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Zhao Fei

Zhao Fei
Chinese name 赵非 (traditional)
Chinese name 趙非 (simplified)
Pinyin Zhào Fēi (Mandarin)
Origin People's Republic of China
Born 1961
Xi'an, Shaanxi
Occupation Cinematographer/Director of Photography

Zhao Fei (simplified Chinese: 赵非; traditional Chinese: 趙非) (born 1961) is a Chinese cinematographer and frequent collaborator to many directors of the China's so called "fifth generation" film movement. Zhao also served as Woody Allen's director of photography for three films between 1998 and 2001.


Born in 1961 in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, Zhao was the son of an architect. Growing up during the turbulent years of the Cultural Revolution, Zhao began his career in film when he applied to the newly reopened Beijing Film Academy in 1978.[1] Zhao would study cinematography and graduate in 1982 with others of the so-called "fifth generation" including directors Chen Kaige, Zhang Yimou, and Tian Zhuangzhuang.

Working throughout the 1980s, Zhao would act as the director of photography ("DOP") for Tian Zhuangzhuang's The Horse Thief, Huang Jianxin's Samsara, and others. In 1991, Zhao worked with director Zhang Yimou on his magnum opus, Raise the Red Lantern. For Zhao, the production of Raise the Red Lantern was a major turning point, allowing him to synthesize his previous experiences with painting and art and his current responsibilities as a cinematographer.[1]

By the late 1990s, Zhao had built up an impressive resume, but little would prepare him for the working with Chen Kaige on his historical epic The Emperor and the Assassin. Chen specifically asked for Zhao to work as the DOP for the project, realizing that the ambitious scope of the film would need someone who was disciplined but resourceful.[1] Zhao's work on The Emperor and the Assassin would take up months and then years, and required Zhao to research historical castles, fortifications, and the minutia of China's Warring States period.[1][2] The actual production was equally intense, as Zhao would often have to create makeshift dollies and other contraptions to capture shots.[1]

By this point, Zhao's work in China had caught the eye of international filmmakers, and Zhao would serve as the DOP for three of American director Woody Allen's films, beginning with Sweet and Lowdown. Allen had first noticed Zhao's work from Raise the Red Lantern, though Zhao claims that he is unsure why Allen selected him.[2] The production on Sweet and Lowdown was difficult at times, given Zhao's lack of English-speaking abilities and the difficulties of keeping a translator on set at all times. But both Zhao and Allen walked away from the experience pleased with the collaboration, and Zhao would work with Allen on two more films. Allen, himself, praised the Chinese cinematographer, comparing Zhao favorably with Allen's past DOPs, including Carlo Di Palma, Gordon Willis, and Sven Nykvist.[1]


Year English Title Chinese Title Director Notes
1986 The Horse Thief 苏州河 Tian Zhuangzhuang With Hou Yong
1987 Death Visits the Living 一个死者对生者的访问 Huang Jianzhong
1988 Unforgettable Life 特别手术室 Tian Zhuangzhuang
1988 Samsara 轮回 Huang Jianxin
1991 Li Lianying: The Imperial Eunuch 大太监李莲英 Tian Zhuangzhuang
1992 Raise the Red Lantern 大红灯笼高高挂 Zhang Yimou Winner of the 1993 National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Cinematography
Winner of the 1992 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Cinematography
1995 Forbidden City: The Great Within N/A Documentary for the Discovery Channel
1995 Sweet Grass 甘草 Zhou Youchou
1996 The Sun Has Ears 太阳有耳 Yim Ho
1997 Dragon Town Story 龙城正月 Yang Fengliang
1997 Concerto of Life 生命如歌 Xia Gang
1998 Be There or Be Square 不见不散 Feng Xiaogang
1998 The Emperor and the Assassin 荊柯刺秦王 Chen Kaige Winner of the 1999 Golden Rooster for Best Cinematography
1999 Sweet and Lowdown N/A Woody Allen
2000 Small Time Crooks N/A Woody Allen
2001 The Curse of the Jade Scorpion N/A Woody Allen
2003 Warriors of Heaven and Earth 天地英雄 He Ping
2003 Cell Phone 手机 Feng Xiaogang
2007 The Sun Also Rises 太阳照常升起 Jiang Wen With Pin Bing Lee and Yang Tao
2009 Iron Men 铁人 Yin Li
2010 Driverless 无人驾驶 Zhang Yang
2010 Let the Bullets Fly 让子弹飞 Jiang Wen
2012 Guns and Roses 黄金大劫案 Ning Hao
2014 The Crossing John Woo


External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • AllRovi
  • Zhao Fei at the Chinese Movie Database

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