I've been meaning to talk about this for a day or two. This story is about the human toil involved in creating the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games. The director was the filmmaker Zhang Yimou (Ju Dou, Raise the Red Lantern, Hero, etc.). Hero has been seen by some (like me) as a fascist film and an apologia for Tiananmen Square, and this story gives plenty of fuel for that fire. It makes Zhang seem like a filmmaking Yasser Arafat - saying one thing to the international audience and another thing domestically. Keep in mind Hero took a long while before it was seen outside of China, IIRC. I'm not exactly sure how the director of Raise the Red Lantern reached this point.
I pulled some excerpts. Take the time to read the whole thing. I especially like the parts where he's praising the North Koreans for their obedience and coordination. Very easy to work with, I'm sure. So much easier than those liberated Westerners.
BEIJING (AP) — Martial arts student Cheng Jianghua only saw the army barracks he stayed in and the stadium where he performed at the spectacular Olympics opening ceremony. But his sacrifices were minor — other performers were injured, fainted from heatstroke or forced to wear adult diapers so the show could go on.
Filmmaker Zhang Yimou, the ceremony's director, insisted in an interview with local media that suffering and sacrifice were required to pull off the Aug. 8 opening, which involved wrangling nearly 15,000 cast and crew. Only North Korea could have done it better, he said.
But some news reports have raised questions about the lengths to which Beijing went in trying to create a perfect start to the Summer Games.
He told the popular Guangzhou weekly newspaper Southern Weekend that only communist North Korea could have done a better job getting thousands of performers to move in perfect unison.
"North Korea is No. 1 in the world when it comes to uniformity. They are uniform beyond belief! These kind of traditional synchronized movements result in a sense of beauty. We Chinese are able to achieve this as well. Through hard training and strict discipline," he said. Pyongyang's annual mass games feature 100,000 people moving in lockstep.
Performers in the West by contrast need frequent breaks and cannot withstand criticism, Zhang said, citing his experience working on an opera performance abroad.