In 1993 Chen Kaige won the first Palme D’Or for a Chinese language film at the Cannes Film Festival for his epic Farewell, My Concubine. The film went on to gather critical praise, an Academy Award Nomination and was a box office success throughout the world.
Prior to the Chinese Cultural Revolution of 1966, Chen, the son of a respected film director, attended a school for privileged children in Beijing. When the revolution took hold, Chen, along with many thousands of his middle class contemporaries, was sent to the countryside for re-education and to work on the land; in his case clearing trees in the south of the country. From there he was inducted into the regional army and served five years before returning to Beijing.
In 1978 Chen was among the first intake of students at the newly reopened Beijing Film Academy. These talented students became known as the Fifth Generation Directors and included director Zhang Yimou, who originally collaborated with Chen as his cinematographer. As students, the Fifth Generation was influenced by Western European directors rather than Hollywood movies.
Yellow Earth, Chen Kaige’s debut film, was hailed as the audacious beginning to a new era of Chinese theatre, and was awarded prizes in festivals from London to Hawaii. His following films The Big Parade, King of Children and Life on a String, were interspersed by sojourn at the American University of Columbia. Following the international success of Farewell, My Concubine, Kaige directed Temptress Moon (1996), The Emperor and the Assassin (1999) and Together (2002).