Zhang Jianya


Zhang Jianya
b. May 1951, Shanghai
Film director, producer
A member of China’s ‘Fifth Generation’ of film-makers (see Fifth Generation (film directors)) and a stalwart of the contemporary Shanghai film industry, ZhangJianya spent five years as a carpenter after graduating from junior high school in 1968. In 1975 he joined the Shanghai Film Studio Actors Troupe. From 1978 to 1982, Zhang studied in the directing department of the Beijing Film Academy together with Chen Kaige and Tian Zhuangzhuang, among other well-known directors.
Zhang’s debut film at the Shanghai studio was Ice River (Binghe shengsixian, 1986), a story of a country ferry trapped in ice on the Yellow River. The film was more typical of the harsh naturalism of Yellow Earth (Chen Kaige, dir.) than the usual gloss of a Shanghai film. Zhang then assisted studio head Wu Yigong on Tribulations of a Chinese Gentleman (Shaoye de monan, 1987), a Sino-West German co-production based on a Jules Verne story.
Zhang established his métier in comedy with Kidnapping von Karajan (Bangjia Kalayang, 1988), a story about a group of young people who plot against the conductor on a China visit and a satire on China’s feverish Westernization. With San Mao Joins the Army (San Mao congjun, 1994), Zhang turned to a much-loved satirical cartoon strip of the 1940s. Following his appointment as head of the newly formed Third Creative Group at the Shanghai Film Studio in 1985, Zhang also became a producer and a major artistic leader at the studio. His action film, Crash Landing (Jinji jialuo, 1999), made more money at the box-office than any film produced in China. Skilful development of tension and world-class computer-assisted special effects distinguished the film. Zhang has continued in this successful adventure/disaster/special effects vein in Red Snow (Jidi jingjiu, 2002), set in the spectacular Tibetan landscape.
PAUL CLARK

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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