Lu Qingyi is a Chinese director from Dushan, Guizhou Province in southwest China.
Lu Qingyi left home at the age of 15 and worked as a migrant worker in various jobs. During his 30 years in Beijing, he has worked as a bar singer, miner, soccer player, editor and photographer. His film debut “Four Springs” captures the flow of life and everyday routines of his own parents.
The years of detachment allowed the director to observe his family in the mountain county from a new perspective. Lifestyle, customs, and landscape of his hometown exalted harmony in diversity. The documentary shows the chronicles of the everyday life of his parents.
The everyday life conveys the importance of tasting traditions since they are part of the experience of each individual. Reunions, separations, and untimely departures: ordinary days contains great significance.
His parents live every moment with serenity, resiliency and a strong attachment to everything around them.
Four Springs was nominated at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival 2018. The documentary film won the best documentary at the 12th FIRST International Film Festival in Xining. Lu Qingyi’s documentary film is simple but touching and this is the key that made it a hit in Chinese cinemas nationwide.
Interview by Dominique Musorrafiti
China-underground: Where did the idea for “Four Springs” come from?
Lu Qingyi: It is not an inspiration, but a continuation of family habits. My parents have been married from 1963, and every year they make photos as a commemoration. They are very nostalgic for family life. I grew up in this atmosphere and have a deep-rooted love for documenting family life. Since I was able to buy my first camera, I started taking countless pictures. After a few years of shooting, I always feel that the photo is just an instant frame. It left too much time for the moment before and after the recorded moment, and could not record the traces of the passage of time. At the end of 2012, I was just about to buy a new camera and bought a video camera to start shooting.
How long did it take to make the whole project?
It took four years for the filming, and the editing took about two years.
“In 2015, Lu watched an interview with director Hou Hsiao-hsien from Taiwan, who said that ifyou 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.” China Daily
What were the biggest challenges you encounter in the realization of “Four Springs”?
The biggest challenge was the physical effort because at the same time you have to consider the images and the sound. When you compose the picture, you should also consider the focus. It is difficult to do these things by yourself. In addition, I always want to record the space from multiple angles, so I need to run up and down, carrying a heavy bag, and a tripod, which is very wearisome.
The death of a son or a daughter is a very hard moment for parents. Your parents’ vitality made them dancing after cleaning your elder sister tomb. Where they find their strength to go on and face everyday life after this mourning?
Perhaps they have gradually understood life and really felt that the life and death of human beings as creatures cannot be avoided. They are used to showing strong vitality under any circumstances.
“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. China Daily
Your parents have been married for over 50 years and still deeply in love. Do they face disagreements? How do they settle them? What advice do you think they would give to young couples to defines a successful marriage living between sorrows and happiness?
In my memory, they have never had a disagreement and have been facing the challenges of fate together. My father once told me that when two people are lucky enough to meet in life, they should love each other. Each one has advantages and disadvantages. These should be accepted as a mutual benefit.
The 105-minute film was edited down from 250 hours of recordings. Can you share with us something that was in the cut scenes, but has a particular meaning for you?
Because the original purpose of my shooting was to record life, all the clips are meaningful to me, even if I didn’t edit them into the feature film, they still remain in my memory inventory. When I look through these clips over and over again, I have a deeper understanding of my family, my hometown, and even my life.
“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.” China Daily
Your project is very personal: a love visual diary about your family. How do you expect audience reaction will be? What message would you like to give to the audience?
After the film was shown, many of the audience responded very enthusiastically. Most of them liked it and gave my parents and family a deep affection. I am very touched. I am very grateful to everyone. I didn’t want to convey anything. I just wanted to show my loved ones, my beloved parents, and let more people see their beauty. This is the gift I want to give them.
As an independent documentary filmmaker that made a low-budget film that reaches the big screen in China, what advice do you want to give to young up-and-coming directors?
Sorry, I really don’t have enough experience in this area. Maybe I can give some advice after I get more experience in the future.
Can you tell us something about your next project?
Several projects are still under discussion. I want to make a drama, I want to give it a try.
Thanks to Fortissimo Films for the collaboration