The prize is given annually by the French Directors’ Association (Societe des Realisateurs Francais), to an international recipient chosen for the innovative qualities, courage and independent-mindedness of his or her work. The SRF also selects and organizes the Cannes festival’s Directors Fortnight (Quinzaine des Realisateurs) section.
Jia has been regularly honoured in the West and hailed as one of the most important directors working today. He has directed films including “Still Life,” “The World,” “Unknown Pleasures” and “Platform” while also producing other films including “Plastic City,” and Yu Lik-wai’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties.”
He remains a controversial figure within China, hailed within the film industry, but representing a consistent critic of development in Chinese society.
Jia’s most recently completed feature “A Touch of Sin” was made with official approval and finance, and premiered in Cannes. But it remains unreleased in China, where its attacks on corruption, prostitution and dormitory factory systems make unpleasant viewing for government. “Sin” has also failed to receive an import quota slot in Taiwan and will not be released there either.
“We are captivated by the boldness of your body of works. Your ability to capture the constant changes in Chinese society, to show its corruption and violence, clearly and concisely, your commitment to younger generations, resonate within each of us… . Each of your film is precious for its insight into Chinese society but also into the solitude and spiritual journey present in humanity. You are the witness to these lives,” the SRF said in a letter announcing the award.
The award will be presented in Cannes on May 14.
Previous recipients have included Clint Eastwood, Nanni Moretti, Jane Campion, Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Alain Cavalier.