China Institute is honored to welcome Chen Kaige, one of China’s greatest directors, in conversation with filmmaker Janet Yang and film expert Richard Pena, to discuss Yellow Earth, which revolutionized the way films were watched and created in China, and its enduring legacy nearly 40 years after its release.
Chen Kaige’s 1984 debut film, Yellow Earth, is a pioneering work that defied the social realism of its era and launched a new era in Chinese film. The epic collaboration between “5th generation” film legends Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou (the film’s cinematographer) took only 60 days to film but stands today as one of the greatest Chinese movies ever made.
This virtual event kicks off the next phase of China Institute’s ongoing film series, Seeing China Through Film, curated by Richard Pena, which highlights China’s most important films from 1922 to the present.
CHEN Kaige is a Chinese-born filmmaker; he is regarded as one of China’s most important directors and a leading filmmaker of the “fifth generation” of Chinese cinema. Chen joined the Beijing Film Academy in 1978, after the end of the Cultural Revolution, and graduated in 1982. He made his debut with Yellow Earth (1984) to immediate acclaim. Since then, he has directed numerous other films including: The Big Parade, King of the Children, Life on a String, Farewell to My Concubine, Temptress Moon, as well as acting in The Last Emperor. His more recent films are Killing Me Softly, The Promise, The Orphan of Zhao, and Sacrifice. Chen’s work is marked by his beautiful landscape shots of China and realistic portrayals of rural life. His mastery for symbolic narratives and film aesthetics serve as a vehicle for social, political, and nationalist messages.
Richard Peña is a Professor of Film Studies at Columbia University, where he specializes in film theory and international cinema. From 1988 to 2012, he was the Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Director of the New York Film Festival. A frequent lecturer on film internationally, in 2014-2015 he was a Visiting Professor in Brazilian Studies at Princeton, and in 2015-2016 a Visiting Professor in Film Studies at Harvard. In May, 2016, he was the recipient of the “Cathedra Bergman” at the UNAM in Mexico City, He currently hosts WNET/Channel 13’s weekly Reel 13.
Janet Yang is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning Hollywood producer who sits on the Board of Governors for the Motion Picture Academy and is Chair of the Membership and Governance Committee. Yang’s extensive film and television credits include The Joy Luck Club, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Shanghai Calling, High Crimes, Zero Effect, and the recent animated feature Over the Moon for Netflix. Yang has been named one of the “50 Most Powerful Women in Hollywood” by the Hollywood Reporter. Committed to fostering global understanding, Yang has been a long-standing member of the Committee of 100; an advisory board member of Asia Society Southern California where she also chairs its highly regarded U.S-Asia Entertainment Summit; and co-founder of Gold House, the non-profit collective of the most influential Asian cultural leaders.