Lu Qingyi's parents Lu Yunkun (left) and Li Guixian take a picture when traveling. [Photo provided to China Daily]
Award-winning film is a heartwarming tale of four springs, three kids, two parents and a family finding meaning in everyday life, Li Yingxue reports.
Amateur director Lu Qingyi's debut work, Four Springs, which won the best documentary at the FIRST International Film Festival, hit Chinese cinemas on Jan 4.
The documentary follows Lu's family life over four Spring Festival celebrations from 2013 to 2016, and reunions with his parents, elder sister and brother in Dushan county, Mawei town, Southwest China's Guizhou province.
Lu's documentary mainly follows the daily lives of his parents, Lu Yunkun and Li Guixian, and the fun and humor before Lu's camera presents the audience with a simple but touching story.
Born in 1973, Lu left home when he was just 15 years old. He has had various jobs, including soccer player, bar singer, editor and cameraman.
He turned the lens on his parents during Spring Festival in 2013, when he returned home for the holiday, and for four years he recorded his visits home.
The couple play instruments together in their leisure time. [Photo provided to China Daily]
During that period, his elder sister passed away and the film bears witness to his parents' journey to rediscover their vitality following the funeral, culminating with them dancing after cleaning their daughter's tomb.
"The happiness of life is to see that one's vitality leaves a mark in life. Life is beautiful, and one should find strength when facing difficulties," Lu said at the film's premiere on Jan 2 in Beijing.
It all began seven years ago when Lu posted on Douban, an online platform in China for shared-interest communities, under the nickname of Qichuang, Chifan ("get up and eat").
His two articles, My Dad and My Mom, which were uploaded with photos, resonated with many of his fellow users on Douban and attracted numerous comments. It was this reaction that encouraged him to start making videos of his parents.
In 2015, Lu watched an interview with director Hou Hsiao-hsien from Taiwan, who said that if you want to make a film, you just make it, and the experience will come as you shoot. He decided, then, to compile the videos into a film.
Lu Qingyi and his parents eat dinner in their yard. [Photo provided to China Daily]
He stopped recording following Spring Festival in 2016. Lu explains that he made the decision to stop because he noticed his parents aging a lot more acutely following the death of his sister.
"I wanted my parents to see the final film, so I started to cut and edit the film after I shot footage in the spring of 2016."
Lu's original version ran up to five hours, because he found it difficult to cut the 250 hours worth of footage on his own. However, last July, the final 105-minute version was finished.
Four Springs was nominated for the best editing award at last year's Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival, but lost out to Lei Cheng Ching's Dear Ex. However, in July it won the best documentary award at the 12th FIRST International Film Festival in Xining, Northwest China's Qinghai province. Li Ziwei, organizer of the film festival, described the film as "an epic, starring ordinary people."
Director Lu Qingyi [Photo provided to China Daily]
The committee of the film festival stated that in Four Springs, "The placid singing of the parents infuses warmth into their daily life, and shows that meaning can be found in reunions and the loneliness after separation. Unlike other documentaries that tend to be serious and are focused on marginalized sections of society, this film has an uplifting spirit and offers the audience a brighter outlook."
As the film's honorary producer, actor Chen Kun shed tears when he watched the film at the premiere. He explained that it was not because he felt sad but because he was touched.
"The story tells us that we can find the bigger meaning of life in just normal everyday things," he says.
Film critic Shi Hang adds: "The life recorded in Four Springs reminds me of my own."
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