Negotiating Realists: The Sixth Generation of Chinese Filmmakers

Qi Wang

Qi Wang

This thesis aims to discuss the Sixth Generation of Chinese filmmakers by focusing on two aspects: their contribution to constructing a realistic cinema in 1990s’ China and their ambiguous relationship with the state, the West and the market, a relationship that shifts between rebellion and compromise. By thus illuminating the two aspects of the Sixth Generation Cinema, I aim to provide a revealing glimpse into the 1990s’ Chinese society where full-speed reforms have brought heartening as well as disturbing changes.

Chapter 1 will examine the composition of the Sixth Generation and provide more background for understanding their works by relating the Sixth Generation to their contemporaneous generation group of the 1960s. Chapter 2 will do a close reading of major Sixth Generation films and filmmakers with the emphasis on their unique realistic concern. Apart from a historical as well as a China-specific examination of key concepts like cinematic realism and documentary, feature filmmaker Jia Zhangke and his Xiao Wu, and documentary filmmakers such as Wu Wenguang and Duan Jinchuan will be the main objects for close textual analysis. Chapter 3 will focus on the Sixth Generation’s collaborative as well as oppositional relationship with the state, the West and the market, all of which have combined to give the Sixth Generation cinema its present look and will continue to determine its future direction of development. The conclusion offers a look at the present state of these young filmmakers and tries to map where they are going in face of greater competition brought by foreign competitors (especially Hollywood) in the wak of China’s entry in the World Trade Organization.

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