Oliver Stone Spars With Chinese Film Official at Beijing Film Festival

Oliver Stone

'You really don't want to face the history of China,' helmer says during panel on co-productions

BEIJING – U.S. director Oliver Stone railed against the notion of international co-productions and warned Chinese filmmakers not to become “bastardized” by attempts to become global.

Stone’s remarks came while taking part in a seminar about international co-productions organized as part of the fourth Beijing Intl. Film Festival.

“Most international co-productions are bullshit. They often don’t work. Money is the dictator,” said the “Wall Street” director. “’Iron Man’? ‘Transformers’? Is it really a Chinese experience?”

Stone said he finds actors performing in languages other than their own to be compromised.

“Chinese actors when they try and act in English, it doesn’t have the same meaning,” he said. “Words are important. I hope you never bastardize yourselves to become American.”

Stone’s remarks later built into a slow-moving, almost surreal on-stage argument with Zhang Xun, the president of China Film Co-production Corp., the moderator of the seminar.

“You don’t get what I’m saying, you are being very polite,” complained Stone at one point. “How this country was built, you are not dealing with it.”

“A script needs to be what this country wants to show,” said Zhang. “It is not that we don’t allow you to make this film, but it is about what we both agree to make.”

Stone continued to press his point.

“We are not interested in platitudes, picture postcards. You are talking about protecting your people from their own history,” Stone said to warm applause from the festival audience. “I’ve tried three times to make films in China. It has been really difficult. You talk about co-productions, but you really don’t want to face the history of China. I tried to make a movie a movie about Mao Zedong. But I was told ‘you will never make a movie about the Cultural Revolution.’ ”

Stone insisted that China’s history over the past 60 years should be a topic to be explored by filmmakers. “Then you stir the waters and allow creativity,” he said.

Prior to the panel, the growth of co-productions had been lauded as something positive by Motion Picture Assn. of America boss Christopher Dodd and by Tong Gang, vice minister of China’s State Administration of Press Publication Radio Film and Television.

“The growth of co-production and collaborations is one of the great successes of the recent years, great news,” Dodd said . “The more [co-productions there are], the more economy of our films will grow and audiences will appreciate them.”

Sensing an emerging diplomatic divide, Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron stepped in to bridge the gap. “You cannot calculate co-productions,” he said.

“I’d like to see something more organic,” he said. “One of the beauties of China is that you have a local film market and can build from there, rather that make a co-production with a shoehorn.”

Pitching “Transformers 4,” which was partly shot in mainland China and Hong Kong, Paramount Pictures COO Frederick Huntsberry said, “It is important that co-production comes organically, at the script stage.”


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  1. Average Minnesotan says:

    I appreciate Oliver Stone’s candor and willingness to say what needs to be said. That’s why he’s one of the greatest filmmakers alive today.

  2. khanmanka says:

    I agree with Oliver Stone here. These co-productions are basically Hollywood being okay with funding Chinese propaganda. That’s all these co-productions will be because the US companies have very little say in the content. It’s all about trying to get access to the 1.3 billion people regardless of anything else:

  3. bsbarnes says:

    Oliver Stone as a screenwriter himself understands that the historical “intuitive leaps” that he employed in films such as “JFK” would be impossible in a Chinese co-production. Stone loves to stir the pot of history and is untethered by facts to tell his stories, so that the Chinese were in negotiations with him at all is a remarkable thing. But we will continue to see unchallenging fare like the late Bertolucci’s “The Last Emperor” from Chinese co-productions for the foreseeable future. Even in the post Cold War period we only saw the mild romancer of Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer in “The Russia House”, not a dramatization of the fall of the Berlin Wall, for example. Movies remain primarily an American art form, and other more-restrictive political systems will continue to politely-but-mightily resist the necessary & messy collaborations which sometimes result in Great Art !

  4. johntshea says:

    Many, if not most, movies are international co-productions to some extent, at least as regards directors, writers, and casts, and ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Transformers’ movies ARE Chinese experiences, American experiences, and experiences for anyone anywhere who loves entertainment. And actors have always acted superbly in languages other than their native tongues.

  5. johntshea says:

    Great! Oliver Stone tells the Chinese how to be Chinese. How did they ever manage it before they had the benefit of his advice?

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