Tian Zhuangzhuang is one of the leading figures of the ‘Fifth Generation’. His third feature film Horse Thief (1985) won large audiences in Europe and North America, and is now seen as one of the cornerstones of ‘Fifth Generation’ filmmaking: a modern classic. He has been in and out of trouble with the authorities for most of his career (not least for being the only film industry signatory to a 1989 open letter to the government, calling for the release of political prisoners) and he was ‘black-listed’ for a year after his film The Blue Kite won the Grand Prix at the 1992 Tokyo International Film Festival.
The son of well-known film actors, he was born in Beijing and at age 14 when Mao launched the Cultural Revolution, he was active as a young ‘Red Guard’ before being sent to Jilin Province for ‘reeducation’ at the hands of the local peasantry. He escaped from Jilin by joining the army, and served as a trainee cinematographer on several agricultural documentaries. When the Beijing Film Academy re-opened in 1978, he passed the exam to enter its Directing Department—and co-directed the student tape Our Corner (1980), the first sign of the coming ‘new wave’ in Chinese cinema. On graduating in 1982, he co-directed a feature for children.
Between 1994 and 1997 he ran the company Pegase within Beijing Film Studio and produced four features by young directors; he also acted in one of them, How Steel is Forged, directed by Lu Xuechang. In 2002 his film—Springtime in a Small Town won the San Marco Prize at the 59th Venice International Film Festival. In 2003, he founded BDI Films Inc. in Beijing, majoring on HD films for a young generation of directors. Also in 2003 he directed his first documentary film—Delamu, and in 2006 he finished his new feature —The Go Master.
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