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Zhang Yimou addresses the whitewashing controversy circling The Great Wall

08.04.2016

Zhang Yimou The Great Wall Matt Damon

Zhang Yimou's THE GREAT WALL is the most expensive movie to be shot entirely in China, and part of the reason they were able to throw so much money at the production was because they had a bankable star like Matt Damon headlining the film. When the trailer for THE GREAT WALL was finally released last week, there was an immediate backlash which accused the film of whitewashing, with Fresh Off the Boat star Constance Wu saying that "our heroes don't look like Matt Damon" and the film was "perpetuating the racist myth that only a white man can save the world." Director Zhang Yimou (HERO) wasn't having any of that however and addressed the controversy in a statement provided to Entertainment Weekly.

In many ways The Great Wall is the opposite of what is being suggested. For the first time, a film deeply rooted in Chinese culture, with one of the largest Chinese casts ever assembled, is being made at tent pole scale for a world audience. I believe that is a trend that should be embraced by our industry. Our film is not about the construction of the Great Wall. Matt Damon is not playing a role that was originally conceived for a Chinese actor. The arrival of his character in our story is an important plot point. There are five major heroes in our story and he is one of them — the other four are all Chinese. The collective struggle and sacrifice of these heroes are the emotional heart of our film. As the director of over 20 Chinese language films and the Beijing Olympics, I have not and will not cast a film in a way that was untrue to my artistic vision. I hope when everyone sees the film and is armed with the facts they will agree.

So Matt Damon has not come in and scooped up a role meant for someone of Chinese descent, and, contrary to what the very Matt Damon-centric trailer would have you believe, he's not the sole focus nor the only major hero of THE GREAT WALL. Whitewashing and diversity in film is a touchy issue and no matter what is done, you can bet that somebody will be offended. So let's step back and (hopefully) enjoy the craziness that Zhang Yimou has in store for us when THE GREAT WALL hits theaters on February 17, 2017.

Source: EW

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