After All, Spielberg is Not Zhang Yimou.
After Steven Spielberg withdrew as artistic director for the Beijing 2008 Olympics, it is not surprising to read angry words towards him in the Chinese press, both on- and off-line. But are there other Chinese who think differently on this issue? Shanghai-based scholar and cultural critic Wang Xiaoyu (王晓渔) published the following blog post. The sarcastic tone is not only Wang’s personal writing style, but is also a common trait in many blog writings in the heavily policed Chinese blogosphere, when the subject is politically charged. Translated by M.J.:
I’ve always liked to watch the Foreign Ministry’s press conferences; they always manage to expose a secret that everyone on Earth already knows. For example, on Valentine’s Day, the central government expressed regret at Steven Spielberg’s resignation as the artistic consultant for the Beijing Olympics; one can learn from the questions by the press that this is because of the problem of “Sudan Red” [the Sudan tragedy]. China, when it comes to the problem of Darfur in Sudan, has consistently played the useful role that Communist countries have always played. In fact, not only Spielberg but even a handful of Nobel Peace Prize winners have launched truly vicious attacks. Zhang Yimou, the chief director of the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games, has often been called “the Spielberg of China.” This terminology is obviously Chinese nomenclature; Spielberg’s action this time indicates that he and Zhang Yimou are not in the same boat. Nobel Prize winner Imre Kertész saw Spielberg’s Schindler’s List in mythical proportions, believing that the victorious crowds appearing in color at the end of this black and white film suggests that the ideals of humanity emerged from Auschwitz unharmed. This obvious plot summary simplifies the multifaceted nature of the Holocaust. Yet, compared to the red ending of Zhang Yimou’s Not One Less and the ever-so-red Hero, Schindler’s List dwarfs in comparison.
From my point of view, it is more suitable to compare Zhang Yimou to Leni Riefenstahl. Riefenstahl made an irrevocable contribution to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Some of the Chinese media has invested hope that the 2008 Beijing Olympics would become the 1988 Seoul Olympics, that it would give momentum to democratization. I personally feel that it would be better to makeover the Games to look like the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, so that the reactionary, corrupt, and decadent Capitalist countries would voluntarily withdraw; even the Soviet Union could be excluded. We can then definitely be in the utmost advantageous position to sweep gold, silver, and bronze. Sometime before, the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador (a position held in the past by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, author of “Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window”) Mia Farrow (Hollywood actress and ex-wife of Woody Allen) reminded Spielberg that he may become the Riefenstahl of the Beijing Olympics. Perhaps such a suggestion moved Spielberg in some way, but the strong-willed Zhang Yimou will not waver for this reason. Through the nomination of Hero, he finally proved that his red heart indeed faces the sun, and from then on has been entrusted with great responsibility by the Party; at such a crucial junction, he would never let down the trust from the Party. Of course, this should not preclude the possibility that perhaps, many years later, he would metamorphosize suddenly to film again movies such as To Live. Rienfenstahl lived to the ripe old age of 101; Zhang Yimou would be like the Minister of Culture in “The Lives of Others,” dressed to the nines no matter the decade. Until To Live becomes mainstream, Zhang Yimou, without lifting a finger, can come out with a couple more like To Live or To Die. People have always been forgetful, and will rejoice again. Zhang Yimou has built his capital through Hero, and the sacrifices he made, such as subjecting himself to the criticisms of the intellectual realm, are meager. We all thought Zhang Yimou was silly, but in reality he’s seen through the logic very well. Wang Shuo has once, in all seriousness, suggested that after Mr. Zhang Yimou completes his direction at the Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies, he should serve as the deputy minister of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. These are not light words, but rather a case of the best use of one’s talents.
I’m not sure exactly which names are included in the “handful of Nobel Peace Prize winners;” it’s been said to include Desmond Tutu and Elie Wiesel. Tutu’s “No Future Without Forgiveness” and Wiesels’ “A Jew Today” are works deserving of serious criticism. I’d recommend the central government instigate a movement to denounce Spielberg, Tutu, and Weisel the same way it did against Michelangelo Antonioni. And for the sake of abetting the criticism, I request that the government organize its warriors of literary expertise to translate the works of Tutu and Wiesel, so that the public can shed its blinders. A PhD student from the People’s University of China, concerned with international relations, tells the United Daily of Singapore that he often hears of Darfur in China, but is unclear about how the situation there can be so relevant to China, so that there could actually exist people who would object to the Beijing Olympics because of this, saying: “This is quite baffling, really.” This PhD student is ample evidence that our university education is nothing short of a success. My congratulations, truly.