Join us on October 21 to revisit one of the most impressive directorial debuts in 21st century Chinese cinema.
Jia Zhangke’s 1997 first feature film, The Pickpocket (小武 Xiao Wu), tells the story of a poor provincial town looking to crack down on crime in 1997, against the backdrop of the transfer of Hong Kong’s sovereignty. The film offers a bitterly unadorned look at contemporary Chinese life during the reform era, in sharp contrast to the epic historical dramas that were popular at the time. The success of the film, which Martin Scorsese said made him “want to make movies again,” established Jia as a leading figure in the “Sixth Generation” of Chinese directors, alongside Wang Xiaoshuai and Lou Ye.
The 10-part Seeing China Through Film series is a tour of China’s greatest films curated by Columbia University Film Professor Richard Pena, former Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
The Pickpocket [Xiao WU] 1997 (JIA Zhangke)
To view The Pickpocket click here: The Pickpocket
Jia Zhangke is a Chinese filmmaker, and a leading figure of the “Sixth Generation” movement of Chinese cinema, a group that also includes such figures as Wang Xiaoshuai and Lou Ye. Jia was born in Fenyang, Shanxi, in 1970 and graduated from Beijing Film Academy. His debut feature Xiao Wu (1997) won prizes in Berlin, Vancouver, and elsewhere. Since then, his films have routinely premiered in the major European festivals. Still Life won the Golden Lion in Venice in 2006, A Touch Of Sin won the Best Screenplay prize in Cannes in 2013, and Mountains May Depart and Ash Is Purest White were in competition in Cannes 2015 and 2018. His latest documentary, Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue (2021) is an indispensable account of a changing China from one of the country’s foremost cinematic storytellers.
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.