Photo of the day: Joan Chen’s “English”

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10:00 PM HKT, Sun March 11, 2018 1 mins read

This week’s photo theme is: Director’s Seat. Last month, well-known (male) Chinese film director Ding Taisheng made a controversial statement on Sina Weibo to the effect that “women can be great producers, but rarely directors.” (That’s a paraphrase from memory — his Weibo account, which had over 140,000 followers, has since been deleted.) In response, this week we’ll take a look behind the camera at the work of a few exemplary female filmmakers in China, past and present.

By the 1990s, Joan Chen was already a world-renowned actress, beloved for roles in cult favorites including Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1987 epic The Last Emperor and David Lynch’s visionary television series Twin Peaks.

Her 1998 debut behind the camera, Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl, added another line to her CV, establishing her as a universally respected director in addition to her on-screen roles. The film tells the story of its eponymous character, who is sent away to remote Sichuan province to perform manual labor during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution of the 1970s.


Chen will return to this time and place for English, her first film as a director since 2000 Richard Gere/Winona Rider romantic drama Autumn in New York.

According to a recent feature in Screen magazine, released during last month’s Berlinale film festival, English will be come out later this year, and will star Chinese film veterans Wang Zhiwen and Yuan Quan, along with relative newcomer Huo Siyan (pictured up top, with Chen in the foreground).

We’ll circle back to English with more coverage closer to its release. In the mean time, here’s its rather intense, period-appropriate poster, which was also unveiled in the Screen magazine feature (as reported by Chinese film site Mtime):

Cover image: Mtime

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