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"The Terminal" in real life

December 23, 2009 - Steve Murch
In the movie “The Terminal,” Tom Hanks plays Viktor Navorski, who hails from Krakozhia, an fictional Eastern European country that basically disappears due to war. Because of it, Navorski's passport is void and he is trapped in JFK Airport – a man without a country. The movie is loosely based on the Mehran Karimi Nasseri, a man of Iranian descent who lived for 18 years in Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Steven Spielberg, who produced the film, may be able to make “The Terminal II,” this time based on Feng Zhenghu, who has been living at Tokyo's international airport for over seven weeks, sleeping on a blue plastic bench and surviving on handouts of crackers and noodles from passers-by.

Both the movie and Feng's story are a result of politics. The movie's politics is war, but Feng's is because of his beliefs.

Feng is a Chinese rights activist who is being denied entry into his own country. However, Chinese authorities see him in more criminal terms because of his writings about alleged wrongdoing by local authorities. He also has supported student protests. Feng has spent three years in prison.

"I'm a Chinese citizen, and I just want to go back to China. It's outrageous that I can't return to my own country," he told The Associated Press. Wednesday was his 50th day living in Terminal 1. "I'm not doing this just for me. It's for the Chinese people."

He has a Chinese passport and a visa that allows him to enter Japan. He has tried to re-enter China eight times since June but has been turned away each time. Feng studied economics in Japan and worked there as a business consultant.

According to the AP, “he gets by on handouts from travelers. Some flight crews also bring him sandwiches, salad and drinks. His sister, who lives in Japan, has tried to bring him food and supplies, but officials refused to deliver them.”

Feng is quite social, tweeting on Twitter, posting blogs and reading news on the Web. The AP reports he has 8,500 followers on Twitter. He isn't free to roam like the character in The Terminal, who even worked part-time at JFK.

"I'll be here, alone, during Christmas and New Year. I'll be here as long as it takes," Feng told AP. "But once I get home, I want to go see my mother, who is past 90 years old."

In the movie, Viktor Navorski eventually returned home when Krakozhia recovers from war. We're going to have to wait and see about Feng.

 
 

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