Chinese actress Zhou Dongyu, who is in Cannes with the title Un Certain Regard by Anthony Chen The ice that breaksHe has had a career path like a fairy tale.
Although she had no desire to act, she was pulled out of obscurity while still a high school student in 2010 by Zhang Yimou and became one of China’s most respected young actresses, with a string of award-winning films.
She agreed to star The ice that breaks as soon as Chen called her and before she even wrote the script. She had worked with him before on a short film. the rupturepart of the anthology produced by Neon The year of the eternal stormwhich Chen had run remotely during the pandemic.
“He called and said he wanted to shoot a movie in China, pretty quickly over the winter, because he had a month off when another project got postponed,” Zhou tells Deadline. “I agreed immediately because we had both said that we wanted to work together on a feature film. He told me the basic outline of the story and sent me a list of ten movies to watch”.
The list included French New Wave classics, july and jim by Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard band to partboth films Chen says inspired The ice that breaks. Liu Haoran and Qu Chuxiao also star in the film, about three young men who bond and bond over a booze-filled weekend in a small town on the frozen China-North Korea border.
Critics hail the film as an intimate portrait of China’s Generation Z, who often seem adrift and disappointed in life, especially when compared to the economic boom times the previous generation enjoyed.
“We went very quickly from the first phone call to filming,” says Zhou, who had also previously worked with Liu, on Zhang Ji’s film. fire on the plain (2021), which premiered at the San Sebastián film festival. “Anthony was going over the script while we were shooting, so it was a very spontaneous process. Sometimes we would wait until midnight the day before shooting the final script.”
None of which would have surpassed Zhou, who in a 13-year career has already worked with some of China’s best filmmakers and won multiple awards, including Best Actress at Spain’s Valladolid International Film Festival for her debut. at Zhang’s under the thorn tree (2010) and Best Leading Actress at Taiwan’s prestigious Golden Horse Awards for Derek Tsang. Soulmate (2016).
She also won Best Actress at both the Hong Kong Film Awards and the Asian Film Awards for Tsang’s film. Better dayswhich was nominated for Best International Feature Film at the 2021 Oscars.
China likes to categorize its actors and filmmakers into generations, and Zhou is known as one of the ‘Four Dan Actresses of the Post-90s Generation’, along with Yang Zi, Zheng Shuang and Guan Xiaotong.
Zhang’s team discovered her while she was taking a university entrance exam in Nanjing: one of her scouts asked her for a photo, and a few days later she received a phone call asking her to travel to Beijing.
“I thought it might be a scam and I’d run into a scammer pretending to be a famous director, but I decided to go anyway to check it out,” says Zhou, who grew up in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei. province, which is a short trip from Beijing. “Everyone else at the audition brought one person, but I was there with about five or six people from my family.”
Being discovered by one of China’s biggest directors has certainly helped launch her career: Zhang is also credited with discovering top stars Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi, though not all of the actresses she’s found have found fame and accolades.
But Zhou stands out as a genuinely talented actress. She is known for playing strong female characters and bringing depth to roles even in mainstream sitcoms, where she could get away with just looking pretty. However, in most of her films she has played quite complex characters. She has also worked with some of Greater China’s leading female directors, including Barbara Wong, Clara Law, and Rene Liu.
“I’ve been lucky with the roles I’ve been offered, but I also believe that there are many talented filmmakers, both men and women, in Chinese cinema who know how to write for female characters,” she observes.
“I lean towards more realistic stories and characters, roles that are meaningful and stay with the audience long after they’ve been seen, otherwise what’s the point of making movies?”
She says there’s also a new generation of young Chinese filmmakers worth keeping an eye on. Upcoming movies of her include tainted Love, debut feature by Chinese director Ma Yingxin living in Spain. Already in post-production, the film also contains a threesome of sorts, in the story of a woman who moves to a small town and meets two men who may have previously conned her in a romance scam.
“I like growing up with these talented young Chinese directors,” says Zhou.
His upcoming films also include a second outing with Zhang Yimou, more than a decade since he first discovered her, a corruption-themed crime thriller. under the lightone of the many films stuck in the bottleneck of local Chinese productions, but is expected to be released later this year.
“I am very happy that he wanted to work with me again and I look forward to the film, which will be released very soon,” she says.
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