In 1993 Chen Kaige won the first Palme D'Or for a Chinese language film at the Cannes Film Festival for his epic Farewell, My Concubine. The film went on to gather critical praise, an Academy Award Nomination and was a box office success throughout the world.
Prior to the Chinese Cultural Revolution of 1966, Chen, the son of a respected film director attended a school for privileged children in Beijing. When the revolution took hold, Chen, along with many thousands of his middle class contemporaries was sent to the countryside for re-education and to work on the land; in his case clearing trees in the south of the country. From there he was inducted into the regional army and served five years before returning to Beijing.
In 1978 Chen was among the first intake of students at the newly reopened Beijing Film Academy. These talented students became known as the Fifth Generation Directors and included director Zhang Yimou, who originally collaborated with Chen as his cinematographer. As students, the Fifth Generation was influenced by Western European directors rather than Hollywood movies.
Yellow Earth, Chen Kaige's debut film, was hailed as the audacious beginning to a new era of Chinese theatre, and was awarded prizes in festivals from London to Hawaii. His following films The Big Parade, King of Children and Life on a String, were interspersed by sojourn at the American University of Columbia. Following the international success of Farewell, My Concubine, Kaige directed Temptress Moon (1996), The Emperor and the Assassin (1999) and Together (2002).
With The Promise (2005), Chen broke box office records in China with the most lavish and largest budget Chinese fairy-tale ever produced.
In 2007, Chen directed a staging of the opera Turandot that served as the world-premiere performance of the first annual Mediterranean Festival, conducted by the legendary Zubin Mehta.
The award winning Forever Enthralled (2008) again combines Chen's love of the stage and music, telling the true story of Mei Lanfang, China's greatest opera performer. Chen next directed Sacrifice (2010), a story of family and revenge.
Chen's latest film, Caught in the Web, is currently in post-production. A moving look at how society has changed due to the effects of media and technology, the film tells the story of three women whose worlds collide. It is a social commentary about the 'sound bite' society we are becoming, where perception becomes reality and judgements based on limited facts quickly spread, without regard for the truth or the damage they could cause. The same technology that connects us can be used to tear us apart.
In addition to her career as one of the leading actresses in China, Chen Hong began producing feature films and television in 2001, and became an over night success. Her productions have garnered critical acclaim as well as top awards in China.
Within 4 years she had produced six television series (over 130 episodes) and five feature films, including her collaboration with her husband Chen Kaige on Together, which received worldwide critical acclaim and is distributed by United Artists in the U.S.
The Promise marks her most challenging production to date.
Yao Chen is one of China's most loved, respected and wall-known actors. A graduate of the Beijing film academy, she has starred in fifteen films and almost as many television shows playing everything from kung-fu warriors and guerilla captains to magazine editors and more. She is a spokesperson for UNHCR in China and is known as the Queen of Weibo (Chinese Twitter), her witty posts attracting more than 19 million followers, putting her just behind Lady Gaga and Justin Beiber in popularity.
Gao Yuanyuan was talent-spotted on the streets of Beijing in the 1990's and asked to act in a television commercial. Since 1997, Gao has shot to stardom as a film actor. Her many credits include the internationally acclaimed City of Life and Death and Shanghai Dreams. She tweets (on China's Weibo) on subjects ranging from love to acting to healthy eating, and frequently appears on the cover of fashion magazines.
Mark Chao, a Taiwan-Canadian actor, is one of the region's top and up-and-coming talents. He won best actor at the 44th Golden Bell Awards in Taiwan for the hit TV series Black & White and best newcomer at the Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong.