Film directors defend Beijing roles


BEIJING -- A trio of directors defended their participation in a film project about preparations for the Beijing Olympics on Saturday, 11 days after Steven Spielberg quit as an adviser to the Games because of China's Darfur policy.

Iranian Oscar nominee Majid Majidi, popular Hong Kong director Andrew Lau Wai-Keung, and Briton Daryl Goodrich, who made an influential film for the London bid to host the 2012 Games, were in the Chinese capital for the premiere of the "Vision Beijing" project.

Oscar winner Spielberg withdrew from his position as an adviser to the opening and closing ceremonies of the August 8-24 Games on February 12 because of China's policy on the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan.

"I was shocked and surprised that Steven stepped back from his work with the Beijing Olympics," Lau, whose film "Infernal Affairs" was recently remade by Hollywood as "The Departed", told a news conference.

"It's clear that the Olympics is all about sport and nothing to do with politics."

Majidi, whose 1998 film "Children of Heaven" was nominated for the Academy award for Best Foreign Language film, said he had no opinion about Spielberg's withdrawal.

"People differ in their views," he said. "Some people make decisions because of their own reasons.

"I believe that art should have nothing to do with politics. On the contrary, art may be undermined if it is connected with something like this."

China is facing a barrage of criticism from pressure groups on issues such as Darfur, Tibet and its human rights record as the Olympics approach.

Goodrich's promotional film for London 2012 is widely held to have been a factor in the bid's shock success but he said he did not think his new short film, one of five in the Vision Beijing project, could be classed as propaganda.

"Respect for human rights is absolutely essential wherever you are in the world, that's non-negotiable," he said.

"I was invited to make a film about sports, about children and to celebrate the Olympic Games. That's what I do and that's why I came to Beijing and I had a wonderful time.

"I had absolute and complete freedom in the subject matter, in what I chose to film and how I filmed it," he added.

"Do I think it is a propaganda film? I think no. I've gone out to depict a story ... of dedication and passion from a very young age to very old."

Italian Guiseppe Tornatore and France's Patrice Leconte, an Oscar nominee for his film "Ridicule", also directed shorts for the project, which will have its premiere on Sunday.