Award Citation

Zhang Lu is a film director representative of East Asia in the 21st century. With his origin as an ethnic Korean in China, and with a wide range of knowledge acquired through his career as a novelist, he became a film director. By setting his films in provincial cities in China, Korea, and Japan, and by working together with actors and crews from each country, he has created a unique body of work that can be called nothing other than “East Asian films” that transcend nationality and borders. 

Zhang was born in 1962 as a third generation Korean in Yanbian, Jilin Province, China. His father was arrested during the Cultural Revolution, and the young Zhang was sent to a rural area with his mother as part of the rustication policy. He acquired fluency in the Chinese language in addition to his Korean around this period. He graduated from the Chinese Literature Department of Yanbian University becoming a professor of Chinese literature at the same university. Later, Zhang moved to Beijing and began working as a novelist. 

As a film director, he was a late-bloomer, releasing his first long feature film Tang Poetry in 2004. The next year, he won the ACID prize in the Cannes Film Festival with Grain In Ear (2005), a story about a Korean single mother living in a remote area in China, which reflects his deep interest in current issues and his experience and knowledge of being an ethnic minority. In the 2010’s, Zhang worked with renowned actors and crew from Korea and consecutively released much-discussed works, such as: Gyeongju (2014), a story of encounters and partings between a man and a woman that unfolds in the ancient city of Gyeongju; and A Quiet Dream (2016), a film based in Seoul, Korea, in which three men, including a North Korean defector, have feelings for an ethnic Korean woman who came from China. His films have been nominated for major international film festivals, including The Cannes Film Festival, the Berlin International Film Festival and the Busan International Film Festival.

He then successively released the trilogy of films that can be said to be the culmination of his career up to the present: Ode to the Goose (2018), Fukuoka (2019) and Yanagawa (2021). They are a completely new type of “East Asian cinema”, created through a collaboration of multi-national filmmakers from Korea, China and Japan. This trilogy resulted in meaningful cultural connections between Zhang and Fukuoka too, as many citizens were involved in his films from the planning stage to the shooting process. After his ideas for the films further expanded his relationship with Fukuoka, where he was originally invited to attend a film festival. In each film in the trilogy, he portrays characters with regret and grief who visit a town and begin to face their lives again as they become familiar with the place amidst its unique changes of scenery and peaceful pace. 

Major characteristics of Zhang’s films are his focus on social minorities such as Korean Chinese and North Korean defectors, as well as his skillful form binary narrative that alternates between seemingly opposing dichotomies: reality and dreams; present and past; and life and death. His use of these characteristics have become more flexible in recent years. Often historical events related to East Asian modern and contemporary history appear in his films; poetry and songs ranging from Chinese poems of the Tang dynasty, poems by Yun Dong-ju, a Korean poet who passed away in Fukuoka, and Japanese nursery rhymes add a richly emotional atmosphere. His direction of the languages used in his films is also distinctive with Korean, Chinese, and Japanese flitting about in a free-spirited production where conversations in different languages can be easily communicated, giving a sense of the vision of intercultural harmony and coexistence. 

His latest work based in Beijing, The Shadowless Tower (2023) was selected for the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2023. With this work, he further refines his approach in his next step forward after “the trilogy”.
Zhang Lu has released works regarded as unparalleled in “East Asian cinema” and won international acclaim for his expression of a vision of cultural harmonization and symbiosis in his films by making actual cross-border collaboration with filmmakers from China, Korea and Japan. For his significant contribution, he is a truly deserving recipient of the Arts and Culture Prize of the Fukuoka Prize.

Message upon Announcement of Laureates

I was both incredibly surprised and sincerely honored to receive the news that I was chosen for the Fukuoka Prize.

The first word that popped into my mind was “fate”; something anyone with experience of Asian cultures can relate to.

I was blessed that fate let me visit Fukuoka several times, allowing me to build a very profound friendship with people in Fukuoka and eventually brought me to create a film titled Fukuoka. This is both my fate and good luck.

I am looking forward to visiting Fukuoka again in September.

Achievements by Laureate

Acceptance Speech at Award Ceremony

Portraits of Laureate

As a child with his family
Receiving the New Currents Award at the Busan International Film Festival, 2005
On top of the roof of the Fukuoka City Hall for filming “Fukuoka”
With filmmakers in Fukuoka
At the Berlin International Film Festival, 2023
During the filming “The Shadowless Tower”(2023)