Wednesday, January 16, 2013

When China killed Hollywood magic

On the set of the Iron Man 3 movie in China
Chinese censors and Western compliance are combining to kill the very essence of the moviemaking spirit 

Imagine for a second what literary classics such as George Orwell’s 1984, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago or Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate would have been like had the authors consulted with state censors and bureaucrats before launching their creative efforts.

This, increasingly, is what is happening with the movie industry, with Hollywood and other, smaller bastions of the silver screen bowing to pressure from China as the price to pay for access to what is now the world’s second-largest movie market after the US. 

As the New York Times reported on Monday, moviemakers seeking access to China’s market have two choices: either they avoid subjects that are bound to hurt Beijing’s sensibilities, and submit a final product for Beijing’s “approval,” or they co-produce with a Chinese company and, to increase appeal with Chinese, do some shooting in China. 

In both instances, censorship becomes an inevitable component of the final product. So much so, that insofar as silence from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) can be construed as an answer, it’s become unacceptable for US fighter aircraft to engage in a dogfight with MiGs. Such was Paramount Pictures’ experience with its new, 3D version of the classic Top Gun. The remake of Red Dawn is another example. 

My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

No comments: