Chinese filmmakers, actors, actresses as well as some ordinary people gathered Saturday afternoon to bid farewell to famous movie director Wu Tianming, who died Tuesday from heart attack.
The memorial meeting, at the Babaoshan funeral service center in west Beijing, started at 3 p.m. and lasted for about 40 minutes. It was attended by hundreds, including leading film directors Zhang Yimou, Lu Chuan, Xie Fei and Feng Xiaogang.
The hall was decorated with antithetical couplets composed with the names of Wu's films, including Life, Old Well, The King of Masks, River Without Buoys, as well as Homage to Phoenix. "Homage to phoenix ends with a song, while the old well remains silent; the life is without buoys, as one's masks are forever changing," the couplets read.
Amid the sad music from Wu's films, the funeral started with emotional speeches from president of China Film Directors' Guild (CFDG) Li Shaohong and Wu's daughter Wu Yanyan.
The grievous Li, whose 1995 film Blush won the Silver Bear in Berlin, shared a story in 2005. Wu was the first person to win the lifetime achievement award from CFDG with unanimous votes. "When asked how would he spend the money, he replied 'I will donate it to the Old Well Village'," Li said, choking. "The well in the village was dried up and I would like to dig a new one, so that villagers could drink clean water."
"My dear dad, I am waiting for you to come back," said Wu's tearful daughter Yanyan, who is also carving out her career as a director. "We quarrel sometimes, because I wanted you to make commercial films which you wouldn't do," she recalled. "Please forgive my being challenging, but I would like you to know that you are my hero."
Born in 1939 in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, Wu Tianming was considered one of the leading "fourth generation" directors, and head of China's renowned Xi'an Film Studio. He was twice Golden Rooster best director. He also helped nurture prominent "fifth generation" directors like Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige.
"He was a typical northwestern man: sincere, honest and warm-hearted," Zhang told Xinhua in an interview. "He discovered many talents and tried his best to help them."
Zhang, one of China's best-known filmmakers who directed the opening ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, noted that Wu in a way changed his fate, as the latter lent him money to make his Red Sorghum. "Without him there will be no Red Sorghum," he said. Calling Wu "the boss", Zhang added that Wu also helped his wife (now divorced) to find a job in Xi'an, so that the couple could work in the same city.
Xie Fei, director of Golden Bear winning film Woman Sesame Oil Maker, said he met Wu "from time to time". "He was older than me but was still working for his dream," he said. "His films reflected the good traditions of Chinese movies, which was critical realism."
Despite the chill and smog in the air, many ordinary people also came to say goodbye to Wu, laying wreath and yellow chrysanthemum bouquets outside the hall, among whom were 75-year-old Zhang Shouyi and his wife.
"We had been classmates for three years in primary school and five years in middle school," he told Xinhua. "He is a mild person, talented and persistent."
Zhang was shocked at the news of Wu's death. "He was in good health," he said. "We met every year and he had always been well."
Another old man, 71, only gave his surname as Wang. He lived in Xi'an and was classmates with Wu in the middle school. He happened to be in Beijing while learning about the bad news from newspaper. "Last time when I met him, it was in 2006," he said. "He had his head shaven and appeared energetic. He told us his ambition and I gave him a photo, which made him very happy."
Wang recalled that Wu had his own dreams and didn't like to follow the majority. "We have lots of homework to do at school. When we were struggling with the homework, he was drawing," he said. The retired teacher remembered that there was a cinema around the corner at that time and Wu went there a lot. "Maybe that is why he loved film so much."
Li Miao didn't know Wu in person, but was a fan of his films. "I like his Old Well," said the 31-year-old woman from Shanxi Province, adjacent to Wu's hometown Shaanxi. "Many scenes appeared in the film were reminiscent of my hometown,"she said.
Li's major in college was literature and now she worked as an editor in a small film studio. "Wu is a guide for me."