Spielberg still casts shadow

Beijing remain in a spin over director's departure.

    British director Daryl Goodrich: One message
    The issue of Steven Spielberg's withdrawal from participating in the Beijing Olympics continues to plague the organising committe.

    Directors of five short promotional films portraying China's preparations for the Beijing Olympics were quizzed, but not so much about their films but rather about Spielberg's withdrawal and the chance their films might be viewed as propaganda rather than art.

    "It's sports, it's not political,'' said Hong Kong director Andrew Lau Wai-Keung.

    "It's very clear. The Olympics is not political. I was surprised at why he (Spielberg) did this thing. Of course, he has his own thinking.''

    The Hollywood director withdrew this month as an artistic adviser on the opening and closing ceremonies, saying China had not done enough to halt the bloodshed in the Darfur region of Sudan.

    China is considered to have special influence over Sudan, as it buys 60 per cent of the African nation's oil and supplies many of the weapons used in the Darfur conflict.

    With the opening of the Olympics just 5-1/2 months away, religious and political groups with grievances against China are preparing to use the Games as a stage where demands may be seen worldwide.

    Focusing on sport

    The Chinese government and the International Olympic Committee are hoping to keep the focus on sports, wary that the 30,000 journalists working on the Games could focus on social and political issues.

    British director Daryl Goodrich, who has worked on films promoting London's 2012 Olympic bid, steered away from commenting about Spielberg, but said he was given freedom in China to shoot his film.

    "It's a short film to illustrate, demonstrate if one has belief in one's ability, however big or small, you can achieve greatness,'' Goodrich said.

    "That's the only message that was coming across in this film.''

    Asked if he was concerned that ordinary Chinese do not have the same freedom of expression, he replied: "I can't pass comment on that. I can't comment.''

    The five films, known as the Vision Project, were sponsored by the Information Office of Beijing's municipal government.

    The films will be aired on state-run Chinese TV, airline flights, and in subways and cinemas.

    The films portray children, the elderly, young athletes and other Beijing citizens preparing for the Games.

    The other three films are directed by Giuseppe Tornatore of Italy, Majid Majidi of Iran and Patrice Leconte of France.

    The Chinese government is reported to be spending $40 billion to ready Beijing for the Games, in an effort to show the one-party communist state as a modern, sophisticated nation.

    Wang Hui, a high-profile spokeswoman for the Beijing organising committee, was openly agitated when reporters referred to the film as "propaganda" for the Chinese government.

    "All the countries in the world use film and TV to promote their countries and cities,'' she said.

    "This is nothing new.''

    "We have the same idea. We hope more people will have better knowledge of Beijing through our modern techniques. Why can other people make these (films) and why when we are following the same line people call it propaganda?''

    SOURCE: Agencies


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