New Delhi: Chinese director Zhang Yimou’s 25 year career in filmmaking has seen it all. He has seen a nation undergoing change. His films have won prizes at Venice, Cannes and Berlin film festivals. A special moment came in Zhang’s career when he directed the opening and closing ceremonies of 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games. Films such as ‘Red Sorghum’, ‘Raise the Read Lantern’ and ‘The Road Home’ have been acclaimed worldwide. During his formative years, the director spent 3 years as a farm labourer and 7 years at a textile mill. The experience gained during his early years inspired Zhang Yimou’s camera to focus on socially relevant issues.
Zhang speaks about his fascination with common people and their life style, “It’s quite simple actually. The focus is always on humans regardless of the topic and subject. I always want to tell the stories of people and their lives.”
Zhang further adds, “All movies, whether contemporary or traditional, should have focus on emotions. Whatever the theme is, the movie should move the audiences.”
During his formative years, Zhang Yimou spent 3 years as a farm labourer and 7 years at a textile mill.
What’s the line of politics he follows, “China in general is a very political society, so we cannot make any film without any political context. However, the core theme will always remain the humans irrespective of their social and political background.”
The transition from a labourer to a filmmaker is something we see in films, “The most important point in my life was the end of the Cultural Revolution and that I could attend the film academy for the first time in my life. Since then, my life completely changed.”
“My generation was a bit special. We grew up during the Cultural Revolution. I was a labourer and had never thought of becoming a filmmaker. However, such a background gave me a different perspective and thus my camera always turns to common people,” says the filmmaker.
‘Raise the Red Lantern’ won you the universal acceptance, how do you perceive the film now, “To me the film has become almost a memory, it’s been 20 years. The theme of that movie was how a backward, feudalist society pressurised women. I have made many other films on the same theme since then, which is people’s pathetic condition in a backward society.”
Which is your favourite film, “It’s hard to say as I want my next film to be the best. If I have to pick then I will pick my first film ‘Red Sorghum’, just like how everyone would remember their first film. It left a deep impression on me. It’s a coincidence that the novelist of ‘Red Sorghum’ Mo Yan has got the Nobel Prize. 25 years after the film, the novelist has got such a prize, so it’s special to me.”
Is he aware of the Indian film industry, “Bollywood movies are very well known in China. A lot of people watch them. I have seen many Bollywood films, the most recent one is ‘3 Idiots’ by Aamir Khan. Indian films are very interesting; they present a very different perspective on life.”
Your films are known for the spectacular use of colours, “It depends on the story and the theme. They depict two kinds of emotions, one of the character’s itself and the other is the director’s feelings towards the story.”
Which is Zhang Yimou's best film?
Raise the Red Lantern
The Road Home
Some other film