Gong Li Named President of Celebrated Film Examination Board *CChinese actress Gong Li is one of the most celebrated actresses among Berlin moviegoers, and is more popular than Western actors and actresses like Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
After becoming famous for her role as the heroine of 'Red Sorghum,' winner of the Golden Bear Award for best picture, Li found a permanent place in Berliners' hearts. Having been named this year's president of the board of judges of the celebrated Berlin Film Festival, Li's popularity has risen even higher.
Li's new film 'Break the Silence' was shown February 13th at the Berlinale Palace Cinema. In spite of the doubled admission fee of 20 marks, all 1,500 tickets were sold. Like many of Li's other films, 'Break the Silence' is set in Beijing. The film depicts a desperately hard-working mother who hopes to alleviate her beloved son's deafness. In order to save money to buy him a hearing aid, Li's character works as a visiting maid and delivers newspapers.
Li noted, 'When we were preparing to shoot the film in 1998, during Asia's economic crisis, China was overflowing with unemployed people. The conditions of China in 1998 reflected the China that we were depicting in the film.'
Gong Li went on to criticize harshly China's censorship practices. 'As is well known, scripts have to be approved by the censorship board before they may be filmed. Since the scripts have to satisfy the department's criteria, writers tend to avoid stories focusing on contemporary China. I've worked with directors who took their subject matter from the 20's, 30's, and 40's to avoid censorship,' the actress said. She also noted that though set before mid-century, some lines in 'Break the Silence' would remind viewers of the Cultural Revolution.
According to Li, it is very hard to make a movie in China. Action films usually meet with no opposition, while movies which have a modern setting or contain social criticism of any sort are blocked at every turn.
Li's criticism of the Chinese government is considered quite bold considering the harsh treatment often visited upon those who question the government's practices. Whether it is Li's international fame or the democratization of China which allowed her to voice her criticisms is open for debate.
Lee Young-ki (Berlin)