Zhang Yimou Talks “Great Wall” Whitewashing

The first trailer for Zhang Yimou’s long-in-development blockbuster “The Great Wall” hit last week and quickly generated some minor controversy.

Set in Ancient China and revolving around the building of the Great Wall, albeit with a fantasy element involving supernatural creatures, Matt Damon stars as a white man fighting alongside Chinese soldiers – seemingly yet another example of a film where a white guy ‘saves’ a whole non-white civilisation.

Today, the legendary Chinese filmmaker has spoken out about the backlash, giving a statement to EW saying:

“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.”

You can’t really argue with that. The mega-budget blockbuster is currently on target for a February 17th 2017 release.