Peter Pau is the Oscar-winning cinematographer who together with director Ang Lee reinvented the classic Chinese martial arts tale with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. A worldwide hit, the film was nominated for 10 Academy Awards in 2001. Both action-packed and poetic—the look of the film was influenced by Chinese watercolor paintings, and gravity-defying fight scenes have the lyric beauty of a ballet—it cemented Pau’s reputation as a master of visual storytelling.
Pau had an early introduction to the film world: his father was an actor and director, his mother an actress, and as a child he would go to the studio and watch them filming. In 1979, he moved to San Francisco to study filmmaking at SFAI. “I treasure the good old times at the school and hope it will continue to be one of the very best in the art field,” he says.
After graduating from SFAI, Pau returned to China to work, and has become one of the top cinematographers in Hong Kong. Over nearly three decades of filmmaking, Pau has worked with directors such as John Woo (The Killer), Tsui Hark (Double Team, The Chinese Feast), Ronny Yu (The Bride With White Hair, Bride of Chucky), Kaige Chen (The Promise), and Patrick Lussier (Dracula 2000). His own directorial efforts include The Touch, starring Crouching Tiger actress Michelle Yeoh. This year, for the film Confucius, Pau received his sixth Best Cinematography honor at the Hong Kong Film Awards, out of 18 career nominations.
Shortly after Crouching Tiger, director Ang Lee noted Pau’s not-so-hidden talents in an interview with American Cinematographer. “Peter is probably the biggest and most Hollywood-like cinematographer in all of Hong Kong,” Lee said. “He has directed films, and he even served as our assistant director–he’s probably one of the few cinematographers in the world who can do all of that. What else can I say?”