Zhang Yuan

Zhang Yuan
b. 1963, Nanjing, Jiangsu
Film director
Zhang Yuan graduated in 1989 from the Beijing Film Academy in cinematography. He rejected an official assignment to the August First Film Studio, raised just over US$ 1,000 himself, and produced his first film, Mama (Mum, 1991), about an autistic boy and his mother. It won awards in Nantes, Switzerland, Edinburgh and Berlin.Subsequently, Zhang produced music videos and commercials in Hong Kong, and was the first Asian director to win an MTV award.
In 1993 he collaborated with the rock artist Cui Jian to make Beijing Bastards (Beijing zazhong), a semi-documentary underground film about a rock band, their music and its expression of urban angst. It was acclaimed at the Rotterdam, Locarno and Singapore Film Festivals, but shortly thereafter Zhang was banned from filmmaking by the government. Nevertheless, he completed a documentary, The Square (Guangchang, 1994), in which the lack of commentary underlines the silence surrounding the 1989 Tiananmen Incident. In 1995, he followed with Sons (Erzi), a docudrama about a dysfunctional Beijing family, which won a Tiger Award at the Rotterdam Film Festival, and in 1996, with what has been called China’s first gay movie, East Palace West Palace (a.k.a. Behind the Forbidden City\Donggong xigong), about a Beijing policeman’s fury at his own attraction to a gay prisoner.
By 1997 Zhang Yuan had been officially reinstated as a director. Seventeen Years (Guonian huijia, 1999), his first film to be distributed domestically through formal channels, won international acclaim, including a Special Director’s Award at the Venice Film Festival. In 1999 he also directed Crazy English (Fengkuang yongyu). Zhang’s latest product, I Love You (Wo Ai M, 2002)—based on a Wang Shuo novel and script with music by Zhang Yadong—was scheduled for release in 2003.
Barmé, Geremie (1999). In the Red: On Contemporary Chinese Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 189–97.
Reynaud, Bérénice (1997). ‘Gay Overtures: Zhang Yuan’s Dong Gong, Xi Gong’. Cineyama 36:31–3.
Zhang, Zhen (2002). ‘Zhang Yuang’. In Yvonne Tasker (ed.), Fifty Contemporary Filmmakers. London: Routledge, 418–29.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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