Born in Beijing in 1967, Zhang Yang graduated from the directing department of the Central Drama Academy in 1992. Soon after, he won widespread attention and respect with a stage production of Manuel Puig’s Kiss of the Spiderwoman starring Jia Hongsheng. Aside from further work in the theater, he went on to direct more than twenty underground music videos in the early 1990s. In 1996 he teamed up with the American producer Peter Loehr, who had just launched the independent film company Imar in Beijing.
Their first collaboration, the comedy-drama Spicy Love Soup, not only topped the Chinese box-office for its year but also marked the start of an enduring partnership. Their second feature Shower was another huge commercial success (sold to 56 countries, distributed by Sony Pictures Classics in the US) and won eleven awards at nine different international film festivals — including Best Director at San Sebastian, Best Film and Best Director at Seattle, and the FIPRESCI prize in Toronto. Their third feature Quitting, a docu-drama based on the real-life drug addiction and schizophrenia of its star Jia Hongsheng, won the FIPRESCI prize in Stockholm. And their fourth feature Sunflower, a semi-autobiographical film about a difficult fatherson relationship, took Best Director and Best Cinematography prizes in San Sebastian. The top Hollywood talent agency CAA (Creative Artists Agency) has recently opened an office in Beijing, and has signed Zhang Yang as one of its first clients.