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January 9, 2011

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2 Chinese mothers in clash of values

DIRECTOR Liu Xin is known for presenting down-to-earth stories about Chinese families and social issues and his latest TV offering, "Mother's War," does not disappoint.

Premiering last month on the local Drama Channel, the realistic film set in the 1980s tells the story of two affectionate families that are conflicted and whose mothers are at odds.

One woman, an intellectual, was forced to abandon her son because of poverty; the boy was raised by a worker's family and becomes a worker; decades later the adoptive mother, a former laborer, works in the intellectual's home. The two women overcome hurdles in perception and the birth mother finally realizes who her son is.

"Mother's War," praised by the city's middle-aged viewers, is a heartwarming family drama about conflicts, gradual understanding and finally reconciliation. Woven into the story are mid-life crises and complicated parent-child relationships.

Born in Kunming, Yunnan Province, in 1968, Liu began acting when he was only 10 years old. His role in "Unfinished Chess Match" in the 1970s brought him recognition as a gifted performer.

He studied acting at Beijing's Central Academy of Drama but later found that his passion lay in directing, not acting.

In 1997, Liu started directing films and TV plays. His first film "Saving Love" (1997) was a success. In 2002, his film "Stories of Three Good Friends," a collaboration with Jiang Ping, was honored as Best Feature at the Cairo International Film Festival.

Director Liu speaks with Shanghai Daily about his experience and expectations for domestic film and TV dramas.

Q: How did you decide to direct "Mother's War"?

A: The story line appeals to me because the conflicts are not based on hatred but on love. It's a conflict between two mothers because of a conceptual difference. Soon the audience will realize that neither of them is wrong. Behind their quarrels and conflict there is love and strong emotion for their own family members. It is definitely not easy to show the conflicts between two people in a way that is funny yet thought-provoking. We found many old props from life in the 1980s, such as a wooden toilet bucket, an abacus and an old-fashioned radio.

Q: Many of your works focus on realistic problems and issues that can affect anyone. Is that your favorite genre?

A: I love to try different genres, but realistic films and TV plays are one of the most complicated and challenging types. The difficulty lies in the drama's relationship to and connection with the audience.

It should not be a superficial screen production just to please the audience. It must contain an inner power that tells people life is beautiful; where there's life, there's hope. That's why much of my work shows the optimism, dignity and heroic acts of ordinary people.

Q: What have you learned from being an actor? Is directing more challenging?

A: I was bored with acting. Soon after graduation, I found I could freely express my ideas about life as a director. My favorite director is Steven Spielberg, who can touch the tenderest part of one's heart through his films. I think a great director must have a great and powerful spiritual world, as well as a strong sense of responsibility to show people the best things in life.

Q: What's your view of the prospects and problems of Chinese film and TV?

A: I'm happy to see growth but I'm also concerned about possible challenges behind the prosperity. We still lack powerful films that can provoke reflection and even a pang of sadness. The screen is filled with formula blockbusters. We need more diverse and original Chinese cinema.

As for TV, many scriptwriters are not sensitive enough to real-life issues. They don't know what the audience truly wants. Some scripts are outdated, far-fetched and don't make a psychological connection with the audience. We need more positive and heartwarming scripts that give people humor, happiness and hope.

Q: TV dramas are losing young viewers to the Internet and new media. How can this situation be resolved?

A: There are many ways we can cooperate with new media. It's rising forces us to nurture our young audience. Our future productions will open up more possibilities to interact with viewers on new platforms.

Q: What's your next project?

A: I'm shooting a TV series titled "Youth 40." It's about the love stories of three women in their 40s. Many actors are my former classmates in drama school.


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