic histories laden with pointed social criticisms that jeopardize their standing with the government censors. In contrast, the Sixth Generation filmmakers largely produce their gritty, contemporary realist films well outside of the state system, relying instead on personal or private funding, often through sources outside China... In watching the films that Jia Zhangke has made to date, one can’t help feeling the world is a very exciting, mysterious and perplexing place. One can’t help feeling grateful to be reminded of the innumerability of life’s details, and the urgency of its dilemmas." - Kevin B. Lee (Senses of Cinema, 2003)
"He films characters who bear the scars of history even as its truths are so often denied to them, for whom the persistence and suppression of history is one of the fundamental facts of contemporary life in China, and for whom “hallucinatory realism” is a frank depiction of the nightmarish quality of Chinese daily life... Over the years, as Jia has continued to make movies within the system, he has become a master both of irony and of symbolism; far from being engulfed by the system, he has turned it into a subject of his art." - Richard Brody (The New Yorker, 2012)
"While some underground and independent Chinese films acquire their popularity abroad by being openly subversive of China’s state authority, the films of Jia Zhangke are of a different nature. Even though Jia’s films are politically very significant, he does not posit himself as a dissident opposing the Chinese state. Nor does he center his films on political criticism. His films aim to reach beyond ordinary politics and portray the encompassing reality of Chinese people and society." - Shu-chin Wu (China Research Center, 2010)
"Jia, with his choreographed wide-screen long takes in long shot, may be the best cinematic composer of figures in landscapes since Michelangelo Antonioni. And as with Antonioni, the disconnections count more than the connections." - Jonathan Rosenbaum, 2005
"I think, in my own films, the rhythms come from life. One of the reasons I love Hou and Ozu so much is the way their films match the rhythm and emotion of Chinese people’s lives. I think anyone’s film technique stems directly from the way he views life. In my long shots and long takes, my goal is to respect the viewer’s agency, and even to give my films a sense of democracy. I want audiences to be able to freely choose how they want to interact with what’s on screen. But everyone’s reasons for using long shots and long takes are different; personally, I just don’t want my position as a director to become dictatorial, because I want my films to be governed by a sense of equality and democracy." - Jia Zhangke (Film Comment)
TSPDT Guide
Highly Recommended
Platform (2000)
Recommended
Pickpocket (1997), The World (2004) , Still Life (2006) , A Touch of Sin (2013)
Worth a Look
In Public (2001), Unknown Pleasures (2002) , 24 City (2008) , I Wish I Knew (2010), Mountains May Depart (2015)
Approach with Caution
Useless (2007)
Acclaimed Films / IMDB Filmography
1,000 Greatest Films 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films
Jia Zhangke / Favourite Films
Bicycle Thieves (1948) Vittorio De Sica, The Boys from Fengkuei (1983) Hou Hsiao-hsien, Dersu Uzala (1975) Akira Kurosawa, Late Spring (1949) Yasujiro Ozu, Legend of the Mountain (1979) King Hu, A Man Escaped (1956) Robert Bresson, Raining in the Mountain (1979) King Hu, Red Desert (1964) Michelangelo Antonioni, A Touch of Zen (1971) King Hu, The Traveller (1974) Abbas Kiarostami, Where is the Friend's Home? (1987) Abbas Kiarostami, Yellow Earth (1984) Chen Kaige, Yi yi (2000) Edward Yang.
Source: The World of Jia Zhangke [Book] (2013)
Amazon Products
Films / Books
    Still Life
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