Born in Chongqing in 1940, Wang Haowei is considered to be the leading female director of the so-called Fourth Generation filmmakers of China. Her movie career dates back to her childhood, when she acted in the film Night of Harbin. At middle school she was very active in both stage performing and directing. In the 1960s she studied film at the Beijing Film Academy. Working in collaboration with her cinematographer husband, Li Chensheng, she started to direct feature films. Her debut What a Family (1979) won the Best Movie Award from the Chinese Ministry of Culture. The movie Oh Sweet Snow (1989), which she struggled for six years to complete, won the Best Children's Movie award at the 41st Berlin Film Festival. In her work, Wang aims to express her celebration of life. Speaking of her views about movies, Wang recalls Somerset Maugham's mantra: "the purpose of art is to please."
What a Family (Qiaozhe Yijiazi, 1979)
In Wang's remarkable directorial debut, she displays her talent for comedic directing. With a script written by a worker at the Beijing Film Studio, the carefully-paced movie reflects an ordinary urban family's daily life at the end of the 1970s in a humorous way, and is one of the few Chinese comedies made shortly after the "cultural revolution." The story is told through the conflict between two generations, and the father-son duo, played by Chen Qiang and Chen Peisi, began their comic cooperation in this film. Other stars include Zhang Jinling and Liu Xiaoqing. Liu injects vibrant personality into her role as a shop assistant, for which she won the Best Supporting Actress Award at the Hundred Flowers Film Festival that year.
Ormosia from the North (Beiguo Hongdou, 1983)
The movie is based on female writer Qiao Xuezhu's novel Beiguo Hongdou Yexiangsi. Country girl Xuezhi leaves her hometown for the faraway Daxing'anling mountainous area, where she lives with her elder sister's family and finds work as a cook for a timber company. She works hard, and eventually falls in love with the honest local worker Gen Zhu. But trouble arises when Xuezhi's brother-in-law objects to their romance and tries to prevent the couple from marrying. With the help of her teacher, Youlin, Xuezhi decides to fight for an independent life, but her confusion clashes with her idealism as her feelings for Youlin develop.
Not one of Wang's more famous films, Ormosia from the North is still worth checking out. The poignant performance of leading actress Liu Xiaoqing and the grand cinematography in the bleak, snowy north make it emotionally and visually engaging. Starring Liu Xiaoqing, Zhang Guomin and Jin Xin.
(That's Beijing June 16, 2006)