A biopic about Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday opened Rome's film festival, whose organizers quoted the Nobel Peace Prize winner as calling truth and justice bastions against brutality.
"The Lady," by French director Luc Besson, features former Bond girl Michelle Yeoh playing Suu Kyi, who was freed from house arrest last year after spending most of the last two decades detained by a military junta. The movie was filmed in Thailand.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Yeoh, who on the screen bears a striking resemblance to Suu Kyi, recalled her emotions when she met her while preparing the role.
"I was very nervous before I went because I had been living and breathing and listening to her for so long, I thought like I knew her — but I didn't," the Malaysian actress said.
But upon reaching the house, the democracy activist "just opened her arms very wide and gave me the biggest hug. And she's the most slender woman, but you don't feel that she's frail. You sense a great sense of inner peace, you know, gentleness, and caring," Yeoh said.
Besson said Suu Kyi made it clear that "she didn't ask for the film, she didn't read it, and she has not seen it, so she can't be accused of anything." But, he added, "she was very happy to meet me."
Despite her distance from the film, festival organizers did receive a statement from the democracy leader. "What leads man to sacrifice himself and withstand untold suffering in order to build societies that are free from need and fear is his vision of a world that might satisfy the requirements of a rational and civilized humanity," she was quoted as saying.
"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 statement continued.
British actor David Thewlis plays Michael Aris, Suu Kyi's husband.
Suu Kyi, who was largely raised overseas, married Aris and raised their two sons in England. In 1988, at age 43, she returned home to take care of her ailing mother as mass demonstrations erupted against military rule. She was thrust into a leadership role, mainly because she was the daughter of the late Aung San, who helped lead colonial Burma to independence from Britain.
She paid a huge personal price: she never saw Aris before he died of cancer in 1999; hasn't seen her sons in a decade and has never met her two grandchildren. She refuses to leave Myanmar, even during her brief periods of freedom, fearing she would not be allowed to return.