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Visions of Paradise

Best known for the feature film Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (1990), Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore admits that he is challenged by his 5-minute short film project about Beijing.


"A short of this kind is not like a commercial, neither a documentary, nor a feature film," he told a press conference in Beijing last Thursday, the last day of his six-day visit, "but you can find all the elements of those genres in it."


Tornatore had come to Beijing to do field research for a five-minute short film dedicated to the host city of the 2008 Olympics.


Even though he did not yet have a clear idea what he was going to do with the film, Tornatore told media that during his short visit he found what he wants to reflect through the film.


"I'm very into the daily life of ordinary people. I have been looking into people's eyes and what I have found is very touching," said the director. "From there I found confidence, hospitality and pride."


He said he would try his best to share his findings with the rest of the world. In the following month, he will work on the script and come back in October for the shooting.


Tornatore's film is part of Vision Beijing, a project launched in June by Beijing People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. For the project, five internationally acclaimed directors will come to Beijing and each make short films that help bring Beijing to the rest of the world. The films will be broadcast throughout the world till the opening of the Olympics in 2008.


A total of 24 international directors including Tornatore, Rowan Atkinson, Caroline Link, Oliver Stone and Luc Besson have been slated as candidates for the project.


Tornatore is the first director who has confirmed his participation. The other two confirmed are Iran director Majid Majidi (The Children of Heaven) and Je-gyu Kang (Shiri) from South Korea.


The organizing committee had hoped Stephen Spielberg could be the general counselor for the whole project. However, the director could not make it due to a scheduling conflict.


The organizers are still working to finalize the arrangement of the other two directors and the general counselor, with decisions soon to come in the near future, according to sources from the News Department of Beijing Municipal Government, the project's co-organizer.


Tornatore arrived in Beijing on August 6 joined by two of his main cooperating producers Mario Cotone and Mario Spedaletti.


The organizing committee revealed that a half an hour after the group settled down after their flight, Tornatore asked to go out and see Beijing.


"They were eager to see the city," said Wang Lin, a news official from Beijing Municipal Government.


According to Wang, the first place the director visited in Beijing was Jingshan Park.


"He was surprised to find a group of seniors practising singing in the park," said Wang. "At first, he had thought we had planned this for his visit. When we told him that this is pretty normal scene to find in Beijing's parks, he was deeply impressed and started to take photographs in rolls."


During his stay, the director visited the Temple of Heaven, Badaling Great Wall, the Shichahai hutong neighborhood and the Houhai bar street. He even went to Beijing's northeastern suburb Huairou District and the popular flea market Panjiayuan.


Wherever he visited, the photographer-turned director took many photos. At the Temple of Heaven alone, he took a total of near 30 rolls.


Born and raised in Bagheria, Tornatore started working very young as a photographer, publishing in various photographic magazines. At the age of 16 he shifted to stage plays and make documentaries before he moved on to shoot feature films that have brought him international recognition.


Tornatore received no interviews during his visit until the final day's press conference. Most of the topics centerd around what had put Tornatore on the map with international audiences, referring to his prize-winning films like Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, The Star Maker and The Legend of 1900, but without mentioning his most recent movie, La Sconosciuta (The Unknown Woman), slated for release in September.


The director said he is preparing for a new project, the epic Leningrad, which he's been working on for five years now and will star Nicole Kidman.


(China Daily August 18, 2006)

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