Feng Xiaogang is regarded as the most successful commercial film director since the middle of the 1990s. His films were so popular that they even surpassed imported Hollywood blockbusters at the box office. Critics applauded him for being able to make profitable films, but he was not generally respected as a film director. Some of the critics characterized Feng's film as lacking depth, sincerity, and passion. His films were seen as mechanisms that manipulate audiences to generate and maximize profits. Feng was criticized as not aiming for the best, but aiming for the most profitable. However, a closer look at his films reveals that they are far from mindless escapist productions of a dream factory. Feng's films instead were reflections of the changing socio-political context of Chinese cinema since the mid-1990s and the nation-wide growth of popular cinema wherein the once politically infused cinema that was intended as political propaganda or for international audiences became cinema that addressed the domestic needs of the audiences. This introduction provides an overview of Feng Xiaogang's career. It traces Feng's humble beginnings from being a director with little professional training in scriptwriting and film directing to his growth as one of China's most influential directors. In this section are narratives of how Feng dealt with independent production, censorship, financial difficulties, and competition. Following the chronicle of Feng's rise to being one of China's most influential film directors are reviews of his cinema culled from both English and Chinese publications. This introduction also provides the methodology and the general structure of this study.
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