Gong Li

China's most internationally famous actress and a significant creative force in the new era of Chinese film in the 1980s, Gong Li began her film career in Zhang Yimou's "Red Sorghum" (1987), for which she received considerable international acclaim. A frequent collaborator with Yimou throughout her career, Li came to embody a new generation of Chinese woman - one brought up amid ancient tradition but reaching toward feminist values - with empowered roles in films like "Ju Dou" (1990), "Farewell My Concubine" (1993), and "Memoirs of a Geisha" (2005). Li's compelling, naturalistic performances as women struggling to overcome feudalism and patriarchy contributed to the international success of her films, and Li herself was credited with helping attract American audiences to Chinese film for the first time. Li continued holding their interest into the next millennium with lead roles in a variety of Academy Award-nominated films exploring Chinese culture, history, politics and passion.