Zhang Yimou to cooperate with railways film probe

By Li Shen
China.org.cn, July 31, 2012

Renowned Chinese film director Zhang Yimou said Monday he would fully cooperate with further investigations into the expensive promotional film which he directed for the Ministry of Railways.

A recent report by China's National Audit Office revealed that the ministry spent 18.5 million yuan (US$2.9 million) on the five-minute film, "Chinese Railways," without going through a public bidding process. Public suspicious of corruption were aroused when the quality of the film failed to live up to the expectations generated by the ministry's significant investment.

Zhang said that he received 2.5 million yuan (US$391,791) after tax for making the film and, in an interview with China's official Xinhua News Agency, he also stated his willingness to cooperate fully with any investigation into the matter.

According to Zhang, the ministry invited him to direct "Chinese Railway" in 2009 through New Moment Film and TV Culture Development Company, the film's producer. Zhang agreed to direct the promotional video on Sep. 9, 2009. "But I only signed a contract with New Moment, not the ministry," he said, adding that he did not want to be credited as the film's director, a stipulation which he wrote into the contract. But investigations show that in an agreement signed by New Moment and the Ministry of Railways, New Moment recognized Zhang Yimou as the film's director and credited him with the role.

Zhang said that New Moment had paid the necessary taxes on his behalf and given him the receipt as proof. He said that he was not aware of the project's total budget until he read the report by the National Audit Office. "I was astonished [by the amount]," said Zhang. "I do not know whether the cost, minus my payment, is reasonable or not. And I can not control it."

The film came under fire following its online release, with critics taking aim at its quality, or lack thereof. Making his first comment on the issue, Zhang said: "The ministry wants the film have plenty of information which can not be presented by voice-over or actor's performances. That's why it has many subtitles. This is certainly not ideal." He added that that he had failed in his aim of telling the story in an interesting and humane way.

Zhang said that he would learn from his experience on the project and take the lessons learned into future projects. "I will do more investigation before embarking on similar projects in future," he said. "It is important that I consider my societal responsibilities."