Life is hard for raftsmen Pan Laowu, Shi Gu, and Zhao Liang. During the Cultural Revolution, they seek work where they can, and spend the rest of the time drinking and brawling. At one stop they learn that district leader Xu, an honest man, has been jailed and nearly persecuted to death. With the help of Pan’s former lover they medicate Xu and move him onto their raft, but encounter a ferocious thunderstorm enroute to safety. River Without Buoys marked the beginning of a second career for actor Li Wei, who had begun acting in films in the 1940s, and also put the formerly obscure Xi’an Film Studio on the PRC cinematic map. —Weber State University Spring 2009 Asian Film Festival
An important figure in China’s “Fourth Generation”, Wu Tianming also served as mentor to such “Fifth Generation” directors as Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige and Tian Zhuangzhuang while heading the Xi’an Film Studio. Born in 1939, Wu developed an early interest in the theater and worked odd jobs at local playhouses in order to observe the actors at work. By the time he reached his teens, however, he had shifted interest to motion pictures, crediting Dovzhenko’s “Poem of the Sea” (1958) as the primary impetus for his filmmaking career. But he first put in time as a stage actor and, after 1960, a film player with Xi’an Film Studio. Six years later, he was on the way to realizing his dream of attending the Beijing Film Academy but the stirrings of the Cultural Revolution derailed those plans as his father, a local government official, was purged from his post and imprisoned.
In the early 1970s, as the thaw began, Wu finally enrolled at the Beijing Film Academy and began his career in earnest… read more