Exploring the Success of Jing Zou’s “A Girl Unknown”

Exploring the Success of Jing Zou’s “A Girl Unknown”

Jing Zou, a Chinese writer and director, recently achieved a major milestone with her feature film project, “A Girl Unknown,” winning the top prize at the Next Step initiative of Cannes Critics’ Week. This initiative is designed to support filmmakers as they transition from short films to their first full-length feature. Inspired by the heartbreaking phenomenon of generations of girls being abandoned in China due to the one-child policy, “A Girl Unknown” follows the journey of a young Chinese woman from childhood to adulthood, living in three different families. The film promises to be an intimate coming-of-age story that delves into themes of existential pain, self-discovery, and the journey of learning how to love.

Born in 1984, Jing Zou is a talented Chinese director and writer who splits her time between Shanghai and Los Angeles. She initially pursued a career in literature but found her true passion when she started working on documentaries at the Shanghai International TV station as a director and editor. Zou’s previous short film, “Lili Alone,” garnered critical acclaim, winning the Leitz Cine Discovery Prize at the Critics’ Prize in 2021. Her unique background and storytelling style have positioned her as a rising star in the film industry.

“A Girl Unknown” was one of the ten projects selected to participate in this year’s edition of Next Step, a program established in 2014 for directors who have previously showcased their work at the Cannes parallel section of Critics’ Week. Participants in the Next Step program have the opportunity to develop their first feature film project through workshops, meetings with industry professionals, and a showcase at the Cannes Film Festival. This year’s jury, comprising industry experts like Roxane Arnold and Markus Duffner, recognized the potential of “A Girl Unknown” and awarded it the top prize.

The Next Step initiative has a history of supporting innovative and impactful films, with past winners including Manning Walker’s acclaimed “How to Have Sex.” Over the years, around 35 projects supported by Next Step have been brought to life, showcasing the program’s effectiveness in nurturing emerging talent. Notable successes include “Universal Language” by Matthew Rankin, featured in Directors’ Fortnight, as well as Berlinale titles like “Some Rain Must Fall” and “Arcadia.” The 10th edition of Next Step also introduced Volume II, a unique workshop that brought directors and composers together to collaborate on score composition as an essential element of storytelling.

The success of Jing Zou’s “A Girl Unknown” at the Next Step initiative highlights the importance of supporting emerging filmmakers and providing them with the resources and mentorship needed to bring their creative visions to life. Zou’s dedication to telling compelling stories that resonate with audiences has solidified her position as a talented director to watch in the industry. As she continues to develop her craft and push the boundaries of storytelling, “A Girl Unknown” stands as a testament to her creativity and vision for the future of cinema.


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