Red Star

Black Coal, Thin Ice

Diao Yinan

Zhang Yang w

Born in Xi’an in Shaanxi province, Diao Yinan graduated from the Central Academy of Drama in 1992. He got his first break in the film industry by writing the screenplay for Spicy Love Soup (1997) and Shower (1999), both directed by Zhang Yang, a famous young filmmaker. But Diao has turned his attention to directing in recent years, with two films of his own, Uniform (2003) and Night Train (2007), which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

Why is Diao in the news?

Diao’s latest film, Black Coal, Thin Ice, has just won the best picture award at the Berlin Film Festival. A mystery set in cold northern China during the late 1990s, it tells the the story of a detective investigating a trail of bloody murders in a factory town. Actor Liao Fan, who plays the detective, also won best actor in Berlin, while Taiwanese actress Gwei Lun-mei is the female lead.

“It’s really hard to believe that this dream has come true,” Diao said as he accepted the trophy.

“It represents Chinese cinema – growing in aesthetic strength – successfully charting a new path between small films made below the censors’ radar and the bombastic hero epics in the booming domestic market,” Berlin’s daily Der Tagesspiegel gushed approvingly.

Dieter Kosslick, the director of the film festival in Berlin, told Xinhua that Chinese directors today are more honest and open in their portrayal of reality and “no longer use metaphors to express the truth”.

It remains to be seen when Black Iron, Thin Ice will be shown in China. But Guangzhou Daily says it has already got the green light from censors and will likely reach cinema screens in mid-March.


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