Walking on the margins: From Italian Neorealism to contemporary Chinese Sixth Generation | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 2, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 2047-7368
  • E-ISSN: 2047-7376



This article aims to examine the Sixth Generation films of contemporary China through the lens of Italian Neorealism: particularly, their moral commitments and aesthetic innovations. Along with many international art films, the Sixth Generation films share a realist impulse that was most innovatively pioneered and explored in Italian Neorealism. In every case, the film-maker is attempting to chronicle the present by focusing generally on the dark side of reality and specifically on the life lived by disenfranchised people. The goal is to create an anti-illusionist film culture that helps viewers to see and reflect upon this reality first from within and then beyond cinema. Selecting Xiao Shan Going Home (Jia, Zhangke, 1995) and Still Life (Jia, Zhangke, 2006) by Jia Zhangke as representative of the Sixth Generation, this article details how such films adopt Italian neorealist conventions (such as long takes, long shots with deep focus and location shooting) and thereafter expand these formal elements to underscore social contradictions behind the glamour of Chinese economic development so as to present a more complete sense of modernity.


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