Fri, Mar 30, 2007 - Page 17 News List

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Director Lou Ye

A banned Chinese director plans to make an Arabic movie about a Palestinian who is abandoned by his wife after being jailed by Israel, in a rare collaboration between artists from the two regions.

Director Lou Ye (婁燁) is currently raising money to make The Last Hour, based on a play written by Palestinian writer Mazen Saadeh.

Saadeh, who makes documentaries, is also writing the screenplay.

The Last Hour, which Lou aims to start shooting next year, would be the director's first movie since China's Film Bureau banned him from making films in his home country for five years after he screened his movie Summer Palace (頤和園) at the Cannes Film Festival last year without government approval.

Lou said earlier he plans to defy the ban.

Summer Palace, a sexually charged movie about the coming-of-age of Chinese university students, depicts the pro-democracy protests in 1989 based in Beijing's Tiananmen Square which the military dispersed by force, killing hundreds in the process.

The Last Hour grew out of Lou and Saadeh's friendship when they both attended an extended workshop at the University of Iowa last year. Saadeh said he greeted Lou at the airport and ended up living across the hall from him.

"We drank a lot of wine and whiskey together," Saadeh said in an e-mail.

"Instantly, he and I became good friends. Really we have much in common, as we are both filmmakers, and writers with a similar foundation by way of stylistic concepts,'' he said.

"I watched his movies and he watched mine, and we felt we could totally communicate," Lou said.

The Last Hour describes the inner turmoil of a Palestinian prisoner who becomes impotent after spending 10 years in an Israeli jail and is abandoned by his wife.

Lou said he liked Saadeh's story because it focused on the characters and not the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"I want to make a movie set in that area which isn't full of symbolism," the director said.

"Movies provide a very narrow perspective. They can't thoroughly explain religion, politics and history," he said.

Saadeh said he hopes Lou will breathe a new perspective into The Last Hour. "While this is a Palestinian story, it is also a human story, which all persons can relate to," Saadeh said.

"My point of view will be Palestinian, but with Lou Ye, his perspective will be wider, making this film suitable for an international audience," he said.

Lou has only raised US$300,000 of a US$2.7 million budget but said producers and distributors showed interest in the movie in Hong Kong.

The Last Hour, which Lou plans to shoot on location, also offers the director a convenient way to avoid violating the Chinese ban, although he says he didn't intentionally choose a foreign project.

No fewer than four Chinese films about the Nanjing massacre are planned for this year, the 70th anniversary of Japan's capture of China's former capital, Xinhua news agency reported.

The latest film, Nanjing! Nanjing! (南京!南京!), had been approved by China's censors and would start shooting in April, Xinhua said, the same month that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) embarks upon an ice-breaking visit to Japan.

"We've spent two years collecting historical documents about the massacre," Xinhua quoted the film's director, Lu Chuan (陸川), as saying.

"I will try to make history clear and explain it in the movie, rather than expose the sorrow between nations," Lu said.

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