Jia Zhangke (b. 1970, Fenyang, Shanxi, China) 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. Much admired by critics and an inspiration to fellow filmmakers, Jia has developed an original, ever-evolving style marked by fluid camera movement and a porous, symbiotic relationship between the real and the imagined. His films—characterized by their plainspoken directness and postmodern aesthetic and peopled with amateurs as well as professional actors—illuminate the transformations taking place in China’s environment, architecture, and society by placing everyday people in the midst of a landscape in turmoil. Aiming to restore the concrete memory of place and to evoke individual history in a rapidly modernizing society, the filmmaker recovers the immediate past in order to imagine the future. His films reflect reality truthfully, while simultaneously using fantasy and a distinct aesthetic to pose existential questions about life and status in a society in flux. Through rigorous specificity, his art attains universal scope and appeal.

Organized by Jytte Jensen, Curator, Department of Film. With grateful thanks to Xstream Pictures (Eva Lam, Project Manager), The Sarajevo Film Festival (Howard Feinstein, Programmer), and Tzu-Wen Cheng. Prints courtesy of Zeitgeist Films, New Yorker Films, Cinema Guild, Memento/Artscope, Art for the World, Xstream, Celluloid Dreams, and Sidus Pictures.