You SHOULD…Watch: The Movies of Feng Xiaogang

 

“For more than two decades, the movies of veteran Chinese filmmaker Feng Xiaogang entertained the Chinese-speaking world. He created a new genre of commercially successful Chinese New Year Celebration Films (Hesui Pian). Newsweek called him the Chinese Steven Spielberg, but he does not easily fit into any classification. His movies, unlike Hollywood productions, are based on Chinese social and cultural trends, reflecting fast-changing popular tastes in the People’s Republic of China. Born in Beijing, Feng Xiaogang speaks and acts in a straightforward manner, like a northerner. As a filmmaker, he believes in freedom of artistic expression, tackling sensitive topics and challenging official and cultural norms.

His early comedies and melodramas made him famous. They cover diverse topics to which people can relate. Big Shot’s Funeral (2001) is a satire about commercialization of funeral; Cell Phone (2003) is about extra-marital affair exposed by modern mobile phone technology; If You Are the One (2008) is about a rich bachelor having a difficult time finding a lover. Feng Xiaogang’s later movies cover more serious topics, such as the Chinese Civil War of 1945-49 in Assembly (2007), the devastating Tangshan earthquake of 1976 in Aftershock (2010), and, most recently, interpersonal relations within the People’s Liberation Army dance troupe during the Cultural Revolution in Youth (2017). The secret of his success lies in his ability to be ahead of his time, as well as in his long-term collaboration with such prominent writers as Wang Shuo and Liu Zhenyun, and with actors Ge You and Fan Bingbing, who star in his movies.”

 

-Victor Zatsepine
Associate Professor of History
University of Connecticut