Besson opens Rome film fest with Suu Kyi biography
French director Luc Besson opened the 6th Rome Film Festival on Thursday with a showing of "The Lady", a biography of Myanmar democracy campaigner and Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.
Besson waved to fans on the red carpet outside Rome's striking fan-shaped auditorium along with Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh -- who plays Suu Kyi -- and her French husband Jean Todt, who co-produced the film.
"After I saw the script I cried, and cancelled all my engagements for the next 18 months to make sure the project didn't go to any other director," Besson told journalists at a press conference earlier on Thursday.
The director of films from "Leon" to "The Fifth Element" said he would be pleased if his latest movie, which is in competition in Rome, went on to compete at the Oscars.
"It would be a way of continuing to keep the spotlight on this extraordinary woman," he said about the 66-year old Suu Kyi, who spent most of the last two decades under house arrest for her fight to bring political change to Myanmar.
"We asked her family's permission and they gave us the go-ahead after one of her sons saw the film," Besson said.
"The Lady," shot in Thailand, focuses on Suu Kyi's personal, rather than political, life and features British actor David Thewlis as her long-suffering but devoted husband, Michael Aris.
Yeoh lost five kilos in order to evoke Suu Kyi's frail physique, as well as learning Burmese and studying archive material to reproduce her walk, "though I interpreted the character, rather than imitating her," she said.
In a statement marking the event in Rome, Suu Kyi said "concepts such as truth, justice and solidarity cannot be cast off as obsolete, when these are often the only bastions that stand between us and the brutality of power."
The 15 works in competition for the Marcus Aurelius prize for best film will be presented from Friday.
Among those screening in this edition of the festival are Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin" with Jamie Bell and Daniel Craig and Martin Scorsese's "Hugo" starring Asa Butterfield and Jude Law.
A pair of exhibitions will pay homage to two of Italian cinema's greats: Pier Paolo Pasolini and Monica Vitti, soon to celebrate her 80th birthday.
The festival runs until November 4.
© 2011 AFP