The International School of Beijing (ISB) rolled out the red carpet for legendary Chinese director Zhang Yimou in an experiential learning opportunity of blockbuster proportions on February 24, 2015. The internationally acclaimed filmmaker participated in three student-led dialogues, sharing his insight about values at the core of ISB's Learning21 curriculum.
Zhang was given a warm ISB welcome by high school students, who led him on a tour of the school that included a visit to a film class. He stepped out of his normal role behind the camera to be in front of it for an interview conducted and filmed by students.
Zhang shot to fame with his 1987 directorial debut Red Sorghum, with modern epics including Under the Hawthorn Tree and The Flowers of War sealing his popularity with domestic and international audiences. He also etched his place in history as the creative mastermind of the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
He spoke about the importance of fostering key L21 skills including creativity, innovation, leadership and responsibility. With more than 20 films and a dozen international awards to his credit, Zhang answered students' questions about effectively communicating and collaborating, offering a valuable insight based on his experience at the helm of cross-cultural film sets.
In his dialogue with the ISB community, Zhang reflected on his career highlights and contribution to Chinese and world cinema.
A farm laborer and factory worker during the Cultural Revolution, Zhang also emphasized the importance of overcoming hardships and never losing sight of your passion.
ISB's Chinese Program provides teachers and students with the best possible opportunities for language acquisition and cultural education. During their interaction with Zhang, students deepened their cultural connection to the Middle Kingdom by asking questions in Chinese and learning more about China's position as the world's fastest growing film market.
For students who led the dialogue, being up close and personal with a cinema icon inspired them to pursue their own passion. The unique learning opportunity also gave them a chance to showcase their professional etiquette before a hundreds-strong audience in the theater.
Following his dialogue with the community, Zhang posed with ISB students, parents and staff for photos before signing copies of his book Homework. An English edition of the book was made available thanks to the efforts of a group of students in a high school Chinese class, whose teamwork and dedication produced a translation of publishing house standard.
Zhang's visit aligned with initiatives in ISB's Strategic Plan IV by increasing learning through an authentic, compelling local engagement, optimizing each student's capacity to learn through individualized opportunities, and increasing access to expertise through collaborative efforts and networks beyond ISB.
As the creative genius behind martial arts blockbusters starring Jet Li and Zhang Ziyi, the director was treated to a breathtaking performance by ISB's Wushu Warriors of Wisdom. Fresh from their success at an international festival at the Shaolin Temple, the warriors delivered a dazzling display that could pave the way for a cameo appearance in Zhang's next big martial arts epic.