"I will not take any foreign citizenship," said director Chen Kaige in an emotional speech at the Huabiao Film Awards last weekend. "I never did that. To promote the Chinese culture as a Chinese citizen is dignified."
Chen was defending himself at the awards amid citizen controversy surrounding many of the stars in The Founding of a Republic.
Recently, well-known writer Han Han posted online a list of Chinese actors who had given up their Chinese nationality and become foreigners, saying that seven of them were in Founding.
The article soon made a stir on the Internet.
Nobody explored the validity of the list and many netizens didn't seem to care.
However, they are not happy that some actors in this highly anticipated film, which is a tribute to the founding of the People's Republic of China, are not Chinese at all.
"Friends from all over the world take the trouble to help our nation shoot such a mainstream movie. What spirit!" says one sarcastic netizen.
Another commentator used stronger language.
"The establishment of the People's Republic of China needs support from foreigners," he wrote.
"If you like to change your nationality and do it, nothing to blame, but please do not claim that you still love this country deeply.
"This is sick and a betrayal of your oath to your new country."
But there was online support for stars who have received foreign citizenship.
"Don't be so narrow-minded. Even if you change your nationality, you can still love the country. It is nothing contradictory," a Net user writes.
Vivian Wu, who has taken up American citizenship and plays Chiang Kai-shek's wife Soong May-ling, compares herself to a filial daughter.
"A mother has many daughters, some stay at home with her, while others get married and move to other places. The mother should be happy that those married daughters still want to express their love to her," she explains.
Weng Li, spokesman of China Film Group, which produces the film, says the controversy is "ridiculous and unnecessary".
"When the directors cast the actors, they choose those suitable for the roles, not spend time on investigating their background," he says.
"Jet Li is Singaporean, but he is always the pride of Chinese people. His One Foundation has done a good job for charity.
Thirty years have passed since the reform and opening up, international cooperation is a trend. We not only welcome excellent Chinese actors, but also those from other countries."
The controversy about stars' nationality is actually nothing new.
When Gong Li and Jet Li took up Singaporean citizenship, vocal Net users unleashed harsh criticism.
Han points out that the question may not be how many actors in Founding are not Chinese, but why it has been a trend for celebrities to take up foreign citizenship.
Huang Jianxin, director of the film, says about 6-7 people on the list are actors in the film. He calls for people to be more broad-minded.
"Confucius was resident of Lu, an independent country in today's Shandong province before Emperor Qinshihuang united China," he says.
"If people from Shandong province claim Confucius as their own, will you agree?
"If you take the thousands years of history into account, you will not be so narrow in your thinking."
(China Daily September 2, 2009)