50 Years of SIFF: Hero


Hong Kong | 2002 | 99 min. | Zhang Yimou

February 27 - March 10, 2024

50 Years of SIFF

In this visually arresting martial arts epic set in ancient China, an unnamed fighter (Jet Li) is being honored for defeating three of the king's most dangerous enemies. When Nameless recounts his battles with the assassins—Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung) and Moon (Zhang Ziyi)—the king begins to question some of the details. As Nameless goes on, the king challenges the tales, interjecting his own take on these perhaps suspect version of events. DAN DOODY & CARSON RENNEKAMP CHOICE

Seattle International Film Festival 2004 selection.

“Following its 2002 release in China, Hero was a blockbuster that every American cinephile was desperate to see. Miramax secured US distribution rights, and then sat on the film for nearly two years. Its SIFF premiere screening at Ciner… er, SIFF Cinema Downtown  was a jam packed affair—an epic SIFF moment for a film of epic scope—and I was fortunate enough to be there. This is easily my favorite 21st Century film from Mainland China.”--Dan Doody, Seattle International Film Festival Programmer

“The reason I chose Hero is because I think it has some of the most beautiful fight choreography ever put on screen and it is also a brilliant tribute to Rashomon through its conflicting perspectives.”--Carson Rennekamp, SIFF Development & Membership Manager

Directed by Zhang Yimou, the 2002 film Hero is a visual masterpiece set against the backdrop of ancient China during the Qin Dynasty. Starring Jet Li as the enigmatic Nameless, the narrative unfolds as a series of intricate and visually stunning stories. 

Nameless recounts his encounters with three legendary assassins, played by Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung, and Zhang Ziyi, who each have their own motives and perspectives. As the tales interweave, the film explores themes of sacrifice, honor, and the intricate dance between truth and perception. The breathtaking cinematography, characterized by vibrant colors and martial arts choreography, elevates "Hero" beyond a mere historical epic into a poetic meditation on the nature of heroism. 

Zhang Yimou's directorial finesse is evident in every frame, creating a cinematic experience that is both visually striking and emotionally resonant. Hero not only captivates with its dazzling action sequences but also engages audiences in a philosophical exploration of loyalty and the sacrifices made in the pursuit of a greater good. This film stands as a testament to the power of storytelling and the artistry of cinema, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of martial arts epics.

  • Director: Zhang Yimou
  • Principal Cast: Jet Li, Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Maggie Cheung, Ziyi Zhang
  • Country: Hong Kong, China
  • Year: 2002
  • Running Time: 99 min.
  • Producer: William Kong, Zhang Yimou
  • Screenplay: Feng Li, Zhang Yimou, Bin Wang
  • Cinematographers: Christopher Doyle
  • Editors: Angie Lam, Ru Zhai
  • Music: Dun Tan
  • Filmography: Red Sorghum 红高粱 (1988), Raise the Red Lantern 大红灯笼高高挂 (1991), The Story of Qiu Ju 秋菊打官司 (1992), To Live 活着 (1994), Shanghai Triad 摇啊摇,摇到外婆桥 (1995), Keep Cool 有话好好说 (1997), Not One Less 一个都不能少 (1999), The Road Home 我的父亲母亲 (1999), Happy Times 幸福时光 (2000), House of Flying Daggers 十面埋伏 (2004), Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles 千里走单骑 (2005), Curse of the Golden Flower 满城尽带黄金甲 (2006), A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop 三枪拍案惊奇 (2009), Under the Hawthorn Tree 山楂树之恋 (2010), Coming Home 归来 (2014), The Great Wall 长城 (2016), Shadow 影 (2018), One Second 一秒钟 (2020), Cliff Walkers 悬崖之上 (2021), Full River Red (2023)
  • Language: Mandarin

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