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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Why China's Major New Role in Hollywood Is Cause for Concern

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Thu, Jan 24, 2013 at 9:44 AM

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"The lure of access to China’s fast-growing film market—now the world’s second largest, behind that of the United States—is entangling studios and moviemakers with the state censors of a country in which American notions of free expression simply do not apply," a recent New York Times story begins. It continues:

Hollywood as a whole is shifting toward China-friendly fantasies that will fit comfortably within a revised quota system, which allows more international films to be distributed in China, where 3D and large-format Imax pictures are particularly favored.

At the same time, it is avoiding subject matter and situations that are likely to cause conflict with the roughly three dozen members of a censorship board run by China’s powerful State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, or S.A.R.F.T.

In addition, some studios are quietly asking Chinese officials for assurance that planned films, even when they do not have a Chinese theme, will have no major censorship problems. (Via.)

In the case of Kung Fu Panda 3, for example, Chinese censors "have already dropped in to monitor the movie at the DreamWorks Animation campus. And the story line, production art, and other creative elements have met their approval." From a business perspective, this makes perfect sense: If you're a major movie studio, you're making product for overseas audiences at least as much as you're making it for domestic audiences. So it's good to know before you make a movie that overseas audiences—which, increasingly, means Chinese audiences—will be able to purchase said movie. Okay, cool. But then shit like this happens:

State media censors will edit out a hefty 35-minutes of film from German science fiction drama Cloud Atlas before its release next week, Shanghai-based Dongfang Daily reported on Wednesday....

Material deleted mainly comprised of love scenes, gory sequences and nudity. A number of same-sex love scenes between actors Ben Whishaw and James D’Arcy were also cut from the film due to the S.A.R.F.T.'s strict ban on homosexual content. (Via South China Morning Post.)

Feel free to connect the dots about how Chinese censors' standards will continue to affect Hollywood's output—from what scenes get put into films, to which films get greenlit in the first place.

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