Sixth Generation (film directors)

Sixth Generation (film directors)
The Sixth Generation of directors denotes the group of mostly independent filmmakers who began directing after 1989. They are sometimes also called the ‘urban generation’ because of their focus on city culture. Generally acknowledged as the founder of the Sixth-Generation style is Zhang Yuan, whose third feature Beijing Bastards (Beijing zazhong)—with its marginal characters, semi-underground life style, low budget, non-professional actors and improvised script—became the representative piece of new urban cinema in the early 1990s.
The often improvised style and focus on social issues created a cinema verité with a very different atmosphere from the national epics of the Fifth Generation (film directors). Themes such as homosexuality, substance abuse, drifting youths, small crooks or divorce often made it difficult to pass through censorship, and consequently, most of these films were shown to overseas audiences first and remained unavailable to the general public in China. Central directors and films are: Wang Xiaoshuai’s Frozen (Dongchun de rizi), Seventeen-Year-Old Bicycle (Shiqisui de danche) and, most recently Drifters (2003), produced by Peggy Chiao; He Jianjun’s Postman (Youchai); Lu Xuechang’s The Making of Steel (Zhangda chengren); and Wang Chao’s Orphan of Anyang (Anyang gu’er). Wang Quan’an’s Lunar Eclipse (Yue shi) and Lou Ye’s Suzhou River (Suzhou he) tend towards the mystical and added art film to urban realism. Jia Zhangke’s two features, Little Wu (Xiao Wu) and Platform (Zhantai), remain two of the most important films for their pointed but stylish look at friendship, love, family and post-Mao society.
Cornelius, Sheila (2002). New Chinese Cinema: Challenging Representations. London: Wallflower Press.
Cui, Shuqin (2001). ‘Working from the Margins: Urban Cinema and Independent Directors in Contemporary China’. Post Script 20.2/3 (Winter/Spring): 77–92.
Dai, Jinhua (2002). Trans.
Wang Yiman. ‘A Scene in the Fog: Reading the Sixth Generation Films’. In Jing Wang and Tani Barlow (eds), Cinema and Desire: Feminist Marxism and Cultural Politics in the work of Dai Jinhua. London: Verso, 71–98.
Lau, Jenny Kwok Wah (2003). ‘Globalization and Youthful Subculture: The Chinese Sixth Generation Films at the Dawn of the New Century’. In idem (ed.), Multiple Modernities: Cinemas and Popular Media in Transcultural East Asia. Philadelphia: Temple University, 13–27.
Teo, Stephen (2003). There is No Sixth Generation: Director Li Yang on Blind Shaft and His Place in Chinese Cinema’. Sense of Cinema 27 (July/August). Online journal, available at [interview with Li Yang].
Wedell-Wedellsbord, A. (1995). ‘Chinese Literature and Film in the 1990s’. In R.Benewick and P.Wingrove (eds), China in the 1990s. Basingstoke: Macmillan.
Zhang, Yingjin (1998). ‘Chinese Cinema and Transnational Cultural Politics: Reflections on Film Festivals, Film Productions, and Film Studies’. Journal of Modern Literature in Chinese 2.1: 105–32.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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