Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Remembering Edward Yang

Some very sad news...renowned Taiwanese filmmaker Edward Yang passed away this past Friday at the age of 59.

I first met Edward in 2001, right after watching his astounding Yiyi (A One and a Two) for the first time. I had never seen a film like it; at its heart was a such a simple story – a Taiwanese family falls apart and comes back together over the course of a wedding, birth, and death – that was able to explore such complex and universal emotions so poetically through life in modern Taipei.

At that time, I had just graduated from college and only knew that I wanted to make films, but had no idea where to begin. Through a family friend, I was able to get contact with Edward in the hopes that he could offer some advice. He was kind enough to sit me down for an afternoon and share his personal experiences, as well as his philosophy of filmmaking. For Edward, filmmaking was a means to convey his view of the world, and it was his specific and unique perspective of the world that would dictate everything else about his process. In his words - “If you know what you want to say, then finding a way to say it is easy”. He often resented the attention given to his particular style of filmmaking (the elegant fixed compositions, perfectly-timed long shots) – he didn't consider it a style at all, but the only means by which he could effectively communicate.

Within one afternoon Edward had successfully dissuaded me from my plans of enrolling in film school (an environment he felt endangered personal expression and creativity), and offered me an even more exciting alternative – go to work for him in Taipei. For almost two years, Edward was my teacher and mentor. I was able to witness first-hand the passion, discipline, precision and most importantly, vision that it takes to be an artist like Edward. It was one of the most formative experiences of my life. On a more personal level, it was in working with him that I fell in love with Taipei for the first time, and met a group of young Taiwanese artists and filmmakers who I consider today to be some of my dearest friends and collaborators (many of whom worked on Mei together). Edward, whom we respectfully and affectionately called “Daoyan” (Chinese for “director"), fostered a unique environment of creative experimentation and learning that I know everyone will always be grateful for.

Though Edward was undoubtedly disappointed when I decided to go back for film school a few years later, I think he also understood that I needed to eventually find my own way. Since then, we've been able to meet up in Los Angeles every few months for coffee and even got to take a short road-trip together a few years ago, listening to Dylan (his favorite) all the way up the 5 freeway. As always, he was passionate in talking about the things he loved: movies, technology, and of course, family.

Daoyan, we will all miss you.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear that man.


8:25 PM  

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