Tue, Mar 07, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Family and friends praise Ang Lee's quiet dedication

By Ho Yi  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwanese film fans were waiting anxiously yesterday morning to find out whether the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would award its directing prize to an Asian filmmaker for the first time in its 78-year history.

And the long wait paid off as Ang Lee (李安), 51, picked up the Oscar for his groundbreaking movie Brokeback Mountain.

At a press conference after the award, Lee said his accomplishment was the collective achievement of Chinese-language cinema.

He also said that it was essential for an artist to look to his or her cultural roots. Even though he usually directs English-language films, he said his vision and thinking has been, and always will be, in Chinese.

"Working on big-budget films in Hollywood gives me the freedom and resources to do anything I want, but I need to come back again and again to make Chinese-language movies for artistic rejuvenation," Lee said in a TV interview with Kevin Tsai (蔡康永) more than a year ago.

Aside from winning an Oscar, the cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain also brought Lee top honors at the Venice International Film Festival, the Golden Globes, as well as from the Directors Guild of America, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards.

Lee's career, however, has not always been a smooth ride.

Born in Chaojhou Township (潮州), Pingtung County, Lee never quite fit in growing up. He occasionally disappointed his father, Lee Sheng (李昇), a high school principal. He flunked the national university entrance exams twice, but got into the theater and film program at the National Taiwan Academy of Arts (now the National Taiwan University of Arts).

When Lee discovered his true vocation for performing arts and cinema, he blossomed. With his family's support, Lee went on to earn a bachelor's degree in theater at the University of Illinois and an masters in film production at New York University.

Lee has often attributed his success to his wife and family, saying that he would not have become a filmmaker if it had not been for his wife Jane Lin's (林惠嘉) support.

Lin, a microbiologist, supported the family in the US for six years while Lee stayed at home taking care of their children.

A close friend of Lee's, The Wedding Banquet screenwriter Neil Peng (馮光遠), said the artist has a tempo of his own and the six-year break gave Lee a chance to prepare himself for his directing career.

"During those six years, Lee never gave up his film dreams. He kept a huge movie database in his brain and would work on dozens of scripts at the same time," Peng said.

At the age of 37, Lee made his first acclaimed feature film Pushing Hands. The Wedding Banquet (1993) and Eat Drink Man Woman (1994) won applause from international film circles and brought him to Hollywood's attention.

Since then Lee has roamed freely among different genres, from costume romances like Sense and Sensibility (1995) and Ride With The Devil (1999) to The Ice Storm (1997) and science fiction flicks like the Hulk (2003). But it was his martial arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) that pushed him to the top of the ladder as a world-class filmmaker.

Lee has said that growing up in an authoritarian environment in Taiwan and living as an outsider in the US made him into a quiet person with low self-esteem. Filmmaking, he said, gave him the opportunity to achieve something that could be shared and appreciated by others.

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