American Filmmaker Oliver Stone didn’t hold back in airing his grievances with the Chinese film industry while speaking on a panel at the 4th Beijing International Film Festival on Thursday, saying that the country will never have a world-class movie culture until the government eases up on censorship and allows its filmmakers to confront China’s past, specifically the time under Mao’s rule.
“Mao [Zedong] has been lionized in dozens of Chinese films but never criticized. It’s about time,” Stone said to the audience, which included reporters from Variety, the Hollywood Reporter and the LA Times.
“You’ve got to make a movie about Mao. You’ve got to make a movie about the Cultural Revolution. When you do that, you open up, you stir the waters and allow true creativity to emerge in this country. And then, that will the basis of real co-productions. Open up your past, the way the United States has opened up its past”.
The director said that he’d tried three different times to make movies in China but on all occasions had “run up against a wall”. He also cited his attempts to make a movie about Mao back in the early 1990s. “You talk about co-productions, but you really don’t want to face the history of China. I tried to make a movie about Mao Zedong. But I was told ‘you will never make a movie about the Cultural Revolution’”.
Stone, whose films include Wall Street, Born on the Fourth of July and Platoon, is known to criticize American culture and governance in his own films, and said that he thought he was “on fair ground” to criticize other countries as well.
Zhong Xun, president of the China Film Co-production Corp. and moderator of the panel, responded to the director’s comments by reminding him that the movies made in China must “be accepted by the Chinese people”, according to the LA Times.
“You have to understand what this country wants and its requirements to maximize your opportunity to success. So that’s why I say cooperation is not very simple.”
“You are missing my point,” Stone said in response a story she began to tell. “It’s all platitudes. We are not talking about making tourist pictures, photo postcards. This is not interesting to us.
“You talk about protecting the people from their own history,” he said. “This whole century is fascinating and you have not dealt with it.”
Variety reported that the audience, consisting of fellow filmmakers and workers in the film industry, applauded his remarks.
Stone said after the panel that he had given up trying to incorporate Mao or the Cultural Revolution into one of his films, even in the US.
“I couldn’t get distribution. All these companies are scared … that the [Chinese] government would pull their films, if they got upset,” he said.
“It’s a beautiful country,” he added, “but my god, the repression.”
LA Times notes that while there were a number of Chinese media reporters present at the panel, few outlets included Stone’s comments in their coverage.