Chinese Director Wang Xiaoshuai Inducted Into French Order Of Arts And Letters

Sixth-Generation Filmmaker Receives Medal From French Ambassador In Beijing

Wang Xiaoshuai with Hervé Ladsous, French Ambassador to China

Wang Xiaoshuai with Hervé Ladsous, French Ambassador to China

France’s China charm offensive continues this week, as Chinese filmmaker Wang Xiaoshuai — one of China’s top “Sixth-Generation” directors — was awarded the insignia of the Order of Arts and Letters yesterday in Beijing. Wang, whose films “Beijing Bicycle” (winner of the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, “Drifters,” and “Shanghai Dreams” (winner of the Prix de Jury award at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival) catapulted him to international fame, received the award at the residence of the French Ambassador, Hervé Ladsous.

Wang’s induction into the Order of Arts and Letters follows his contemporary, Jia Zhangke receiving the French Legion of Honor (Légion d’honneur) last December. Clearly, France is working hard to mend fences on a cultural level with China, a development that Professor Adam Cathcart told Jing Daily to watch out for this year in our recent “10 for ’10” feature:

[A] quiet but important story in 2010 will be the rebuilding of the Sino-French relationship from its low point represented by the attacks on the Olympic torch parade in Paris and the subsequent Christie’s auction of the Yuanmingyuan bronzes.

From ArtChina (translation by Jing Daily team):

Yesterday, director Wang Xiaoshuai was inducted into the French Order of Arts and Letters in Beijing. The French Ambassador awarded the medal to Wang, saying that Wang’s work “expressed his thoughts about contemporary Chinese society through portraying the conditions of ordinary people’s lives.”

After receiving the honor, Wang Xiaoshuai said that although commercial movies are really popular nowadays, it’s important to pay attention to making cultural, artistic movies that are also thought-provoking. Wang also revealed that his new movie, “Sunshine Chongqing” (日照重庆) is currently in post-production and should premiere some time in the middle of the year.

It’s understood that the Order of Arts and Letters is one of the top honors awarded by the French government, awarded to individuals in literature or the arts who have made a significant contribution to their field. Among those in the Chinese cultural sector who have previously received this honor are Jin Yong, Jiang Wen, Gong Li, Wong Kar-Wai, and Zhang Yimou.

Today, Aujourd’hui la Chine (French) posted an interview with Wang, in which he gives more details about his next movie, and says, somewhat wryly, that “the market governs filmmaking in China.” Wang also says that it is important for filmmakers like himself to continue making films that address the growing disconnect between traditional and contemporary Chinese culture and society. From the interview (translation by Jing Daily team):

(Responding to how he feels about becoming a Chevalier of Arts and Letters)

In China today, it’s getting harder to make films like mine because the environment is getting more mainstream. People are focusing their attention primarily on making profits, and forget the cultural and artistic significance of film.It’s a question I must ask myself every day, of whether I should continue in that direction. I hope I can keep making films the way that I do, as long as conditions will allow it, but more and more people are pushing me towards making commercial films. This is a problem that faces all filmmakers in China.

This honor that I have received holds special meaning. That’s why I invited so many friends and the media (to the ceremony), to make them aware that by continuing to make films the way that I do, we can all achieve something. I hope to increase confidence in what I do.

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