'Mao's Last Dancer' tiptoes through forgotten history





Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to remind Americans how good they have it. Australian-born filmmaker Bruce Beresford and a Chinese-born former ballet dancer named Li Cunxin are happy to oblige.

On Friday, Beresford's latest film, Mao's Last Dancer, based on Cunxin's best-selling 2003 autobiography, arrives in U.S. theaters, following a successful opening last year in Australia and a fistful of nominations and awards. Besides spectacular dancing and music, the film packs an emotional wallop about the power of art and love to transcend borders and America's continuing allure to freedom-seekers.

"It may be the only pro-America film done in 25 years," says Beresford (Breaker Morant, Driving Miss Daisy), exaggerating just a little. "I was aware when I was making the film that a lot of people, at least in the Australian press, think life in China under Mao was better than life in America under Bush (either one).

"I'd like to tell them they're wrong," he adds. "This film shows someone's amazing dedication to his art and the value of the freedom to practice it, which is what he had in America."...

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