Gong Li's Latest Role for UNGong Li, China's most popular movie star, was appointed as a peace ambassador by the Food and Agriculture Organization for 2000, the U.N. agency announced Oct. 11.
In her first official act as ambassador, Ms. Li took part in a reception for World Food Day held on Monday in Rome, where the headquarters of the organization is located.
The Food and Agricultural Organization, founded in 1945, is the largest autonomous agency within the United Nations. It has 180 member nations and more than 4,300 employees.
Since its inception, the organization has worked to alleviate poverty and hunger by promoting agricultural development, by improving nutrition, and by monitoring food safety.
This is not the first time that Ms. Li has been appointed as a representative for an international organization. In 1999, she was appointed as a peace ambassador for UNESCO.
Born in Shenyang, Ms. Li is the daughter of an economics professor. When she was growing up, her love of music led her to dream of one day becoming a singer. In 1989, while attending the Central Drama Academy in Beijing, she was cast as the female lead in "Red Sorghum," directed by Zhang Yimou. Ms. Li and Mr. Zhang collaborated professionally until 1995, when their personal relationship ended. Ms. Li married Ooi Wei Ming, a tobacco company executive, in 1996.
By tirelessly researching her characters, Ms. Li achieved success in subsequent films such as "Raise the Red Lantern" (1991), a film directed by Mr. Zhang, followed by roles in Chen Kaige's "Farewell, My Concubine" (1993), "Temptress Moon" and "The Emperor and the Assassin" (1999).
Sometimes referred to as China's Greta Garbo for her beauty and acting ability, Ms. Li won the Venice Film Festival's Best Actress prize for "The Story of Qui Ju" and the New York Film Critics Award for "Farewell My Concubine." She was also awarded France's highest cultural honor, the Officer des Arts et Lettres.
Despite the acclaim, Ms. Li prefers a quiet life. She is widely reported to prefer being on the sidelines because, she says, that's where you get the whole picture. With such insightful comments, one can imagine her an exemplary UN agency ambassador.
From her portrayals as a callous prostitute to a compassionate adulteress, Ms. Li has used her prodigious talent to bring her characters to life. Her intelligence and range of emotion ring true in every role she takes.
Ms. Li's childhood dream of becoming a singer will come true with the release of a new album. Although her talent for the vocal arts was amply confirmed in the 1995 film "Shanghai Triad."
by Kim Jae-seon