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[People] Senior journalist in love with movies
Latest Updated by 2007-04-05 11:55:50

CHEN YIYI, a veteran Zhuhai-based journalist, will hold two exhibitions of photographs featuring 100 Hong Kong movie stars in Zhuhai and Guangzhou in July to mark the 10th anniversary of the return of the special administrative region.

Chen, who can stake a claim to being the first paparazzo on the mainland since 1949, was one of the photojournalists responsible for the beginning of the star craze in the 1980s after close-up photos of entertainers started appearing in newspapers.

"The exhibition will present 100 photographs of 100 Hong Kong movie stars, including Jackie Chan, Andy Lau, Anita Mui and late senior actor Pao Fong. The photos, capturing the moments when they were laughing, talking and taking a rest as themselves rather than acting, will give fans a whole new experience about their idols. Photos taken a long time ago also hit people with a nostalgia, as we grow old together with the movie stars we like," Chen told the Shenzhen Daily during an interview last week. He made a brief stop in Shenzhen after attending the 31st Hong Kong International Film Festival.

The nattily dressed 49-year-old looks much younger than his age. More than one person told him that he resembled the Hong Kong star Ray Lui Leung-wai, who became famous on the mainland with the 1980 TV series "The Bunk."

A versatile man who taught himself writing and photography, he has had many of his essays and cartoons published in newspapers and magazines like the Wen Wei Po and Writers' Digest.

He has more than 1,000 movie magazines in his collection, of which about 100 are rare Chinese magazines published between the 1950s and 1970s.

Besides building a personal film library, his biggest dream is to write a movie script and see his own film on the big screen.

Born in Dianbai County, western Guangdong Province in 1958, Chen said he first came into contact with movies at the age of 5. As his mother had a good friend who cooked in the dining hall of the local cinema, he was often taken to watch movies for free. "Then I had the dream to work with a cinema when grown up so that I could watch movies for free all lifelong," he said.

Returning home after being discharged from the army in 1981, Chen began working in a printing factory in his hometown. There he started a literary society with his friends and in 1984 began to publish an underground newspaper World Movies and TV. "That might be the earliest newspaper exclusively on movies in China," he said.

The monthly newspaper had a print run of 2,000 copies and was sent free to readers nationwide. It cost him all his wages and the money his father had set aside for his wedding.

"As there were no official channels where I could get information about movies in Hong Kong, Taiwan and abroad, I would buy magazines from local fishermen, who got the magazines from Hong Kong fishermen," Chen said. Chen published the information in his paper and also wrote reviews. As it did not have a license, the paper was suspended after six months.

Chen went to Zhuhai in 1986 to meet the editors of the Zhuhai Special Zone Daily and was recruited by them.

His move to assign a quarter of the page for photos of movie stars sparked heated debate, but also drew the approval of many readers who liked his style.

"It's my habit to dress up to show respect to the people I interview, especially when I often have to interview movie stars," he said.

A journalist devoted to his job, Chen once waited outside a hotel until after midnight to see the cast of "Heroic Sons and Daughters" ("Yingxiongernu"), a popular movie in the 1960s.

But he does not agree with today's paparazzi, who spy on stars' lives and publish every detail. "Some reports are rubbish. And some people fail to pay the basic respect to the stars," he said.

"When you show due respect for them, the stars will treat you like friends."

Chen also made friends with stars long before they became popular, like Ning Jing, who became famous in 1994 after starring in Jiang Wen's "In the Heart of the Sun."

When Ning played a small part in a movie being shot in Zhuhai in 1990, Chen noticed her. Ning, who graduated from a fine arts college in Guizhou, had been working in the animation factory attached to the Pearl River Film Studio and was chosen for small roles occasionally.

"She acted a mafia's mistress in the movie, with only one unfinished line to pronounce before 'dying.' But she acted naturally. I found her beautiful and asked if she wanted an interview. She agreed," Chen recalled.

Ning's photos covered a whole page in the Film Pictorial magazine in 1990.

Chen said he was a big fan of the diligent and modest older generation of Hong Kong stars like Pao Fong. "The conditions were much harder in their time compared with now. I cannot stop marveling after hearing about their efforts in boosting and reforming the Hong Kong movie industry."

Editor: Wing

By:Debra Li Source:Szdaily web edition
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