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Zhang Yimou: China's Oscar Complex

"Has anything ever left for the topic of Oscar?" Famous Chinese director Zhang Yimou asked reporter even before the conversation began.


China needs three decades to get away from Oscar obsession


Zhang came to the point directly by declaring "the Chinese people has an Oscar complex". "Two decades ago, it's a great pride for a film to win a foreign award. The Red Sorghum got it and the whole nation talked about the matter", said Zhang, "but in the latest decade Chinese took almost all film awards one by one, big or small, except Oscar. So people talk about it every year. The award will become a common thing when one day Chinese win a heap of Oscar titles". When asked when the day will come, Zhang gave his prediction "in 20 or 30 years".


Oscar is but a game, nothing special


If Oscar is indeed a complex haunting Chinese minds, then what's its image in the eyes of Zhang Yimou, a director on the frontier creating Chinese cultural products? Zhang answered the question with equal succinctness: "Oscar is in fact a grand, happy game by Americans and in the American way". "When it finished you needn't to think it any longer. It benefits many people and adds to their celebrity. For example, if an actor wins Oscar he would be able to sign five films the next year, each valued more than US$10 million. All these are concrete things, but except for these, it is only a game that comes every year, with nothing special".


Presence on world stage depends on national strength 


The real meaning behind numerous discussions triggered off by Oscar awards, though saw through as merely a game, can never be covered by merely "entertainment news reports". Zhang also raised his question--why a game can stir up so much discussion? Why it attracts worldwide attention? Even in remote China? All because the American film industry is too strong! Zhang explained that most American films are commercial, which dominate the globe with their box-office income and market popularity. So Americans happily play such a grand game every year, making the whole world reel around it. The game contains 30 titles, but out of the 30 awards only one--the best foreign-language film--is open to the world. The 1st thirty carries more than 100 world countries away. Why? "My keenest feeling is only when a country becomes a decisive force on the international arena can its cultural products be influential. I believe that's the real reason why Chinese, or even world peoples, are unable to shake off their Oscar complex".


(People's Daily March 3, 2004)

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