Lee Ang made headlines this week winning best director at the Academy Awards for his movie Life of Pi. It was his second Oscar and the news generated a lot of discussion in China.
First off, there was his acceptance speech. That’s because the Chinese director made no mention of China (which was perhaps a tad ungrateful considering the film grossed $89.3 million there). Instead he pointedly thanked Taiwan: “I cannot make this movie without the help of Taiwan. We shot there. I want to thank everybody there who helped us.” This immediately sparked speculation on Sina Weibo that the remarks would get censored – owing to the sensitive nature of relations between Beijing and Taipei. And indeed when Xinhua translated the acceptance speech it completely omitted any mention of Taiwan.
Lee’s China connection
Lee’s father was once the township head of Chongren in Jiangxi province – a post he’d held since 1946 when Chiang Kai-shek’s KMT government still ruled. After the 1949 revolution, Lee’s father initially retained his position. However, when the nation’s new leader Mao Zedong launched his land reform programme in 1951, Lee’s father sensed trouble ahead. He fled to Taiwan, where Lee Ang was born in 1954. An article on Sohu noted the irony here: if Lee’s father had hesitated and stayed in Jiangxi there might not have been a Lee Ang. That’s because other former KMT township officials in the area were executed in the early fifties. This prompted one netizen to write: “Now I understand why Lee thanked Taiwan so profusely – otherwise he wouldn’t have been born.” Meanwhile Jiangxi Daily used its weibo to take a different tack: “Congratulations – Jiangxi native Lee Ang won Oscar again”.
Why Lee is sad?
The company responsible for animating the tiger in Life of Pi – and which won the Oscar for best visual effects for its work on the movie – declared bankruptcy just days before the awards ceremony. Lee said he was “very sad” that Rhythm and Hues Studio had filed for chapter 11 and added “I hope they can be saved somehow”.
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