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Giant of the big screen


Xie Jin at the Chinese-Vietnamese border in 1984 while shooting his film Wreathes at the Foot of the Mountain. [Xinhua] Remembering Xie Jin

Director Xie Jin, one of the most renowned Chinese filmmakers of the 20th century, passed away last Saturday at the age of 85 in Shangyu, Zhejiang province.

A hotel staffer found Xie had stopped breathing in his room at around 7:40 am, according to a report by the city`s government.

Xie arrived in the city on Friday to attend the 100th anniversary of the founding of his alma mater - Chunhui Middle School.

Xie`s alumnus Tu Guanxiong told West China Metropolis Daily that he and some other alumni asked the staffer to open the door, because Xie did not respond when they knocked.

Chinese film directors Xie Jin (L) and Xie Tieli receives the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 25th Golden Rooster Awards ceremony in Beijing November 12, 2005. [file] Remembering Xie Jin

The cause of his death is not yet known, but Xie had been seriously depressed since his son died of cancer two months ago.

Xie directed 36 works over 44 years and wrote three films. Some Japanese critics likened him to Akira Kurosawa - a leading Japanese director.

Xie`s films are touching tales about ordinary people and their artistic connections to major historic events. His concern about the fate of the country and its people won over audiences and critics. In a survey conducted at the end of the 1990s, he ranked as the most beloved director, followed by Zhang Yimou.

"His films are so earnest that they move the audience," says Xie`s good friend, writer Zhang Xianliang. "His deep affection for people, for humanity, makes him a role model for other filmmakers."

Tsinghua University Professor Yin Hong believes Xie`s films continue to have meaning through changing times.

"His films feature a strong sense of social responsibility and patriotism, and are told in an audience-friendly narrative style," he says.

Many actors and filmmakers remember Xie for his passion and outspokenness.

His straightforwardness won him respect among filmmakers and cinephiles. When Zhang Yimou`s Curse of the Golden Flower hit theaters in 2006, Xie criticized it for being too remote from real life.

"Of course, many people would like to see it, because the actresses are almost half naked," he said on a TV talk show.

"China has more than a billion people, and hundreds of millions of peasants have not seen any film for years. Why does nobody care about that but everybody talks about blockbusters like the Golden Flower?"

Xie was also known to break silence and to ignore face-saving civilities at seminars and meetings.

"Xie was a person who was never afraid to speak the truth," recalls young director Jia Zhangke.

In 2001, he finished Woman Soccer Player No. 9 (Nuzu Jiuhao), a film about China`s female soccer players.

At 74, he completed a costume drama about the mid-19th century Opium Wars.

At the time of his passing, he was preparing for One-2008th (2008 Fenzhiyi), a non-profit, short-film project involving several famous directors. Another project, a biopic of structural engineer and bridge construction expert Mao Yisheng, was also in the works. Xie once told his friend, writer Fan Tiansheng, that he would like to die at work.

Behind his onscreen glory, Xie`s personal life was riddled with trials.

Two of his four children had mental disabilities. His eldest son Xie Yan, also a director, had passed away two months ago at 59.

Xie had been known as a caring father and extended his love for his children to all people with disabilities. He was vice-chairman of China Disabled Persons` Federation for 10 years.

He made the country`s first film about the children with mental disabilities, entitled Venus (Qimingxing), in 1991, for which he chose young actors from schools for disabled children.

The film called public attention to these children. But the director himself said he seldom watched the completed work, because he could not help but cry every time he tried.


The Red Detachment of Women (1961)


Hibiscus Town (1986)



Legend of Tianyun Mountain (1980)


Herdsman (1982)


Woman Basketball Player No. 5 (1957)


Chinese film director Xie Jin []
 Remembering Xie Jin


Date:2008-10-20 7:39:00     
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