Zhang leads official Olympic documentary crew
April 8, 2008 -- When the Olympic Torch began its global journey to Beijing on March 25, Weimin Zhang began hers behind the camera.
Zhang, an assistant professor of cinema at SF State, is serving as director and cinematographer of the United States unit of the official 2008 Beijing Olympics film. She is leading one of only four teams in the world that will document the torch relay and athletes' experiences before, during and after the games. She will lead the team filming the torch when it stops in San Francisco April 9 -- the only stop in North America.
A graduate of the prestigious Beijing Film Academy, Zhang was selected by Chinese Central Television to lead the American film team. "It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It's an advantage to me being the United States Unit Director because I'm familiar with both China and the U.S." said Zhang, who is an award-winning documentary filmmaker.
Since the 1930s, each Olympic host country has produced an official documentary that is permanently displayed at the Olympic Museum in Switzerland. This year's version will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the athletes and their lives. "Previously, they focused on the competition," Zhang said. "This time we're focusing on the stories before and after the Olympics and how they prepare, while emphasizing the spirit of the Olympics using the torch run as a thread bringing all of those together." The film will use the official 2008 Olympic slogan "One World, One Dream," as a theme in the production.
Zhang and her team began shooting footage March 25. In addition to filming the torch stop in San Francisco, her work will take her to stops in San Diego, Waco, Texas, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, to gather footage. Her team will follow athletes such as 2004 gold medalists Sanya Richards and Steven Lopez as well as profiling BMX athletes who will be competing in the Olympics for the first time. Once in China, Zhang will continue to follow the U.S. athletes while also documenting preparations made by China and its citizens to host the games.
After the Olympics conclude in August, Zhang will remain in China to finish production on the official documentary and finish shooting her own documentary, "The Last Days of Beijing Hutongs," which documents the razing of centuries-old homes in Beijing to make way for modernization and Olympic development. The project is a personal one for Zhang, who grew up in the neighborhoods that have long been the heart of Beijing.
"People have done projects there, but few know the inside story," Zhang said "All of my memories are of the Hutongs."
For more information about Zhang's Hutong project, visit The Last Days of Hijings Hutongs web site .
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