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Chinese Movie Guru Feng Xiaogang
    2008-01-18 15:25:28     CRIENGLISH.com

2008-01-18

Feng Xiaogang [photo source:xinhuanet.com]

The phase "award-winning" is often used to describe a successful director. But on today's program, we will introduce you to a maverick director who has won very few movie awards, but is still believed to be one of the most successful directors ever in the Chinese film industry. His name is Feng Xiaogang. Our reporter Xiaoyu has more.



Feng Xiaogang is known as one of the most prestigious directors in the Chinese film industry. Before 1997 when his name became a household word, Feng Xiaogang was merely a failed businessman. His own movie production company had gone bankrupt and he had lost much of his personal fortune. It took Feng Xiaogang two years to recover from his disastrous investment.

In 1997, he directed the film The Dream Factory. Released on Dec. 20th of that year, the film was a low-budget comedy that came in for an investment of only 6 million Yuan, or about 830 thousand US dollars. To everyone's surprise The Dream Factory swept the box office and took in 36 million Yuan or six times its investment. The Dream Factory is also the director's favorite movie. 

"My favorite movie is The Dream Factory. I put in much time and effort on the film. To promote the movie, we brought the movie to 21 cities all over China within 19 days. When we were attending a ceremony in Chengdu, the crew and I were so exhausted that we said 'Hello Nanjing!'"

Since then, Feng Xiaogang has coined a new phrase "He Sui Pian ", or New Year's Film. From 1998 to 2003, he has directed another 5 movies, namely Be There or Be Square, Sorry Baby, A Sigh, Big Shot's Funeral and Cell phone. All of these movies were light comedies with a low investment. They have, however, snatched the box office title with total earnings of more than 200 million Yuan, or nearly 28 million US dollars. 

"I started shooting New Year's films in 1997. These comedies attract more people to the cinemas. People enjoy watching my productions and I am proud of this."

In 2004, Feng Xiaogang suddenly decided to stop directing low-budget comedies. As a result, he released the tragic film A World without Thieves. In the following year, he again changed his direction and shot the blockbuster film The Banquet hoping to appeal to the Western market. Both films topped China's film market with more than 120 million Yuan each in box office revenue. The famous actor Ge You stars in most of Feng's films and is also a good friend of Feng's. 

"When directing a film, Feng Xiaogang considers himself as part of the audience. What do the regular people want to watch? He always asks us and himself this question."

Known as a "savior of the box office", Feng Xiaogang attributes his success to his attitude towards filming.

"Films are presented in order to satisfy the need of the majority. When people approach you and express their feelings about one of your movies it makes you extremely happy."

Assembly [photo source:lznews.com]


On Dec. 20th 2007, exactly 10 years after the release of The Dream Factory, Feng Xiaogang's new film hit the big screen. The movie Assembly is a war epic that tells a story of loyalty and responsibility. Captain Gu Zidi and his Ninth Company Infantry unit were on a mission in China's Civil War in the late 1940s. Their orders were to blockade the enemy army until they heard the bugle call assembly, a signal for retreat. But after hard fought resistance, the 46 soldiers fell one by one. Gu Zidi was the only survivor. But his men were reported as missing rather than sacrificed. With anger and pain, he devoted his entire life to return honor to his men, the martyrs. You are now listening to the theme song for Assembly, the Brothers.

 "Nothing is more frightening than death and nothing is more lethal than bullets. But we are not afraid, because we are always together. We will sacrifice ourselves but we will never give up. We will be brothers forever."

The singer of the song, Yang Kun, says he was shocked when he first watched the film. 

"People my age are rich in experience and relatively difficult to be moved. In the beginning, I didn't believe that this movie could make my cry. But in the end, I could no longer hold back my tears. Assembly is indeed a great movie. "

In the film, Feng Xiaogang didn't cast an all-star lineup. He says he picked good, low-profile actors because he didn't want to distract the audience with big names. Zhang Hanyu, the actor who plays Captain Gu Zidi, is one of them. 

"The film has been wrapped for a long time, but the experience is one of my most unforgettable memories. I still believe that I am Gu Zidi. Feng Xiaogang told me that I should stop acting like Gu Zidi. But I just can't pull myself out of the story."

So far, the box office revenue for Assembly has already topped 200 million yuan, or 28 million US dollars. This is the highest-ever revenue for all of Feng Xiaogang's films. Surrounded by praise, the director has already moved on. He is going to return to comedy for his next film The Nobles. The story is about one of China's nouveau riches and his attempt to attain a Western lifestyle.

"There are many newly rich people in China. In my opinion, they are interesting but sometimes ridiculous. Some of them pretend to be a well-educated and civilized noblemen. I want to put their affectations into my film."

With his extraordinary talent for directing, Feng Xiaogang has every reason to be confident about his next film. His constant changes in genre from comedy to tragedy to war epic, have never failed to satisfy his audience and this creates an ever increasing challenge for his future career.

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