The Indissoluble Bond Between Zhang Yimou And the Venice Film Festival

As I mentioned in my past blog before, Chinese domestic film festivals are not good examples of conditions to present works of art and judge them fairly. However, it does not matter that our Chinese brilliant film directors to be treated equally in other international film festivals for most of time.

The Venice Film Festival has been an amazing stage for several Chinese film directors to show their charm. The first chemical reaction between them happened in 1990s. The Story of Qiu Ju (Zhang dir., 1992) is the first Chinese mainland movie that won the Gold Lion Award. Its director, Zhang Yimou, is the outstanding representative of “the fifth generation” of Chinese directors and a frequent award-winner. This award makes both him, the actors and his film production team famous. More importantly, Chinese movies won the respect and appreciation internationally since this amazing beginning.

Chinese director Zhang Yimou
The logo of the Venice Film Festival
The poster of The Story of Qiu Ju

I would like to talk more about his second award-winning movie in Venice, Not One Less (Zhang dir., 1999). After more film festivals, audiences, judges and critics has been impressed by Chinese movies, Zhang Yimou had presented another movie Not One Less and planed originally to join the Cannes Film Festival. However, this time the Cannes Film Festival had fail him because the then president, Gilles Jacob, believed this movie was doing propaganda on behalf of Chinese government after he watched. His comments made Zhang Yimou change his mind and announced to exit the Cannes Film Festival. He said he would not accept the interpretation with this obvious sense of politicization.

The logo of the Cannes Film Festival
The poser of Not One Less

Zhang Yimou came back into the embrace of the Venice Film Festival after it extended an olive branch to him and invited Not One Less (Zhang dir., 1999) to main competition. The president, Alberto Barbera, thought this movie was extremely precious and arranged the best promotion resources and screening schedule for it. Finally, Not One Less (Zhang dir., 1999) had won the Gold Lion Award unsurprisingly again.

It is well known that “art is without borders”. However, the fact is that we can hardly judge anything without bias and prejudices since it is part of human nature. Film festivals as programmers to present fine art of film to the world, their criteria and standard of selection decided the fate of many films and directors to a great extent and the its own level and rank. 1990s is the golden age for Chinese film since this is the first time that Chinese movie had got into international film market on a large scale. They needed more attention and recognition than ever to gain influence. This year, Zhang Yimou joined the Venice Film Festival with his newest movie Shadow (Zhang dir., 2018) this month. The film still aims to present Chinese culture with showing traditional Chinese philosophy. As the only Chinese-language film this year, after the premiere in 7th September, praise has been given from various media.

Let us wait and see how long this amazing bond will last between this Chinese director and this international film festival.


Zhang, Y (dir) 1992, the Story of Qiu Ju, DVD, Electric Pictures, London.

Zhang, Y (dir) 1999, Not One Less, DVD, Calif, Culver City.

Zhang, Y (dir) 2018, Shadow, motion picture, the Venice Film Festival, Venice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s