The Xinjiang region has seen the development its own film industry, with many of its productions featuring members of Uyghur, Kazakh or other minority nationalities living there.
Most of the mainstream films and dramas produced within Xinjiang have been made by Chinese directors, and until at least the 1990s, almost all of these films were of the “northern nationality” type (a category developed by the film historian Paul Clark) – that is, they featured hard-fighting, masculine Uyghur heroes who fought off sinister challenges to the Chinese Communist Party and its work by foreign spies and agents (Clark noted that “southern nationality” films, usually set in Yunnan, featured minorities who expressed support for the CCP through singing, dancing and romance, rather than through fighting or outwitting spies).
By the 1990s, films began to be made in Xinjiang that, instead of retelling military victories by the CCP, celebrated Uyghur culture and traditions. An arthouse example of this trend was To a Far Distant Place (在那遥远的地方 Zaina yaoyuan de difang), dir. Teng Wenji 1993). Set in the 1930s, it offers a fictionalized and romantic account of the efforts of a famous Chinese musicologist, Wang Luobin, who sets out with his fiancée to collect nationality music and songs from Xinjiang. (The film includes a sub-plot about an unfulfilled romance between Wang and a Tibetan nomad girl whom he meets). Uyghur culture is celebrated directly, without a Chinese intermediary, in Amannisahan (“Aman Isa Khan”, Wang Yan/Wang Xingjun, 1993), which was written by the Chairman of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, Saifuddin Azizi. Mainstream films from Xinjiang usually praise government policy in the region, such as Maimati’s 2oo8 (trailer; the film is in Chinese, with no subtitles, 2008), a fiction film about Uyghur football players who want to take part in the Beijing Olympics.
Semi-independent films by Uyghur writers and directors have also been made in recent years, including Qirliq Istakan (The Crystal Glass), which offers much deeper insights into Uyghur culture and ideas than the mainstream films.