When my former colleague at the magazine China Screen, Zhang Dan, in-
vited me to lunch with our mutual friend Professor Ni Zhen of the Beijing
Film Academy, I accepted with alacrity. Professor Ni is erudite, cultured,
and something of a gourmet, so I expected both interesting conversation
and good food. Little did I know I would also be asked to consider trans-
lating this book. I was aware of the honor Professor Ni was bestowing on
me, but worried if I had the time. When I read the manuscript, however,
such concerns evaporated: I knew at once that this was a most unusual and
exciting work. Therefore, my first thanks are to Zhang Dan for arranging
lunch and to Professor Ni for giving me the opportunity to translate this
fascinating book.
The appeal of Memoirs from the Beijing Film Academy for me lies in its
unusual and accessible style and in its scholarly significance: it is both a
good read and a contribution to knowledge and debate. No one could dis-
pute that the emergence of the ‘‘Fifth Generation’’ of Chinese filmmakers
in the mid-1980s was the breakthrough that brought Chinese cinema to the
attention of the world. As the English critic Tony Rayns writes, ‘‘It’s tempt-
ing to put an exact date to the birth of the ‘New Chinese Cinema’: 12 April
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