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Actress, Gong Li, holds a piece of red fabric
Ju Dou


Ju Dou


Epic Intimacy: The Cinema of Zhang Yimou & Gong Li

Seasons & Screenings

9 Mar + 15 Mar

After the domestic and international success of Red Sorghum, Zhang Yimou and Gong Li made the rarely seen action-thriller, Code Name Cougar (Daihao meizhoubao). Shackled by censorship and political sensitivities the film wasn’t a success for the director or his star so for their third collaboration, Yimou crafted a companion piece (of sorts) to his renowned debut Red Sorghum.

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  • A beautiful young woman, Ju Dou (Gong Li), is married off to Yang Jin-shan (Li Wei), the cruel and tyrannical owner of a rural silk-dyeing factory. He operates the factory with his adopted nephew Tian-qing (Li Baotian) whose place in the pecking order is only just above the livestock.

    Jin-shan wants an heir and, unable to admit that he is the problem, he torments Ju Dou with nightly raids and bitter treatment. When Ju Dou and Tian-qing begin an affair it’s not long before she is with child. Happy to have her monstrous husband away from her, she passes the child off as his whilst maintaining her affair and falling deeper in love with Tian-qing. As the years pass, tensions and recriminations within the love triangle continue until the whole house comes down.

    The setting of the rural dye factory is central to the rich quality of Ju Dou. Pools of colour, wet bolts of fabric whipping and unravelling, dirt, sweat and fire; Yimou embraces each of these elements to provide a deep physicality and texture to the film.

    Selected for Official Competition at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival, Ju Dou was also the first mainland Chinese film to be nominated for an Academy Award®. Initially banned by the Chinese authorities, the film was later released domestically after achieving widespread acclaim.