“Only China Can Produce This”: An Interview With Zhang Yimou (2)

Here is Part II of CDT’s translation of segments of a long interview with Zhang Yimou, the General Director of the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony, from Southern Weekend. Read Part I of the CDT translation here.

Southern Weekend: After seeing the Opening Ceremony, foreigners are admiring, at least from the language in their comments, and cannot imagine that someone can have such tremendous resources, and can produce such a grand product. Do they have such questions or misunderstandings when they interview you?

: None of them said this to me. They only felt — actually, I felt that we had two things added together, one plus one, that made such an impact. The first one is a human performance. I often joke with them and say that our human performance is number two in the world. Number one is North Korea. Their performances can be so uniform! This kind of uniformity brings beauty. We Chinese can do it too. After hard training and strict discipline, Chinese achieved that as well. Like the moveble type cubes, they follow orders. Actors listen to the orders, and can do it like computers. Foreigners admire this. This is the Chinese spirit. We can make our human performance reach such a level, through hard and smart work. This many foreigners cannot achieve.

I have conducted operas in the West. It was so troublesome. They only work four and a half days each week. Everyday there are two coffee breaks. There cannot be any discomfort, because of human rights. This can really worry me to death. Wow, one week, I thought I should have rehearsed it very smoothly already, but they could not even stand in straight lines yet. You could not criticize them either. They all belong to some organizations. ….they have all kind of institutions, unions. We do not have that. We can work very hard, can withstand lots of bitterness. We can achieve in one week what they can achieve in one month. Therefore our actors can give such a high quality performance. I think other than North Korea, no other country can achieve this in the world.

The second is our ideas and use of technology. The technology used very fresh ideas and really outstanding concepts. It is very hard to have both. They may have the technology and ideas, but they cannot have the same level of human performance. North Korea can have the same level of human performance, but their ideas are really backward, very sixties. So if you think about it, I feel that only China can have both. I am not kidding.

These foreigners who really understand, they saw our quality of performance, and they really believe that they cannot produce it. Even if his ideas and technology can make it, but his human performance cannot produce it to this level.