LA Times on Hollywood and Censorship

At The Los Angeles Times, Steven Zeitchik and Jonathan Landreth explore the American film industry’s expanding relationship with the Chinese audience and government. On one hand, this has boosted the frequency and favourability of movie references to China in recent years, such as the Chinese scientists in disaster film 2012 and dam engineers in romantic comedy Salmon Fishing in Yemen. But some fear that the new ties may lead to self-censorship.

Western studios are increasingly inclined to excise potentially negative references to China in the hope that the films can pass muster with Chinese censors and land one of several dozen coveted annual revenue-sharing import quota slots in Chinese cinemas.

[…] Mainland censors have long taken out scenes they deem culturally or politically offensive. In 2007, a Chinese pirate character played by Chow Yun-fat was removed from Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” for its release in China. The character is bald, has a long beard and long fingernails. At one point, he recites a poem in Cantonese, not Mandarin, which Beijing promotes as the nation’s common language.

[…] “I’m not sure working with China is that different from working with a big studio,” said Michael London, an independent film producer who has had discussions with Chinese entities on a co-production. “I’m being partly facetious, of course. But I do think most producers in this climate have long since stopped looking askance at any entity that can help get their movie made. There are always going to be challenges and compromises.”

Censorship has not dampened the Chinese market’s response films to films such as Men in Black 3 and the recently re-launched Titanic, but many spectators are concerned about Hollywood’s growing chumminess with China. University of Southern California professor Stanley Rosen observed that Hollywood has become even more sensitive to the portrayal of Chinese people than the Chinese government. He worries that moviegoers could receive a positively-biased view of China.

The Diplomat also reported on Hollywood’s “kowtowing” to China in February. These concerns flared up particularly strongly last October, when human rights groups protested against Relativity Media’s decision to film in Linyi, Shandong, near the site of blind dissident Chen Guangcheng’s illegal house arrest.

June 12, 2012 6:06 PM
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