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BUSAN, South Korea — Taiwanese director Edward Yang Te-Chang was honored with the 2007 Filmmaker of the Year Award at the 12th Pusan International Film Festival on Saturday, the award’s first posthumous presentation.
Accepting the award were his widow, Kaili Peng, and his son Sean Yang, 7, who stood in for his father to produce a traditional ceramic tile of handprints. Designed to decorate the sidewalks of the festival’s original stamping grounds in the Nampodong neighborhood, the handprints will join those of earlier honorees, including China’s Zhang Yimou, Germany’s Wim Wenders and Yang’s countryman Hou Hsiao-Hsien, with whom he started Taiwan’s cinema New Wave.
“Edward always admired the spirit of this festival and would have been deeply honored to receive this award,” Peng said. “I hope that Sean doing this for his father will help him process his own grief.”
In 2005, Yang promised PIFF director Kim Dong-Ho he would come back in 2006 as president of the jury, Peng said. Kim presented her with the award, which she will take home to Beverly Hills.
Yang, whose often was called the Michelangelo Antonioni of the East for his long shots and leisurely takes, but the influences of Robert Bresson and Federico Fellini are also clear in his work. What distinguished him as an auteur in his own right was his exploration of cultural context. Rather than focus on one character, his films explore the relationships of many, with each other and society.
Yang was born in Shanghai in 1947, but shortly after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, moved with his family to Taipei — the city that would become the backdrop of his investigations into the West’s effects on the traditional Chinese underpinnings of Taiwanese culture.
Yang traveled, studying electrical engineering at the University of Florida and working in computer design in Seattle. His interest in movies drove him to enroll in film school at the University of Southern California, but he left disenchanted after one semester.
Yang once told Cineaste Magazine that watching Werner Herzog’s “Aguirre, Wrath of God” changed his life. The 1972 classic “turned me around” and “restored my sense of competence that I could become a filmmaker,” he said. “This is what I thought a film should be. Film school would never teach you to make those kinds of shots.”
In 1981, Yang returned to Taiwan, where he wrote the screenplay for the feature “The Winter of 1905.” The following year he directed a short, “Desires,” for an anthology, followed by “In Our Time,” which first brought him into contact with Hou.
Yang distinguished himself with his feature directorial debut in 1983 with “That Day on the Beach,” a film that explored the aftermath of a husband gone missing at a beach outing, and again, in 1985, with “Taipei Story,” a Hou collaboration.
Though not as well known as Hou overseas, Yang achieved distinction in 1986 with “The Terrorizors,” a look at three couples, which Chang Sanling, a co-organizer at PIFF of “Edward Yang: The Memory of Taipei,” a retrospective, recalled seeing in college.
“Before I saw it I was naive, innocent; but this film made me feel so many things inside,” said Chang, producer of the 2005 Pusan New Currents entry “Holiday Dreaming.” “It influenced me step by step to see that the world was not so simple or peaceful a place.
Yang won the 2000 Cannes Festival du Film best director award and best foreign film from the National Society of Film Critics with his most commercially successful feature, “A One and a Two.” Called “Yi Yi” in Chinese, the film, which first opened at Pusan, looked at three generations of a Taiwanese family, focusing on the successful executive father haunted by lost opportunities.
Writing in the New York Times, A.O. Scott called it “lucid, unobtrusive and absorbing.”
As part of his legacy, legendary Hong Kong film star Jackie Chan said he hopes to finish an animated movie “The Wind,” budgeted at $25 million, which Yang was working on with him at the time of his death. “I can’t let his efforts go to waste,” Chan said.
Yang died June 29 in Beverly Hills of complications from colon cancer. He was 60.
Richard Trombly in Shanghai contributed to this report.
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