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Director celebrates dad's calligraphy


08:37, May 16, 2012

Zhang Yang and father. (China Daily / Zou Hong.)

With dingy corridors, ancient washrooms and a single fluorescent bulb hanging from the ceiling, a senior activity center, which is hidden in quiet, tree-shaded old buildings at Beijing Film Studio, shone one recent morning.

Several movie stars regarded as national treasures had gathered at the shabby venue. They were actresses Yu Lan, Tian Hua, Huang Suying and actors Xu Huanshan, Wu Tianming and Wang Deshun, who are all in their 70s, 80s or 90s. They read poems and sang traditional Chinese folk songs as energetically as they might have done in their 20s.

The one-time stars were celebrating the opening of a calligraphy exhibition by 76-year-old film director Zhang Xunhua. More than 50 calligraphy works and 100 poems written by Zhang and created during the past six months, are on display in the center.

"I am retired but I don't want to live the rest of my life in vain," said Zhang.

Yu Lan, a 90-year-old actress, came in a wheelchair to see the exhibition. "Lao Zhang (Zhang Xunhua) is not only a great film director but also a versatile old man," she said. "He always keeps himself busy."

Another great work by Zhang, Yu joked, is his son, Zhang Yang, a "60s generation" director who is known for his realistic style. His 1999 independent film Shower and Quitting in 2001 were box office hits in China and nominated at international film festivals.

Zhang Yang started the calligraphy exhibition to fulfill his father's long-time dream.

"The exhibition was planned to open in April but I was busy with my film's post-production," the 45-year-old film director explained. "My father loves calligraphy. It is his biggest hobby since he retired. When I suggested he should have an exhibition he took it very seriously and wrote his works like a student doing his homework."

Zhang Xunhua majored in directing at Beijing Film Academy in 1958 and worked at the Academy from 1962. His 1980's film Mysterious Buddha was the first martial arts movie since 1949, when the People's Republic of China was founded. With a star-studded cast, including actress Liu Xiaoqing and actor Ge Cunzhuang, the film was a pioneering work for Chinese film industry and paved a new way for commercial films.

The film, which has many scenes set around the Leshan Giant Buddha in Sichuan province, gained a nomination at Montreal World Film Festival.

Zhang Yang recalled that he was influenced by his father and was determined to be a director since childhood.

"Unlike many young filmmakers today, who don't take their jobs seriously, my father, like many old generation directors, has devoted his whole life to China's film industry," he said.

In Zhang's latest film, Full Circle, which hit theaters on May 8, he focuses on a group of seniors living in a nursing home. Despite their age, they fulfill their dream of participating in a TV show competition.

"We've watched many Western blockbusters, comedies, romantic and war films. I want to center on elderly people because they are true in our lives and touch our hearts," he said.

His father also starred in the film. "My son gave me a chance to be a star on screen," joked Zhang Xunhua. "In the film, the old people are trying their best to achieve their dreams. In real life, we do the same thing. Age is never an obstacle for us to be happy, healthy and have dreams."


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