Bale “Should Be Embarrassed” By Chen Guangcheng Visit

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters that Christian Bale, not China, should be embarrassed by his confrontation with guards outside the Shandong village of Dongshigu last week. Bale was attempting to visit legal activist Chen Guangcheng, who has been under house arrest with his family for over a year. From Reuters:

Bale was in China for the premiere of his latest film, “The Flowers of War” by Chinese director Zhang Yimou, a lavish and at times graphic tear-jerker about the 1937 Nanjing Massacre which is China’s Oscar entry for best foreign language film ….

“What I understand is that the actor was invited by the director Zhang Yimou to attend the movie premiere. He was not invited to any village in Shandong to create news or make a film,” he added.

“If he wants to create news, I don’t think that would be welcomed by China.”

He did not answer a question about whether Bale’s actions might affect the chances of any of his upcoming movies being screened in China.

Writing at Forbes, Shaun Rein argued that it was CNN who should be ashamed by the incident. The network helped Bale carry out his expedition after he contacted them to arrange for a camera crew to accompany him.

The real problem lies with CNN’s behavior, because it plays into the widely held belief among many Chinese that Western media are intertwined with security organizations like the CIA to keep China down and intentionally portray the nation inaccurately. There even was a popular website set up several years ago called Anti-CNN, because so many in China felt CNN’s reporting on China lacked objectivity and distorted the truth.

As Adam Minter, of Bloomberg in Shanghai, tweeted, “News orgs that want to maintain their credibility in China don’t set up confrontations between cops and celebrities, at celebrity request.” Minter hit the nail on the head. Journalists need to maintain objectivity and cover both sides of a problem rather than become the story by being activists. CNN’s China coverage has lost what little credibility it had with this escapade, and that is a terrible shame, for the network has often shed light on areas that needed more light.

See also a critical response to Rein’s post at The Peking Duck.

The controversy does not appear to have seriously dented Chinese audiences’ interest in ‘The Flowers of War’, which beat Jet Li’s latest offering to top the box office in its opening weekend. From China Real Time Report:

“The Flowers of War” (金陵十三钗) scored big with moviegoers on its opening weekend in China, pulling in 152.1 million yuan ($24 million) for the four days ended Sunday, according to media-research firm EntGroup. (The film’s official release date was Friday, but movie theaters got a jump on the highly anticipated film and began showing it on Thursday.) In director Zhang Yimou’s (張藝謀) historical drama, the Batman star plays an American swept up in the events of Japan’s brutal occupation of Nanjing in 1937.

That beat “Flying Swords of Dragon Gate” (龍門飛甲), which came in second during the same four-day period with 141.7 million yuan. Mr. Li stars as a Ming Dynasty general in director Tsui Hark’s (徐克) 3-D martial-arts actioner.

See also The New York Times’ interview with Zhang Yimou about ‘The Flowers of War’.