Filmmaker S. Louisa Wei
S. Louisa Wei (simplified Chinese: 魏时煜; traditional Chinese: 魏時煜; pinyin: Wèi Shíyù; born in Dongying, Shandong) (also credited as S. Louisa Wei) is a Chinese filmmaker, film producer, script translator and educator.
Louisa Wei was born in Dongying City of Shandong Province, but grew up in Xi'an. Her father was from one of the seven prominent families of the early 20th century in Fuzhou City of Fujian Province. The Wei family has one of the earliest overseas students of China, Wei Han (1851–1929), who studied ship building in France from 1875 to 1879 and was the earliest masters of ship building in China. Such a tradition of sending children to study overseas has continued over several generations in the Wei families. Louisa studied comparative literature and film in Canada from 1992 to 1999, receiving her MA from Carleton University in 1994 and PhD from University of Alberta in 2002.
After working in Japan for two years, Wei moved to Hong Kong and began to have close contact with people in China’s film circles around 2001. In February 2006, she made her first music documentary, Cui Jian: Rocking China, a 35-minute video in retrospection of Cui Jian’s performances from 1986 to 2005. The video was co-produced by Blue Queen Cultural Communicated Ltd. and EMI Music and broadcast on Channel 13 of Cable TV Hong Kong.
In July 2006, she made her first feature documentary A Piece of Heaven: Primary Documents, a rather personal documentation of her very first documentary experience with Professor Situ Zhaodun of Beijing Film Academy. This film follows Situ’s teaching of Hong Kong students in 2003 and 2005, but meanwhile constructs a brief biography of Situ through his family history. Shanghai-based director Peng Xiaolian speaks very highly of the work, calling it “a lyrical prose of a family history shared by many in China, and a work with depth about the very concept of documentation through puzzle pieces of documentary history.”
Between 2006 and 2009, Wei co-directed a documentary with Xiaolian Peng—a 137-minute film about the 1955 national campaign initiated by Chairman Mao Zedong and against Hu Feng, a leading literary critic at the time. The film is titled Storm under the Sun and is the first film representation of the case. The film is a political saga with historical news reel footages, woodcut prints and cartoons, authentic interviews and stylized animations. The film was first premiered at IDFA in Amsterdam in 2007, but its final version (both English and Chinese) was premiered at the 33rd Hong Kong International Film Festival in 2009, immediately attracting critical attention.
Around the same period, Wei also has credits as script writer for two feature films released in 2007: Susie Au’s Ming Ming and Xiao Feng’s Gun of Mercy. She has also translated many feature film scripts for films during their productions. This list includes Mongol (2008), Lust, Caution (2007), Curse of the Golden Flower (2006), and Fearless (2006) among other films in production.
From early 2009 to 2013, Wei collaborated with veteran Hong Kong filmmaker and critic Law Kar on a feature documentary titled Golden Gate Girls (a.k.a. Golden Gate Silver Light), which made its world premiere at the 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival on April 1, 2013. This work reflects the life and time of Esther Eng, Southern China's first woman director, who is a San Francisco native. The film immediately received a positive review from The Hollywood Reporter, and another report in this trade magazine of Hollywood claims that a film producer is inspired by the documentary and hopes to make a feature film around Esther Eng.
Golden Gate Girls traveled to many film festivals and international conferences, and Wei is recognized as a pioneer in documenting the once lost history of Esther Eng. As a researcher in Chinese cinema, she also contributed entries of Esther Eng and Pu Shuqing—China's first female script writer to Women Film Pioneer Project hosted by Columbia University.