Chinese directors visit WSU for film festival

(Source: Greg Lewis) Wu Yigong, a famous Chinese filmmaker, poses for a photo.

In conjunction with the Western Conference for the Association of Asian Studies, Professor Greg Lewis has brought two award-winning Chinese filmmakers, Wu Yigong and Wu Tiange, to Weber State University to introduce their films to students.

Lewis said this would be a great opportunity for non-Asian students to learn more about Chinese filmmaking from one of China’s greatest directors. Born in the 1930s, Wu Yigong grew up in a period in China’s history when “there was terrible inflation, the communists are going to take over, and there was just a lot of uncertainty,” Lewis said. “His eyes were captivated by film. . . . I think it was like the Depression in this country; the audience was captive because it was an escape from the uncertainty of day-to-day life. When the communists took over and quality of living got better, people started to think, ‘Well, maybe this’ll work.’”

Wu Yigong is a decorated director, having received two awards equivalent to an Oscar in China for his direction of the movies “Evening Rain” and “My Memories of Old Beijing.”

“Collectively, these two films really give us a window into Chinese filmmaking in that period,” Lewis said. “They tell us a lot of history about China at the time.”

After screenings of both these movies, as well as “A Warm Winter,” a film directed by Wu Yigong’s son, Wu Tiange, the directors will answer questions from students.

“After the films are done, there will be a question-and-answer session afterwards,” Lewis said. “Yigong and Tiange will also be around for the conference. Anyone that wants to ask questions can have me introduce them to the directors. They’re here for the students, and are curious about what students think about China and their films.”

While all of the films will be presented in Chinese with English subtitles, Lewis said he believes the messages portrayed in each of the movies can be enjoyed regardless of the students’ awareness of Chinese history and culture.

“I think there are elements in each of the movies students can connect to,” he said. “For example, ‘My Memories of Old Beijing’ has elements that we can all understand even if we don’t know any Chinese history . . . It’s a film about people, and that’s universal.”

Yiquan Hu, the president of the WSU Chinese Club, said she thinks this is a great opportunity for students to learn about Chinese culture.

“I think that the movies are interesting, and it’s really great that the director is coming to Weber,” Hu said. “It’s a really good opportunity for foreigners to learn about Chinese culture.”

Hu, who had previously seen “My Memories of Old Beijing,” said she connected with the main character in that movie, noting that as a small child, everyone has dreams and aspirations, but then reality sets in and they aren’t able to realize those dreams.

“(The movie) is really touching,” she said. “It talks about a little girl that comes from Taiwan and spends her childhood in Beijing. Our dreams are totally different from life because life is cruel. We all have this same situation where we find out the world is cruel. The story is very good.”

Amanda Davies, a freshman in communications, said that while she isn’t studying Asian culture or history, it intrigues her. Being able to learn about Asian filmmaking from a decorated Chinese filmmaker is something she said she would like to participate in.

“I’ve always been interested in Chinese culture, so this would be a great opportunity to learn more,” Davies said.

Presentations and events for the Western Conference for the Association of Asian Studies will begin on Friday at 5 p.m. in the Wildcat Theater with a presentation of traditional Chinese folk dancing and music. The conference will continue on Saturday morning with presentations on topics of Asian interest and involvement. A gallery of photography of Wu Yigong’s life and work is also on display in the Shepherd Union Building.