Hidden Dragon: The Man Who Helped Chinese Film Go Global

Italian film industry veteran Marco Mueller has played a pivotal role in bringing Chinese cinema to a global audience over the past 50 years.

For Marco Mueller, life has come full circle. Nearly 50 years ago, he was a bright-eyed film student in China. Now, he’s returned to teach a new generation of Chinese filmmakers in Shanghai.

“There are so many young people here interested in artistic creation,” Mueller tells Sixth Tone. “There’s a real hunger for cinema.”

Things have changed a lot since the 68-year-old first traveled to China in 1975. At the time, the country’s film industry was practically unknown outside its borders, despite Chinese-language movies having been around since the late 19th century.

The fact this is no longer the case owes much to Mueller himself. Early on in his China journey, fate and good fortune led the Italian to meet the filmmakers who would later become known as China’s “fifth generation” — including Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige, and Tian Zhuangzhuang. He would then go on to play a pivotal role in introducing their movies to the world.

Mueller was among the first Italian scholars invited to study in China once the two nations had restored diplomatic relations in the early ’70s. He arrived to find a country still mired in the Cultural Revolution, a chaotic period of radical political campaigns.

Though an anthropologist by training, his new university in Beijing told him the subject was “bourgeois” and that he’d be studying “mass literature” instead. Soon, the Italian was attending regular Chinese film screenings with his classmates — and the young student was hooked. He remembers being blown away by Xie Jin’s 1977 hit movie “Youth” in particular. Continue to read the full article here

– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.