Zhang Yuan is a trail-blazer in Chinese cinema, standing in the vanguard of its most important recent developments. In the 1990s, he was one of the leading members of what has been called the ‘sixth generation’ of Chinese filmmakers, whose works, produced after 1989, challenged the system with a critical, uncompromising vision of urban life under pressure. From 1999 on, Zhang has been at the forefront of exploring the possibilities of China’s commercializing film market, where he has created a space that welcomes local audiences while continuing to explore his own creative vision.
Born in Jiangsu China in 1963, Zhang Yuan graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in cinematography from the Beijing Film Academy in 1989. In 1990, Zhang produced and directed his first feature film, MAMA, which tells the story of a young, single mother and her retarded son. MAMA subsequently won the Jury Award and a Special Mention at France’s Festival des Trois Continents in Nantes. His second feature, BEIJING BASTARDS, completed in 1992, won a Special Mention at the Locarno Film Festival and the Jury Award at the Singapore Film Festival. In 1994, Zhang produced and directed a feature-length documentary, THE SQUARE, which won a Jury Award at the Hawaii Film Festival. The following year he produced and directed SONS, which won the Tiger Award at Rotterdam.
His next film EAST PALACE, WEST PALACE, the story of a gay writer and his captor, produced in 1996, won various awards including best direction at Mar del Plata Film Festival. The next two years saw him revisiting his favorite genre and the results are two documentaries: DEMOLITION AND RELOCATION, 1998, a winner of the 3rd “Asia Now” TV Documentary Proposals Competition, and CRAZY ENGLISH, 1999, which won the Best Documentary award at the 2nd Filmmakers Film Festival, Milan, Italy. In 1999 Zhang Yuan also directed a feature film SEVENTEEN YEARS, a family drama of hate, crime and reconciliation, which won the Best Director award at the 56th Venice Film Festival. 2002 was his most productive year: he directed three films: JIANG JIE, a cinematic version of a revolutionary Beijing Opera of the same title; I LOVE YOU, an urban romantic drama; and GREEN TEA, a romantic mystery. In 2005, he produced a 26-episode documentary series PEKING OPERA : AN ORAL HISTORY. His latest film LITTLE RED FLOWERS was invited to compete at Sundance Film Festival’s World Cinema program in 2006. In the same year, the film won a C.I.C.A.E Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival and four best direction awards respectively at the Alba International Film Festival, the Beijing College Student Film Festival, the Vladivostok International Film Festival, and the Eurasia International Film Festival in Kazakhstan.
Zhang Yuan is also a prolific MTV producer and director. His direction of Cui Jian’s WILD IN THE SNOW won the Best Asian MTV Award at the American MTV Awards in 1991. His A PIECE OF RED CLOTH won a Special Mention at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Awards. Zhang Yuan was selected by TIME MAGAZINE in 1994 as one of the hundred young world leaders for the next century.
1990 Mama (Mama)
1992 Beijing Bastards (Beijing zazhong)
1994 The Square (Guangchang)
1995 Sons (Erzi)
1996 East Palace, West Palace (Dong gong, xi gong)
1998 Demolition and Relocation (Ding zi hu)
1999 Crazy English (Fengkuang yingyu)
1999 Seventeen Years (Guonian huijia)
2000 Miss Jin Xing (Jin Xing xiaojie)
2000 Hainan Hainan (Hainan Hainan)
2002 I Love You (Wo ai ni)
2002 Jiang Jie (Jiang Jie)
2002 Green Tea (Lu cha)
2005 Little Red Flowers (Kan shang qu hen mei)