February 19 was the seventh anniversary of the death of China's paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping. Filming of Deng Xiaoping and His Son, in pre-production for the past three months, also began.
The film will tell the story of how Deng took care of his paraplegic son during the time he was undergoing "reform through labor" in Jiangxi Province, and how he worried about the country and the people even while he was persecuted. The film will be released on August 22, the 100th anniversary of Deng Xiaoping's birth.
Lu Qi, the actor who has portrayed Deng Xiaoping in a number of films, not only takes the role of Deng but also co-directs the film with Zhou Youchao.
Says Lu: "I thought a lot, looking at the photo of Deng Xiaoping on the day he passed away seven years ago. Former president Jiang Zemin expressed the innermost feelings of all the Chinese people in the lament: 'Without Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese people would not enjoy the happy lives they have today; China would not have the new complexion of reform and opening and the bright vanguard of socialist modernization.' As an actor, I have a responsibility to express the deep affection for Deng Xiaoping on the screen on behalf of all the Chinese people.”
It has been 15 years since Lu first played the part of Deng in Baise Qiyi (Baise Uprising). In the past, Lu has always focused on Deng Xiaoping as a strategist or a reformer, but this time the story is more dramatic, emotional, and personal. "It's really a challenge for me," says Lu Qi. "I was moved when I read the script by Wang Xingdong. I refused all other offers and agreed this one at once. I think this is a unique, poignant, real and thoughtful depiction of the leader's character. "
The story focuses on the period when Deng worked in a tractor factory as a locksmith, polishing accessories. To prevent Deng Pufang, his paraplegic son, from getting bedsores, every day Deng Xiaoping helped him to turn over; he gave him massages and baths and applied dustings of talcum powder. Concerned that his son felt lonely at home, Deng collected broken radios from his coworkers for Pufang to repair.
When salaries were suspended, Deng led the workers in clearing wasteland and growing vegetables, and built an outhouse to collect fertilizer. In return, the workers made a special bed that enabled Pufang to turn himself over and exercise his arm muscles. Every scene in the film shows the deep affection between the father and son and between the workers and Deng Xiaoping.
Zhou Youchao, known for such leading films as Gaoyuan Rumeng (Dreamy Highland), Yike Shu (A Tree), Beiqi Baba Shangxue (Carrying My Dad to School on My Back) and Buru Huihuang (Marching to Glory), was also intrigued by the script and immediately agreed to direct the film.
He led the pre-production team to Xinjian County in Jiangxi Province, the site of the factory where Deng worked, so that they could stand on the ground where the leader had once walked and capture a sense of his feelings at that time.
The factory and the house where Deng Xiaoping lived look almost the same today as they did when he was there. Zhou's team managed to locate Cheng Hongxing, one of Deng's former coworkers. She revealed that on one occasion, Deng had fainted in the factory because of hypoglycemia and Cheng Hongxing went home to fetch a bowl of sugar water for him. The next day, Deng brought a bag of sugar to her and said that everyone should return what he or she has borrowed.
Says Lu Qi, "When Cheng Hongxing told us the details, she couldn't help crying. We were deeply moved. We all experienced that period of history, so we have the responsibility to clarify it for our descendants. We believe the film will be an artistic breakthrough."
(China.org.cn by Chen Lin February 25, 2004)