Competing Laurels for Top Chinese Filmmakers

Directors Quentin Tarantino, John Woo, and Tsui Hark pose after the award presentation to Woo at the ceremony for The Golden Lion For Lifetime Achievement award during the 67th Venice Film Festival at the Sala Grande Palazzo Del Cinema on Sept. 3, 2010 in Venice, Italy. (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

In another sign of the pre-eminent position Chinese cinema enjoys in today's global culture, two major Chinese filmmakers have won top international honors in recent days. 

This week Jia Zhangke, the director whose searching portrayals of life in mainland China received are noted for their near-documentary realism, received a Prince Claus Award, awarded annually by the Dutch Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development to artists and cultural organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. In its citation the Fund singled out "the outstanding aesthetic and intellectual qualities of [Jia's] work, for his committed social engagement in focusing on the realities of ordinary contemporary lives, for his significant contribution to local cultural identity and confidence, and for creatively transcending and altering the frontiers of reality."

Last week, meanwhile, the Venice Film Festival gave its prestigious Golden Lion award for lifetime achievement to John Woo, the beloved genre master behind such classic Hong Kong fare as The Killer (1989) and Hard-Boiled (1992). The Festival's official citation labeled Woo "an innovator of the contemporary language of cinema," in honor of his legendary balletic shootout sequences.

Woo's most recent film, last year's epic Red Cliff, marked his return to Chinese filmmaking after a decade and a half in Hollywood, and in accepting his Golden Lion the director said he hopes that in years to come his films will act as "a bridge between the good things of the West and the East, so we can further our mutual knowledge and build a strong friendship."

(Aficionados of Hong Kong cinema will appreciate hearing that the person tapped to present Woo with his Silver Lion was his great contemporary Tsui Hark, the influential director of Once Upon A Time in China and numerous other films.)

Asia Society had the privilege of hosting both Jia Zhangke and John Woo recently, and congratulates both filmmakers on their latest honors. Click on the links below for complete coverage of their visits. 

Related links:
Jia Zhangke on The Realist Imperative
John Woo: 'I Feel Like A General!'

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Jeff Tompkins is New York Content Manager at Asia Society.