Redefining ‘Hero’ in Beijing

Every nation has had its tyrants, and China had a doozy 2,200 years ago in the emperor Qin Shihuang, whom historians have compared to Stalin in his ruthlessness and diregard for his people. But a new film by acclaimed director Zhang Yimou is making waves in modern China for its sympathetic portrayal of the emperor. The film, Hero, “despite its complicated subject, has delighted Beijing’s mandarins, who are submitting it as China’s nominee for best foreign film at the Academy Awards. And it has infuriated some Chinese critics, who have panned Mr. Zhang’s plot for promoting a philosophy of servitude.”