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The airing of the new TV drama about late leader Deng Xiaoping has reflected growing tolerance toward artistic portrayal of sensitive political issues and figures in China, director Wu Ziniu said.
Since its premiere last Friday, the 48-episode prime-time TV series has been drawing plaudits, as it boldly depicted controversial politicians including Hua Guofeng and Hu Yaobang and touched on rarely-touched topics such as the Cultural Revolution.
During an exclusive interview with Xinhua, Wu, who has been directing TV dramas and films for almost 30 years, said he has been witnessing an increasing freedom of expression on the screen.
"Back in 1986, I made a film with a part referring to the Cultural Revolution, but that was later on cut for being evaluated as too sensitive," he said.
"In 1991, I intended to make another film involving the subject, but the script was not approved by authorities."
The TV series tell the story of Deng and the historical transformation led by him between the years 1976 and 1984, a defining period for the Chinese society, led by Deng's reform and opening up policies.
Some foreign media have made the argument that the drama is simply propaganda for the new leadership of China, which has been pushing forward economic reforms.
Replying to the critics, Wu said, while the airing of the serial is in commemoration of Deng's 110th anniversary of his birth, he believed the product is a good piece of artistic and will be interesting to watch at any time in the future.
Script writing for the drama began in 2009 with TV production costs reaching 120 million yuan (19.5 million U. S. dollars).
Many also complained the show has distorted historical facts. Some argue Deng's character in the drama said he could "still work for 20 years" upon hearing the Gang of Four was purged, but history shows he said "now I can spend my remaining years in comfort".
Both lines had been uttered by Deng at the time, Wu said. The script originally used the latter, but replaced it with the former in order to show the leader's aspiration to continue serving the country and people.
Others also questioned a scene in the first episode depicting the capture of the Gang of Four during a rainstorm, arguing it was not really a rainy day.
Wu said, "I checked the historical records and discovered it did not rain, but I designed a rainy scene to suit the political atmosphere at that moment."
Wu said, the TV production is more of a realistic work than a historical one. "Many people, including myself, witnessed that period of history and are beneficiaries of Deng's policies," he explained.
Wu was born in the 1950s in southwest China's Sichuan Province. He became a "Zhiqing" and was sent to labor in the countryside in 1969.
During the Cultural Revolution, many educated young people, or "Zhiqing" spent the prime of their life toiling in the countryside answering Chairman Mao Zedong's calling for the youth to be re-educated by farmers.
Chinese universities also stopped recruiting students during that period of time, since knowledge was viewed as an accoutrement of the exploiting class and bourgeoisie.
"My life was miserable and I could not see the future," he said.
Thanks to the resumption of university enrollment under the leadership of Deng in 1977, he got the chance to change his life by entering Beijing Film Academy in 1978.
"Without Deng's revival of education and science, my life would be unimaginable and so would be the life of many of my peers," he said.
Wu said, the young people, especially those who were born after the 1980s, should increase their knowledge about Deng's legacy.
"A more thorough understanding of the history of the People's Republic of China and the difficulties encountered by the great leaders can help people form a clearer view about the future," he said.