Xiao Wu

Artisan Pickpocket
Jia Zhang-ke’s debut film tells the story of pickpocket Xiao Wu, who drifts aimlessly through the streets of the poor and dirty small town of Fenyang. He tries to hide his insecurity and lack of prospects behind a pair of big glasses and a cool demeanour but is increasingly losing his footing. His former friend Xiao Yong doesn’t want to have anything to do with him anymore; his love Mei Mei, who he met in a dingy karaoke bar, runs off with a richer man; and Xiao Wu’s father, who lives in a small mountain village, throws him out of the house after a fight. In the end, Xiao Wu is caught and handcuffed and taken away in full view of everyone on the whole street.
Largely filmed with an ensemble of amateur actors, Xiao Wu draws a bleak picture of everyday life in China. The film premiered in the Berlinale Forum in 1998 and was an instant hit, making the director famous overnight. The festival will be screening the digitally restored version of the 1998 16mm print.
by Jia Zhang-ke
with Wang Hongwei, Zuo Baitao, Hao Hongjian
People’s Republic of China 1998 Mandarin 108’ Colour


  • Wang Hongwei (Xiao Wu)
  • Zuo Baitao (Mei Mei)
  • Hao Hongjian (Xiao Yong)


Written and Directed by Jia Zhang-ke
Cinematography Yu Lik-Wai
Editing Lin Xiaoling
Sound Design Lin Xiaoling
Sound Zhang Yang
Production Design Liang Jingdong
Assistant Director Gu Zheng
Production Manager Wang Hongwei
Producers Li Kit Ming, Jia Zhang-ke

Produced by

Top Clever

Jia Zhang-ke

Born in Fenyang, China in 1970, he graduated from the Beijing Film Academy. His debut feature film, Xiao Wu, screened in the Berlinale Forum in 1998. Since then, his films have regularly premiered at major European festivals. Still Life won the Golden Lion at Venice in 2006, A Touch Of Sin received the award for Best Screenplay at Cannes in 2013, and Mountains May Depart and Ash Is Purest White featured in competition at Cannes in 2015 and 2018, respectively.


1998 Xiao Wu 2000 Platform 2001 In Public; Documentary 2002 Unknown Pleasures 2004 The World 2006 Dong; Documentary · Still Life 2007 Useless; Documentary 2008 24 City 2010 I Wish I Knew; Documentary 2013 A Touch of Sin 2015 Mountains May Depart 2018 Ash Is Purest White 2020 Yi zhi you dao hai shui bian lan; Documentary

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2020