Daily Drip

Zhang Yimou to Direct First TV Series


After his Cultural Revolution-set film One Second eventually limped into cinemas, and with his feature film The Coldest Gun also hoping to make it to big screens soon, famed director Zhang Yimou is showing no signs of slowing down. Yet his latest project has raised lots of eyebrows, with the man responsible for Raise the Red Lantern and Hero set to direct his first ever TV show.

The reason for so much surprise at the announcement is that Zhang has a reputation for looking down on small screen productions. Not only has the director previously steered clear of helming television series, it’s also long been rumored that he has “blocked” the so-called “Yimou Girls” (female stars such as Zhang Ziyi and Gong Li who have gotten their breaks through his movies) from participating in such projects in the past.


Zhang Yimou: The Famed Director’s Complicated Relationship with Censors and Cinema

Nevertheless, it’s been announced that Zhang is on board to direct an adaptation of The Star, a novel by Chen Yan based on the life of Shaanxi Opera performer Yi Qin’e. The story covers a sweep of around 50 years, tracing Yi’s life and career struggles as China goes through the Reform and Opening Up period of the late 1970s and early ’80s. Published in 2017, the novel was shortlisted for numerous literature awards in China and won the Mao Dun Literature Prize in 2019.

Few other details have been released about the project, though most reports indicate that shooting on the series is set to begin soon. The news has also triggered a wave of speculation over who is set to star in the adaptation, though as yet there has been no official confirmation of who may be joining the ranks of the “Yimou Girls.”

Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of RADII and Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for the Associated Press, The Wire, the Financial Times and more.
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