Zhang to direct China's 60th birthday celebration

Embraced by Communist Party for Olympic contribution

BEIJING -- Movie director Zhang Yimou will follow up his successful opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics by orchestrating a celebration including a military parade to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of communist China, state media said Friday.

Directing the Oct. 1 celebrations shows how firmly Zhang, 57, is embraced by the ruling Communist Party after the Olympic opening ceremony that stunned television audiences around the world.
 
For a time, Zhang was considered a trouble maker by authorities and had several of his films banned for their unflinching portrayal of China's turbulent 20th century. His movies that did make it to Chinese theaters were frequently considered dull by local audiences and found their biggest praise abroad.

Zhang has been given the task of organizing the celebrations marking the founding of the People's Republic of China, said the English-language China Daily newspaper, citing an unnamed senior Beijing municipal government official.

Zhang Jigang, a vice director of the Olympic ceremonies, will team up with the director to put on a "grand show," the report said. Zhang Jigang will also direct an elaborate dance performance called the "The Road to Revival," the newspaper said.

Representatives of Zhang Yimou were not immediately available for comment.

While the anniversary is celebrated every year, China normally puts on a bigger show every 10 years. A military parade was last held during the 50th anniversary in 1999.

The official Xinhua News Agency said it will feature a procession of the country's best military weaponry and equipment, although the tone will be "solemn" rather than extravagant because of the financial crisis.

That means Zhang may have to rely on eye-catchers besides flying acrobats and an extravaganza of fireworks that marked the Olympic gala to accompany tanks and missile launchers that will show off the might of the People's Liberation Army.

More than 40,000 people took part in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics, using thousands of costumes and lavish stage sets to highlight China's achievements in art, music and science. Zhang has said the task was much harder than making any film.

There were no other details about Zhang's plans for the anniversary.

Zhang, who graduated from the prestigious Beijing Film Academy, made his career directing films such as "Raise the Red Lantern" and "To Live," stories about the hardships of Chinese life during the 20th Century, which were not well received by Chinese authorities who banned much of his early work.

He later directed less gritty works such as "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers," which made his work available to a wider audience in China and focused more on historical epic than the ordeals of modern Chinese life.

Zhang's last movie "Curse of the Golden Flower," released in 2006, featured stunning visual imagery and elaborate sets to portray the collapse of the Tang Dynasty in the 10th century.

The military parade will go down Beijing's main boulevard that crosses Tiananmen Square in the heart of the city, from where Mao Zedong proclaimed the establishment of the People's Republic of China on Oct. 1, 1949, after a civil war with the Nationalists, who fled to Taiwan.
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