Director Xie Jin , who once said he wanted to 'die with a camera in his hands', passed away yesterday. He was 85. For half a century, Xie was among the best of China's filmmakers, creating three dozens films that captured the humanity, honesty and realism that he saw in abundance around him as the nation discovered its modern identity. Xie passed away in a hotel in his native Shangyu in Zhejiang province early yesterday morning. He was attending the 100th anniversary of the founding of his school. The cause of death was not immediately known, Xinhua said. Xie made his directing debut in 1957 with Woman Basketball Player No 5, China's first film to take sports as its theme. He did not shie away from controversial subjects, boldly tackling the sufferings of intellectuals during the anti-rightist campaign in 1957 and Cultural Revolution in 1966-1976. Hibiscus Town (1986) was heralded as introducing a new focus on realism, prompting other directors to turn away from themes of heroism and class struggle that had dominated films for decades to instead tell stories that honestly portrayed the everyday struggles of common people. Born into a literary family in 1923, Xie spent his early childhood in Shangyu, and moved to Hong Kong for middle school in the 1930s. In 1939, he went to Shanghai, where he was admitted to the Sichuan Jiang'an Drama School. There he was taught by theatre masters such as Cao Yu, Jiao Juyin and Ma Yanxiang. He quit school in 1943 but after a few years with a theatre troupe, returned to studying drama, this time at a Nanjing school. After graduation, he joined a film company as an associate director. A pioneering and outspoken man, Xie became the first mainland director to go to Taiwan's main film festival in 1990. He also established China's first private film and television company in 1992 and its first film school in 1994. He has received dozens of film awards at home and international festivals and was chairman of China's Directors Association. His films won the Golden Rooster, a top award in the Chinese film industry, three times. Two of his three sons were mentally handicapped. In 1992, Xie made Venus, which featured mentally disabled people. He was also deputy chairman of the disabled people's association on the mainland for years. He remained active in directing until 2001, when he made his final film Woman Soccer Player No 9. Mr Xie once said he always wanted to 'make films that can be remembered by people and can be tested by history and time'. As one admirer said in a condolence message on a website, he 'has realised all his wishes'.