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Olympic films: Reel life
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At the end of the film, the old classmates surprise their teacher by gathering outside of her home and shouting their own names.

"I have loved this city for a long time," says the director of widely acclaimed works such as Cinema Paradiso, The Legend of 1900 and Malena. He says in a statement the film was inspired by his observation of the expectations and confidence in young Chinese people's eyes, as well as their respect for tradition.

Many ordinary Beijingers volunteered to help during Tornatore's shooting. Some of them were among those doing tai chi in the park; some were bicycle riders; others showed up as the old classmates.

Iranian director Majid Majidi is another master storyteller taking part in the filming. Although Iran's only Oscar-nominee joked that "featuring a civilization with 5,000-year history in five minutes is very hard, because every minute is 1,000 years", he found a way to do it - through its people.

Named Colors Fly, the film features a group of children writing good wishes on balloons of the five colors of the Olympic rings. The children then transport the balloons by bike to release them into the sky.

While his film mostly focused on children, he says he was most impressed by the optimism among the elderly when he came to Beijing in 2006.

"Senior people are living with a vigorous attitude, trying to make progress every day," he said in a press conference in Beijing on Saturday. "The scene that they play in the park, enjoying themselves like children was very moving to me."

Majidi refused to comment on Spielberg's decision to quit as an advisor for the 2008 Games' opening and closing ceremonies, saying people differ in their views.

"But I do hope that art and politics do not cross over," he says.

Popular Hong Kong director Andrew Lau Wai-Keung, whose film Infernal Affairs was remade by Hollywood as The Departed, says what impressed him about Beijing was the delicious food.

"Beijing's food, like Beijing's culture, represents a distillation of the best the world has to offer," Lau says. "It is really worthy of appreciation and respect."

His tasty five minutes of footage is a visual feast for both gourmets and cinephiles. The fast and lavish takes capture a multitude of foods, including Beijing duck in five-star restaurants, snack stands along the downtown Wangfujing Avenue, desserts in tiny bars beside Houhai Lake and traditional Beijing cuisine in longstanding family-owned eateries.

Stars, including Tony Leung and Jay Zhou, each spoke an English line recommending Chinese cuisine.

Like Lau, French Oscar nominee Patrice Leconte spliced together a variety of Beijing scenes rather than constructing a detailed storyline. The director likened his work to an impressionistic painting.

"I would like to be a painter if I did not make films," he was quoted as saying. "Beijing's romance is never less than that of Paris, so my film, like Monet's impressionism, will not focus on details but will treat the imagination."

The work depicts historic sites, such as the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace, as well as modern scenes, including the Olympic venues, the hum of Beijing's streets and its quiet parks.

The four films premiered on Sunday on CCTV for an audience of more than 900 million. Broadcasts on Beijing TV, national TV stations of France, Italy, Iran and international flights have already been scheduled. Organizer Wang Hui says that the foremost goal of the project is to provide perspectives on the city from people of different cultural backgrounds.

(China Daily February 26, 2008)


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