The Personal over the Political

Jia Zhangke scales down in his new film – Amanda Walencewicz

Jia Zhangke, whose cinema has been acclaimed for its social criticism of contemporary China, is contemplating his own oeuvre. The Chinese director’s latest film, Ash is Purest White – which premiered at Cannes in 2018 and was released in the US this March – is sprinkled with references to his previous work. A member of the so-called “sixth generation” of Chinese filmmakers (those born during the Cultural Revolution, now in their fifties), Jia has been making independent features since the mid-1990s, and 1997’s Xiao Wu – about a small-town pickpocket – established him on the global film scene. A former breakdancer from the northeastern city of Fenyang and a graduate of the Beijing Film Academy, Jia’s films have focused on his generation and their milieu, recreating their lives with documentary-like fidelity.