Posted by Joel Martinsen on Sunday, April 8, 2007 at 4:39 PM
Chow Yun-fat in Pirates of the Caribbean III
Chow Yun-fat plays Sao Feng, a Chinese pirate, in the upcoming movie Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Looks sort of menacing, doesn't he? Is such an image insulting to the Chinese people?
On Friday, the International Herald Leader reported the results of an online survey in which 61% of respondents felt that Chow's character does not insult China, while 22% felt that it does. There are reports that SARFT shares the minority viewpoint and may not allow the film to be shown on the mainland.
Of course, you can get an online poll to say pretty much anything, and the report doesn't indicate if Chow's character was put into context: the IHL article has quotes from people on both sides, none of whom seems to realize that the heroes of Pirates of the Caribbean are themselves pirates. Apart from that, there is a certain historical perspective to the responses that's refreshing. This one is from a cell-phone dealer in Chengdu:
The IHL report actually had something broader in mind: it asked a follow-up question: "What do you think is the major reason that Chinese people are incredibly concerned about foreign films 'insulting China'?" Responses:
The article goes on to quote a few experts who are basically dismissive of complaints about Pirates and other "insulting" films. Here's Zhang Xiaoming, a CASS academician at the Cultural Research Center:
Huang Xun of the Beijing Social Psychology Institute commended the critics' concern for how China is portrayed overseas, but cautioned against tying artistic works to ideology. And cultural critic Zhu Dake summed up the protests against Chow Yun-fat's character as crude nationalism masquerading as righteous patriotic expression (another response from Southern Metropolis Daily is translated at ESWN).
None of the reports name a specific source for the notion that SARFT will take action to block the film's release on the mainland. The Administration did move last week to address previous rumors concerning criticism of the films Still Life and Lost in Beijing. Film Bureau deputy director Zhang Hongsen had been quoted criticizing Jia Zhangke for insufficient compassion for his subjects and calling Lost in Beijing insulting to the Chinese people.
In a statement posted on its website, SARFT said that the reports were misleading and took Zhang's address to a private conference entirely out of context. The statement did not provide a different context for Zhang's words, but instead closed with a paragraph about how the Administration is cooperating with the Party Central Committee to achieve new successes in the healthy development of the country's film sector.
SARFT claimed that "some papers and websites published these seriously erroneous reports without first confirming them"; Xinhua Daily, which first reported the story, has yet to issue a correction. Earlier this year, when reports circulated that GAPP deputy director Wu Shulin had called for a ban on eight problem books and their authors, the ultimate response was to deny everything. Does this mean that we should the disregard leaks from "internal meetings," or are the authorities actually responding to the storm of criticism kicked up by their words?
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The Eurasian Face : Blacksmith Books, a publishing house in Hong Kong, is behind The Eurasian Face, a collection of photographs by Kirsteen Zimmern. Below is an excerpt from the series:
Big in China: An adapted excerpt from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China, just published this month. Author Alan Paul tells the story of arriving in Beijing as a trailing spouse, starting a blues band, raising kids and trying to make sense of China.
Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
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+ Korean history doesn't fly on Chinese TV screens (2007.09): SARFT puts the kibbosh on Korean historical dramas.
+ Religion and government in an uneasy mix (2008.03): Phoenix Weekly (凤凰周刊) article from October, 2007, on government influence on religious practice in Tibet.
+ David Moser on Mao impersonators (2004.10): I first became aware of this phenomenon in 1992 when I turned on a Beijing TV variety show and was jolted by the sight of "Mao Zedong" and "Zhou Enlai" playing a game of ping pong. They both gave short, rousing speeches, and then were reverently interviewed by the emcee, who thanked them profusely for taking time off from their governmental duties to appear on the show.