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Taiwanese Director Yang Dies at 59

By MIN LEE
The Associated Press
Sunday, July 1, 2007; 11:10 AM

HONG KONG -- Edward Yang, who won best director in 2000 at the Cannes Film Festival and was known for his realistic portrayals of modern Taiwan, has died of complications from colon cancer, a film industry consultant said Sunday. He was 59.

Yang, an American citizen, died at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. on Friday, Norman Wang told The Associated Press. Wang said Yang's family asked him to release the information to the media.

Yang had been battling colon cancer for seven years but kept his illness private, Wang said.

Born in Shanghai in 1947, his family moved from mainland China to Taiwan amid civil war waged by the communists following the retreat by the ruling Nationalists, according to his biography in the book "Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers."

The multitalented Yang took a convoluted path to filmmaking.

Pursuing what was considered a prestigious career in Taiwan, he studied engineering on the island, received a master's degree at the University of Florida and worked as a computer engineer before becoming a filmmaker.

"On my 30th birthday, I suddenly said to myself, 'Damn, I'm getting old!' I realized that I had to change my life. I needed to start doing something that I could enjoy and through which I could feel fulfilled," he once said in an interview.

Yang favored stories set in the Taiwanese capital, Taipei. Among his works are "A Brighter Summer Day," a 1991 film set in 1950s Taipei about Elvis-worshipping teenage boys who get involved with gangsters.

The film was viewed as a major incubator of Taiwanese movie talent and an important documentation of the island's history under authoritarian Nationalist rule. One character is shown being questioned by Taiwanese police in the middle of the night, common treatment at the time for locals suspected of communist sympathies.

Among the many first-time movie professionals who worked on "A Brighter Summer Day" was Taiwanese actor Chang Chen who went on to star in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," the Ang Lee kung fu hit.

"He was my inspirational teacher in performance and one of the directors I respect the most," Chang was quoted as saying on Sunday by the Chinese news Web site Sina.com.

Yang won best director at Cannes in 2000 for "Yi Yi (A One and a Two)," about a Taiwanese family that copes with the serious illness of their elderly mother.

He is survived by his wife, concert pianist Kaili Peng, his 6-year-old son Sean, a younger sister and a brother.

© 2007 The Associated Press