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Celluloid tale of Mao's friendship with Edgar Snow

The Straits Times, 11 October 2000

China makes film despite widow's angry protests

BEIJING -- A film about a US journalist's friendship with the late Chairman Mao Zedong has premiered in China despite denunciations from the journalist's widow and a threat to sue over alleged copyright infringement.

The film is a screen adaptation of Edgar Snow's path-breaking 1938 book about his experiences visiting the communist leader when his guerilla army was still battling for survival in north-eastern China, the official Xinhua news agency said yesterday.

It chronicles Snow's and Chairman Mao's devotion to the great undertakings of the founding of new China, said the report, referring to the events leading to the communists' eventual victory in 1949.

The premiere of the film, Mao Zedong And Snow, was held on Sept 29 in the central Chinese city of Nanchang, its director Song Jiangbo said yesterday.

Meanwhile, Mrs Lois Wheeler Snow said the film, made jointly by three Chinese state studios, draws without permission on her husband's book and her own account of his final days.

In a letter to the film's makers, she complained about the exploitation of Snow's memory by a regime that curtails its journalists.

We strongly object to Edgar Snow's life story being used for propaganda purposes, wrote Mrs Snow, who threatened to sue if the movie was released.

Mr Song has denied his movie violated copyright.

The lives of Chairman Mao and Snow are part of public record and screenwriter Li Chao relied on interviews and historical works, he claimed.

Snow, who died in 1972, has been proclaimed a friend of China for his sympathetic coverage of the communist struggle.

He wrote his book, Red Star Over China, after sneaking behind Kuomintang lines in 1936. --AP