Zhang Junzhao was a prominent early member of China's Fifth Generation of filmmakers. During the Cultural Revolution, Zhang became actively involved in directing and performing in propaganda plays for the Army. Later, along with such classmates as Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige, and Tian Zhuangzhuang, he entered the Beijing Film Academy in 1978 after Deng Xiaopeng re-opened China's schools and institutions. In 1982, he was assigned as an assistant director, along with three of his classmates, to remote Guangxi Studios. Zhang's reputation as a filmmaker arises primarily from his directorial debut, One and Eight (1984), widely considered the first Fifth Generation film. Its story of a ragtag group resisting Japanese invaders during the 1930s was pretty common for Communist Chinese cinema; but the film's emphasis on individuals over the group, its existential tone, and its breathtaking cinematography set it apart, signaling the rise of a new generation of filmmakers. Since then, Zhang has directed two unremarkable films (Come On, China  and The Loner ) before making Arc Light (1988), an exploration of a patient in a psychiatric hospital.