The reason he won the prize is that the western jury saw in the movie Still Life the capacity of Chinese people to take the initiative in their lives, Chinese director Jia Zhangke, who won the Golden Lion for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival, said Monday.
"The jury told me they saw Chinese people's capacity for action, their ability to stay in control of their lives despite problems and difficulties," Jia, still in Venice and heading for the Toronto film festival to promote the film, told Xinhua News Agency in a telephone call Monday.
"They also said the film conveys a sense of direct communication like a caress on the skin and expresses the complexities of human nature through a simple plot," he added.
Still Life follows two separated couples who meet again in the Yangtze River town of Fengjie. One chooses to reunite while the other chooses to part.
Jia is adept at the documentary-like portrayal of simple people or social outcasts in towns and cities - the thief in Pickpocket (1997), young artists in Platform (2000), children of laid-off workers in Unknown Pleasures (2002) and migrant workers in The World (2004).
Still Life is true to his focus on the ordinary lives of ordinary people in contemporary China, Jia said. However, the characters in the film are more active in pursuing what they want while those in his former works are often more constrained.
"The entire movie is about making choices. The main characters obtain their freedom and dignity by making their own decisions about love," he said.
In Chinese film history, only Zhang Yimou, torchbearer of the "Fifth Generation" of Chinese directors, had previously won Golden Lion awards - for Qiu Ju Goes to Court in 1992 and Not One Less in 1999. Jia is a leading director of the "Sixth Generation."
"This prize means international acclaim for young Chinese directors, and what made me happiest is the respect westerners showed for the Chinese people the film portrayed," Jia said.
"The beauty of the cinematography and the quality of the story, without getting political, the characters, we were very touched and we were very moved," French actress Catherine Deneuve, who headed the jury that awarded the top prize, told reporters in Venice earlier.
"I believe audiences in our country will also love this film for its real and direct portrayal of ordinary people. It's very close to Chinese audiences," Jia said.
(People's Daily, Xinhua News Agency September 12, 2006)