Wu Tianming

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Wu Tianming
Wu Tianming01.jpg
Chinese name 吳天明 (traditional)
Chinese name 吴天明 (simplified)
Pinyin Wú Tiānmíng (Mandarin)
Born (1939-12-05)December 5, 1939
Sanyuan County, Shaanxi
Died March 4, 2014(2014-03-04) (aged 74)
Beijing, China
Occupation Film director
Film producer
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Wu.

Wu Tianming (simplified Chinese: 吴天明; traditional Chinese: 吳天明; pinyin: Wú Tiānmíng; December 5, 1939 – March 4, 2014) was a Chinese film director and producer who was considered one of the leading "Fourth Generation" directors.[1]

Biography[edit]

Born in Sanyuan County, Shaanxi Province, China on December 5, 1939.

In 1960, aged twenty, he was accepted into a training class for film acting run by the Xi’an Film Studio. There were sixteen state-run studios in China at that time, and this was the closest to his home in Sanyuan, Shaanxi Province. He was put on the studio's payroll and had some bit-parts in the studio’s productions of the early 1960s.

In 1966, Mao's Cultural Revolution stopped productions in the studios. In 1974-1976, the last three years of the Cultural Revolution, Wu studied at the partly re-opened Beijing Film Academy, majoring in Film Directing. [1]

In 1982, Wu co-directed two features at Xi’an with his friend Teng Wenji. Afterwards Wu made his debut as a solo director with River Without Buoys (Meiyou Hangbiao de Heliu). The commercial success of River Without Buouys led to Wu Tianming’s appointment as the new head of Xi’an Film Studio in 1983. Wu was the youngest studio head in the PRC at 45 years old

In 1984, Wu directed his movie Life (Rensheng, 1984), attacking what he defined as the three main problems in Chinese society: having to accept assigned posts rather than choose one’s own employment, the practices of nepotism and favoritism, and “unhealthy tendencies in the Party.”

With his film "Life", Wu began a policy of producing movies with deep roots in the West China regions around Xi’an. Wu insisted on producing a number of experimental films, called "tansuo pian" to raise aesthetic and conceptual standards in China without regard to their commercial performance. Among these films were Tian Zhuangzhuang’s Horse Thief (Daoma Zei, 1986), shot in Tibet and Gansu, and Chen Kaige’s King of the Children (Haizi Wang, 1987), shot in Yunnan.

By employing what became known as “Fifth Generation” directors like Tian and Chen and allowing them to make non-commercial films, Wu found himself in conflict with Wu Yigong at the Shanghai Film Studio, who regularly spoke out against “elitist” films which the mass audience couldn’t understand or relate to. Wu Tianming prevailed due to his commerical success and the internatioal acllaim the sansauo pian films garnered at international film festivals.

In 1987, Wu made a deal with the cinematographer of his film Chen Kaige, Zhang Yimou. Wu would give Zhao his directorial debut with Red Sorghum (Hong Gaoliang) in return for starring Zhang starring in Wu's film Old Well and supervising the cinematography. Both movies were highly succesful in the China market and achieved considerable international success. When the head of Shaanxi Propaganda Bureau criticized Wu Tianming's policies, he fought back by publicly denouncing him as “a bureaucrat who doesn’t understand films but wants to control filmmaking.” At the time it was unheard of for for a well-known Chinese artist or intellectual to criticize a Party official to a western reporter.

In 1989, political differences forced Wu to flee to the United States in 1989. At Xi'an Studio he nurtured prominent "Fifth Generation" directors Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige.[1]

By 1993, unable to find success in America due to his lack of English, Wu had to make ends meet by running a video-rental store in Monterey Park, California.

Wu returned to China from his U.S. exile in 1994, and directed the Shaw Brothers produced film The King of Masks[1] in 1995, which was internationally acclaimed.

Wu's last film was made in 1998, An Unusual Love Story (Feichang Aiqing, 1998).

In 2012, Wu returned to his origins as an actor when he starred in the 2012 film Full Circle.

Wu Tianming died on March 4, 2014 from a heart attack, at the age of 74.[1]

Filmography[edit]

As director[edit]

Year English Title Chinese Title Notes
1979 Reverberations of Life 生活的颤音
1980 Kith and Kin 亲缘
1984 River Without Buoys 没有航标的河流
1984 Life 人生
1986 Old Well 老井 1988 Golden Rooster for Best Director
1996 The King of Masks 变脸 1996 Golden Rooster for Best Director
1998 An Unusual Love 世界
2002 C.E.O.

As producer[edit]

Year English Title Chinese Title Director Notes
1985 The Black Cannon Incident 黑炮事件 Huang Jianxin
1986 The Horse Thief 盗马贼 Tian Zhuangzhuang
1987 Red Sorghum 紅高梁 Zhang Yimou 1988 Golden Rooster for Best Picture (shared with Wu's own Old Well)
2007 Mr. Cinema 老港正传 Samson Chiu

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e 著名导演吴天明因心肌梗塞去世 享年75岁. Phoenix TV (in Chinese). 4 March 2014. Retrieved 4 March 2014. 

External links[edit]