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THE GREAT WALL

ZHANG YIMOU (Directed by) has been acclaimed as one of the most ambitious and influential filmmakers, not only in his native China, but also throughout the world. Many of his movies, beginning with his 1987 directorial debut on Red Sorghum, have won or vied for virtually every major cinema honor the world over. He has portrayed a variety of genres in his work (romance, history, comedy), along with a wide range of themes (feminism, sexuality, politics) that majestically depict the pageantry of China's history, while serving as allegories about life and the people in his homeland.

Yimou was born in in Xi'an, in China's Shaanxi province. Zhang acquired his first camera by selling his own blood after becoming fascinated by film and visual imagery in the government propaganda films that were his only source of sanctioned entertainment. He studied cinematography at the Beijing Film Academy, becoming part of China's so-called Fifth Generation filmmakers, the first group to graduate (1982) from the institute following the end of the turbulent Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s.

He began his career as a cinematographer and worked with two of his fellow Fifth Generation graduates on his first two movies-directors Zhang Junzhao on One and Eight (Yi ge he ba ge, 1983) and Chen Kaige on Yellow Earth (Huang tu di, 1984), the film that introduced contemporary Chinese cinema to Western audiences.

For much of his career, Yimou's own films would be praised for their visual appearance, often based on a specific color scheme that pervaded the entire work, practices that harken back to his work as a cameraman. He reteamed with Kaige as cinematographer on The Big Parade (Da yue bing, 1986) and also directed the photography on The Old Well (Lao jing, 1986). On the latter, which was filmed in his hometown of Xi'an, Yimou also stepped in front of the camera and earned the Best Actor Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival.

The following year, Yimou made his directorial debut with Red Sorghum, walking off with the Golden Berlin Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival, where he became a perennial favorite. Several of his later films screened at the prestigious event, and in 1993, he served on the festival's jury. The award marked the first of multiple honors as a director, as well as the beginning of a longtime collaboration with actress Gong Li, whom he directed in nine of his films (the last being 2014's Coming Home), an association that resulted in her international cinema stardom.

Yimou is the first Chinese filmmaker to be recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar three times-for Ju Dou (1990), Raise the Red Lantern (Da hong deng long gao gao gua, 1991), and 2002's Hero (Ying xiong). His films have been nominated for three additional Oscars-1995's Shanghai Triad (Yao a yao, yao dao wai po qiao) for Lü Yue's exquisite cinematography; 2004's House of Flying Daggers (Shi mian mai fu) for Zhao Xiaoding's glorious camera work; and 2006's Curse of the Golden Flower (Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia) for Chung Man Yee's lavish costume designs.

Five of Zhang's films have also been nominated for the Hollywood Foreign Press Associations' Golden Globe Award (in the foreign language category)-1994's To Live (Huo zhe), Shanghai Triad, Hero, House of Flying Daggers and, most recently, 2011's The Flowers of War (Jin líng shí san chai). Additionally, his movies have won several honors from such prestigious organizations as the New York Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the National Society of Film Critics and the National Board of Review, which cited five of his films as the year's best-Raise the Red Lantern, The Story of Qiu Ju (Qiu Ju da guan si), To Live, Shanghai Triad and Curse of the Golden Flower. Two of his films (Raise the Red Lantern and The Story of Qiu Ju) received Independent Spirit Award nominations for Best Foreign Film.

Yimou has earned numerous accolades around the world, including two Golden Lions for The Story of Qiu Ju and Not One Less (Yi ge dou bu neng shao) and a Silver Lion for Raise the Red Lantern at the Venice Film Festival; the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for To Live; three Palme d'Or nominations for Shanghai Triad, Ju Dou and To Live; the Silver Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival for The Road Home (Wo de fu qin mu qin); the Alfred Bauer prize for Hero; three Golden Berlin Bear nominations for A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop (San qiang pai an jing qi), Hero and The Road Home; two British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards as Best Film Not in the English Language for Raise the Red Lantern and To Live, with a third nomination for House of Flying Daggers; the Sundance Film Festival's Audience Award for The Road Home; and the Toronto Film Critics Association Best Foreign-Language Film for Hero, which also swept the Hong Kong Film Awards, winning seven prizes out of 14 nominations. Today, it remains the highest grossing film in Chinese cinema history.

In addition to their critical success in the U.S. and Canada, Yimou's films have won recognition and acclaim on nearly every continent-South America (Argentine Film Critics Association, São Paulo International Film Festival), Europe (European Film Awards, Stockholm Film Festival, Oslo Films from the South Festival, London Critics Circle Film Awards, David di Donatello Awards in Italy, among others) and Asia (Asian Film Awards, Hundred Flowers Awards, Shanghai Film Critics' Awards, Asia Pacific Screen Awards, among others).

Along with his big-screen triumphs, Yimou also won praise from audiences and critics around the world for his grand staging of the opening and closing ceremonies at the XXIX Olympics in Beijing, in 2008. That same year, he was a runner-up for TIME Magazine's Person of the Year honor.

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