C ultivating and developing excellence is a never-ending pursuit — one that Rolex has been dedicated to for over a century. But the watchmaker’s appreciation of perpetual improvement is not restricted to horology alone, as evidenced by its many programmes in support of the arts.
Since 2002, the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative has been pairing some of the world’s greatest creators with promising young talents in a two-year collaboration with the goal to transmit precious knowledge from one generation to the next.
Rolex has long had close ties to the cinematic world, so it stands to reason that each cycle of mentors and protégés includes a duo that will bring something new to the silver screen.
For 2023-2024, the initiative is bringing together Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhang-Ke and his chosen protégé, Rafael Manuel.
Jia is a prominent figure in what is widely known as the “Sixth Generation” of Chinese filmmakers. His early films, known as the Shanxi trilogy, including his first feature Xiao Wu (Pickpocket, 1997), caught moments of transition in Chinese society.
Known for his biting realism and documentary style, one of Jia’s films, Still Life, which captures the struggles faced by villagers affected by the construction of China’s Three Gorges Dam, earned him a Golden Lion at the 2006 Venice Film Festival as well as the Best Director title at the Asian Film Awards. More recent award-winning projects include A Touch of Sin (2013), Mountains May Depart (2015) and Ash is Purest White (2018), the last of which made it to Barack Obama’s list of favourite films in 2019.
The founder of the Pingyao International Film Festival will be working closely with award-winning Filipino filmmaker Rafael Manuel, a student of philosophy and visual communications who earned his MA in filmmaking at the London Film School.
While Manuel’s previous creative roles at Saatchi & Saatchi and TBWA rewarded him with numerous awards at international advertising festivals like the Cannes Lions, his work behind the lens is just as promising. Manuel won the Silver Bear Jury Prize at the 2020 Berlin International Film festival for his short film Filipiñana, and a year later, walked away with the Prince Claus Seed Award for Development and Culture, the Script and Development Award from the Hubert Bals Fund, and the Ani ng Dangal Award from the Philippine National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
Manuel is also the co-founder of the international arts collective and film production Idle Eye Productions, and is currently working on his first two feature-length films: an extended version of Filipiñana, and Patrimonio.
Together, Jia and Manuel will surely combine their unique perspectives in a lively exchange of creative energy, ensuring transfer of artistic knowledge and craft from one generation to the next. This exemplifies Rolex’s pursuit of excellence, symbolized by the word ‘Perpetual’.