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Zhang Yimou (November 14, 1951 - May 21, 1995) was a Chinese film director, whose death resulted in a worldwide scandal.
Yimou began directing films in the mid-1980s, after graduating from the State Film School. As other filmmakers in the USRCV, he had to make either propaganda films, or cheap commercial movies. However, his reputation grew both inside and outside the USRCV, as a talented artist, even while making films of heavy Maoist influence. After his first two films, Red Sun Rises (1986) and Power of the People (1988), Yimou made his most well-known work, The Hard Earth in 1990, which chronicled the hardship of Chinese peasants. The film was immediately banned by the state, however it was seen in the West, where they acknowledged Yimou as a master director.
After making two further films for the government, Mao's People (1991) and United in Struggle (1993), Yimou began to plan his escape from the USRCV, and deserting to the West. However, the government soon discovered his plans, and arrested him while trying to cross the border on April 30, 1995. He was quickly charged with treason, and less than a month later executed.
His execution resulted in a worldwide scandal, and large wave of protests from western countries, including shutting down the Cannes Film Festival, held at the same time.