OGDEN -- He's been called China's Robert Redford.
Wu Yigong, an actor, director and the founder of the Shanghai Film Festival, comes to the "Sundance" state this week for talks and free screenings at Weber State University. He will be joined with his director son, Wu Tiange. Both also will be on hand for the Western Conference of the Association for Asian Studies, which WSU hosts Friday and Saturday.
"Wu's first festival, in 1993, dwarfed Sundance," said WSU professor Greg Lewis, who convinced the directors to visit. "They showed 300 films, and 600,000 to 800,000 people attended."
The elder Wu took formal filmmaker training from 1956 to 1960, but soon saw his career interrupted by China's Cultural Revolution (1966 to 1976).
The movement's goal was to enforce communism by removing capitalist, traditional and cultural elements from Chinese society. Intellectuals and artists were among those targeted.
"Wu was not able to make his first film as a director until after that," Lewis said. "His first important film criticized some of that history, and had the political message that the intellectuals had suffered. His protagonist was a poet who became a political prisoner, whose guard came to realize the wrongs and injustices he had suffered."
That film, "Evening Rain" (Ba shan ye yu, 1980), will screen at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in the auditorium, Room 229, of Elizabeth Hall. WSU is at 3848 Harrison Blvd. The public is invited to attend the event, at which Wu and his son will take questions.
Wu's second film, for which he won the Golden Rooster Award, an Oscar equivalent, was "My Memories of Old Beijing" (Chen nan jiu shi, 1982). It screens at 1:15 p.m. Friday in the Wildcat Theater, at WSU's Shepherd Union Building. Wu will speak.
"It's more lyrical, and relates to people on a more universal level," Lewis said. "It's themes are less political, and its protagonist is a young girl. It's asthenic quality is very fresh."
"A Warm Winter" (2002), by son Wu Tiange, will screen at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 1 in the Wildcat Theater, and is about a young ophthalmologist pursued by two suitors: her ex-husband, fleeing organized crime, and an investigator pursuing the ex. Both Wus will speak.
The elder Wu did some of his most far-reaching work as chairman of the Shanghai Film Studio.
"When the old chairman retired, he wasn't really ready to become an administrator by training, but he was a great problem solver," Lewis said. "He kept the industry and the studio solvent, and he promoted creativity. More interesting films came out of Shanghai than some of the festivals run by traditional communist party members, because Wu also had a filmmaker's perspective. He also promoted joint ventures, and there's one picture of him with director Steven Spielberg, who came to Shanghai to film some of 'Empire of the Sun' (1987)."
"He thought, 'Why can't we do this? We are part of a larger world,'" Lewis said. "He has done great things for international cinema and cultural exchange between China and the U.S."
The Western Conference of the Association for Asian Studies is also open to interested members of the public, Lewis said. For the full schedule of speakers, visit www.weber.edu/wcaas/schedule.html.
"For Asian studies, this will feature the newest research out there on the subjects of film, literature and papers," Lewis said. "Graduate students will be sharing dissertations they hope will result in their employment, so they are doing their best work."
Several are coming from the University of Chicago, and three people are making the trip from China.
"Some will be speaking about the financial revolution in China, and the way Chinese investment and managing enterprises is changing dramatically. It's a great way to see what is going on in terms of research."
Contact reporter Nancy Van Valkenburg at 801-625-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @S_ENancyVanV.