Beginning in the mid-late 1980s, the rise of the so-called Fifth Generation of Chinese filmmakers brought increased popularity of Chinese cinema abroad. Most of the filmmakers who constitute the Fifth Generation had graduated from the Beijing Film Academy in 1982 and... [more]
Beginning in the mid-late 1980s, the rise of the so-called Fifth Generation of Chinese filmmakers brought increased popularity of Chinese cinema abroad. Most of the filmmakers who constitute the Fifth Generation had graduated from the Beijing Film Academy in 1982 and included Zhang Yimou, Tian Zhuangzhuang, Chen Kaige, Zhang Junzhao and others. These graduates constituted the first group of filmmakers to graduate since the Cultural Revolution and they soon jettisoned traditional methods of storytelling and opted for a more free and unorthodox approach. Zhang Junzhao's One and Eight (1983) and Chen Kaige's Yellow Earth (1984) in particular were taken to mark the beginnings of the Fifth Generation. The most famous of the Fifth Generation directors, Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou, went on to produce celebrated works such as King of the Children (1987), Ju Dou (1989), Farewell My Concubine (1993) and Raise the Red Lantern (1991), which were not only acclaimed by Chinese cinema-goers but by the Western arthouse audience. Tian Zhuangzhuang's films, though less well-known by Western viewers, were well noted by directors such as Martin Scorsese. It was during this period that Chinese cinema began reaping the rewards of international attention, including the 1988 Golden Bear for Red Sorghum, the 1992 Golden Lion for Zhang Yimou's The Story of Qiu Ju, the 1993 Palme d'Or for Farewell My Concubine, and three Best Foreign Language Film nominations from the Academy Awards.
Extremely diverse in style and subject, the Fifth Generation directors' films ranged from black comedy (Huang Jianxin's The Black Cannon Incident, 1985) to the esoteric (Chen Kaige's Life on a String, 1991), but they share a common rejection of the socialist-realist tradition worked by earlier Chinese filmmakers in the Communist era. Other notable Fifth Generation directors include Wu Ziniu, Hu Mei, and Zhou Xiaowen. Some of their bolder works with political overtones were banned by Chinese authorities.
The Fourth Generation also returned to prominence. Given their label after the rise of the Fifth Generation, these were directors whose careers were stalled by the Cultural Revolution and who were professionally trained prior to 1966. Wu Tianming, in particular, made outstanding contributions by helping to finance major Fifth Generation directors under the auspices of the Xi'an Film Studio, while continuing to make films like Old Well (1986) and The King of Masks (1996).
The Fifth Generation movement effectively ended in the 1989 Tiananmen Incident, although its major directors continued to produce notable works, such as The Emperor's Shadow (1996) by Zhou Xiaowen. Several of its filmmakers went into self-imposed exile: Wu Tianming moved to the United States (but has since returned), Huang Jianxin left for Australia, while many others went into television-related works. [show less]