Gritty Renegade Now Directs China’s Close-Up

David Barboza of the New York Times profiles Zhang Yimou an the Olympics Opening Ceremony he created:

Nearly two years in the making, his spectacle is intended to present China’s new face to the world with stagecraft and pyrotechnics that organizers boast have no equal in the history of the Games. Whether or not it succeeds, it will underscore one reality of a rising China: many leading artists now work with, or at least not against, the ruling Communist Party.

Rising nationalism and pride in China’s emergence as an economic power, and robust state support for artists who steer clear of political defiance, have transformed China’s cultural landscape since the early part of this decade. Today, directors, writers and painters who seek to expose the darker side of authoritarian rule not only enrage the censors, but also often find themselves shut out of the lucrative market for Chinese art, books and film. Many of those who find less political outlets for their talent, on the other hand, can get rich.

“People really are selling their talent in a way that can make them money,” said Ai Weiwei, an internationally recognized artist based in Beijing. “They really know that if they work with the government, they’ll benefit.”

Read critiques of Zhang and his work by Chinese writers and film critics, via CDT.