PAGE?17 JIA ZHANGKE CHINA’S TARANTINO TAKES NO PRISONERS ED MOON WITH THE RECENT NEWS that the Beijing Independent Film Festival didn’t so much get shut down as get limply cancelled with barely a whimper, it was hard not to feel sorry for its organiser, Wang Hongwei, who starred in one of the classics of Chinese independent cinema, Xiao Wu. It got us thinking about Jia Zhangke, the man who directed it, and the different career trajectory he has followed. ia’s latest film, the controversial and daring A Touch of Sin won Best Screenplay at Cannes 2013 and has gained significant coverage in Western media. The stage is set for Jia’s films to break into the mainstream consciousness in the West and at home in China, with the film ‘tentatively’ set to screen in mainland cinemas around November. ? So who is this director, and why is he uniquely placed to put Chinese cinema on the map? ? Born in 1970 in Fenyang, Shanxi province, Jia is undeniably the leading light of the so-called ‘Sixth Generation’ of Chinese directors, a term he himself rejects in favour of merely ‘independent filmmakers’. The Sixth Generation, in contrast to the Fifth Generation (which includes Hero’s Zhang Yimou and Farewell My Concubine’s Chen Kaige), exchange color and symbolism for stark realism. This, unsurprisingly, can bring problems. J home province of Shanxi. His debut film Xiao Wu is about a local pickpocket in Fenyang and his struggle to adapt to the changing world around him. Jia received much acclaim for the film, which led to Takeshi Kitano (a.k.a. the teacher from Battle Royale) sponsoring production of his next film, Platform, set in the same city. Unknown Pleasures followed, taking place in Datong - a different city within Shanxi. n ? These early films set out the style that would make Jia such a unique and important contributor to modern cinema. Having a preference for wide-angle shots, his films are characterised by their slow pace and deliberate distance from the individuals within. Often his films can go for some time without much dialogue taking place; ‘I sometimes think a lot of things are beyond words,’ he has been quoted as saying. ? Most interesting, however, is his attitude towards narrative as a whole. “Telling a story is not what interests me; showing what I feel about time and life is my interest.” As a result, some of Jia’s films can often be summarised briefly. The plots are simple, the people are not, and whilst the action that takes place might not light a Hollywood summer blockbuster, the themes he explores are among the most powerful in cinema: globalisation, loneliness and human kindness - n ? Jia himself has never explicitly earned the ire of the Chinese authorities. His first three films were never submitted to the Chinese Film Board for release, and were produced largely outside the system. Therefore, technically they are banned but not due to content. These films make up a loose trilogy set within his SHANGHAI247.NET 247TICKETS.CN