Zhao Liang began his artistic career as a photographer in the 1990s before voyaging into documentaries. Two of his early documentaries, Farewell, Yuanmingyuan and Paper Airplane, are pioneering works in Chinese documentary film. The former records the last days of the art village before its closure by the authority in 1995, and the latter follows the lives of disenfranchised youths amid the breakdown of China’s socialist system in the 1990s.
A precursor of the revolutionary documentary movement in China, Zhao Liang’s reserved and effective camerawork exposes the struggles of people from different segments of the Chinese society. In 2007, his documentary Crime and Punishment won the Montgolfiere d’or Award at the Festival of Three Continents, Nantes, France, among other awards. His 2009 documentary Petition:The Court of the Complainants premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and propelled Zhao Liang to wider international acclaim.