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Jia Ling, China’s Box-Office-Topping Director

The Chinese comedian became the world’s highest-grossing female director when her film, Hi, Mom, took in $834 million in ticket sales, blowing past the record previously held by Patty Jenkins for Wonder Woman.
Jia Ling

Jia Ling

Photographer: Yang Dong/VCG/Getty Images

For years, observers of China’s film industry wondered when homegrown offerings would displace Hollywood fare in the country’s cinemas. That happened last year when movie production shut down in the U.S.—and when China, after enforcing draconian isolation measures, recovered quickly from Covid-19, allowing theaters to reopen much earlier.

Now, with Jia’s sales record, another milestone has been reached. In her directorial debut, she plays a woman who travels back in time to befriend her late mother and set her up with a husband better than what the protagonist’s father turned out to be. Chinese audiences thrilled to the emotional charge of the movie, which set off social media debates about motherhood and the role of women in what’s still a patriarchal society.