Sep 27 - Oct 14, 2018

Asian Film Academy 2018

2015 Dean's Letter

“I published my first book this year in China, a book of personal memories. But I have often felt awkward about this because I didn’t think I was qualified to publish a book. Thus, I wrote this book with great care, putting down many personal memories from my filmmaking experiences. Until it came out and I held it in my hands, I could hardly believe that it was real, and even felt shy about sharing it with close friends to read.

The truth is, I often feel this way about many things. Writing this letter, for instance, was a difficult process for quite some days, as I revisited memories of my long relationship with film. Thirty years have gone by since I was admitted to the directing school of the Beijing Film Academy in 1985, and yet every time I start to draft the script of a new film, design all the related scenes, shots and characters. I still get that feeling of nervousness and excitement as I had when a freshman.

It’s rather embarrassing to tell you that although I still sometimes feel like a 20-year-old fresh new entrant to the world of filmmaking, but I have to admit that I’m entering my 50s. In the traditional Chinese context, fifty is when you know the “biddings of fate”. Of the things I’ve learned, the most important that I want to communicate are what I have already put into my previous films, and that I will continue to put into subsequent films as well. But I will try to share some of these things with you here in this letter also.

The story of my life is quite simple. Before I turned eighteen, my father had chosen painting for my future career. In those days, I could mostly get by as long as I could paint well. But after eighteen, I decided on my own that I wanted to be a filmmaker. From then on I’ve become someone who is happy as long as I am making films that I love. I have always endeavored to use film to portray the immeasurable suffering experienced by my family, myself, and my country over the past fifty years. I have tried to sketch these things liberally, with brushstrokes as free as those I drew as a little boy.

People of my generation have lived through fifty years of China’s greatest hardship, as well as its fastest change. But I try my best to stay calm and rational in life, the same with my filmmaking. Even so, I can sometimes feel unsteadied by these mad times we live in, and get confused and anxious, desperate even. Fortunately, when I see you——fellows from this year’s Asian Film Academy——I become more certain of this one thing: I’ll remain respectful, for film and for life, so that I won’t fail the camera in my hands.

We come from different countries, and have different political and cultural backgrounds. As film directors, our free expression is constrained in varying degrees by different systems, whether political, religious, cultural, or ethnic. These pressures are an objective reality for everyone. But your will as a film director to reach out to the world and to create your own work can never be constrained by power of any kind. Know what you want, find your own methods, put whatever you have to say about life, love and the world into your film, gain your freedom from it. As long as you have a camera, you have all.

I look forward to meeting with you all! ”

August 24, 2015, Beijing

Wang Xiaoshuai
Dean Asian Film Academy 2015