One of the few female directors of China’s Fifth Generation movement of filmmakers, Shaohong Li started out making realistic tales of rural life similar to her colleagues, like Yimou Zhang and Kaige Chen, before moving to magical realism in the 2000s. Her work showcases a humanistic approach while also mirroring her personal conflicts between career and family life. She was among the first class admitted to the Beijing Film Academy after the Cultural Revolution’s end. After working as an assistant director, she made her first feature, the thriller The Case of the Silver Snake (1988).
In 1990, she first won international acclaim when Bloody Morning, about a man condemned to death for taking a young woman’s virginity, won the Golden Montgolfiere at the Festival of the Three Continents in France. Other successes followed, with Blush (1995), which depicts the re-education of two prostitutes, winning the Silver Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. In 2004, she moved into the world of magic realism with Baober in Love (2004), a romantic drama about a young girl drawn to an unhappily married man. Li is also a successful television producer and director whose series Palace of Desire and A Dream of Red Mansions have made her a household name in China.