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Darfur Activists Push Spielberg to Pressure China

Director Steven Spielberg is consulting on the opening and closing ceremonies at the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing.
Sergei Supinsky
AFP/Getty Images
Director Steven Spielberg is consulting on the opening and closing ceremonies at the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing.

Hollywood heavyweights have been trying to use their star power to end the four-year-old humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Recently, they leaned on one of their own — to get him to lean on one of the world's most powerful governments.

Mia Farrow is one celebrity who has been active on Darfur for several years. George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon founded a group called Not on Our Watch to address the issue. All of them want to draw attention to Darfur, the western region of Sudan in which hundreds of thousands of people have died and millions have been displaced over the last four years. The government of Sudan denies accusations of genocide.

To influence Sudan, Farrow decided to put pressure on Beijing. China is Sudan's biggest oil customer and a diplomatic advocate for the Sudanese. The Chinese are looking to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 to raise their image in the world, and they've invited Steven Spielberg to consult on the opening and closing ceremonies.

Now Darfur advocates, including Farrow, have criticized Spielberg for working with the Chinese. In March, Farrow went so far as to write that Spielberg could be thought of as "the Leni Riefenstahl of the Beijing games" if he failed to urge the Chinese to pressure Sudan.

That reference to the Hitler-glorifying German filmmaker has drawn no public response from the Schindler's List director. But a few days after Farrow's broadside, Spielberg wrote a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao, outlining his concerns about Beijing's role in Sudan. He called for China to advocate for United Nations action to stop the crisis in Darfur.

So far, there is no word of a reply.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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