China Poses 'Huge Problems' For Foreign Filmmakers

china-django-unchained-2013.jpg A woman looks at posters for the US film 'Django Unchained' at a cinema in Beijing on May 13, 2013.

The recent pulling from Chinese movie theaters—and subsequent reinstatement—of Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained cast the spotlight on Beijing's system for censorship of movies and television and sparked calls for a classification system similar to that used in many other countries. Germany-based Chinese film critic Zhou Lei recently spoke to RFA's Mandarin Service about her view of the sometimes troubled relationship between Hollywood and the ruling Chinese Communist Party:

"There are various ways in which [China and Hollywood] collaborate right now," said Zhou. "One of these is the use of cheap Chinese labor to carry out post-production work [on Hollywood films]. Another is the entry of ready-made feature films into the Chinese market."

"This is a huge problem, because it has to go through a censorship process, and there is huge competition. Yet another [form of collaboration] is jointly produced movies," she added.

Zhou said Hollywood producers were often willing to make substantial changes to a film in order to have it accepted by Beijing's State Administration for Radio, Film and Television, which must approve any film slated for general release and public performance in China.

She cited the example of Iron Man 3, which opened recently in Beijing, after the inclusion of a number of Chinese movie stars to make a "China edition" of the film.

But Zhou said such an approach could involve considerable headaches for foreign production companies working with the Chinese authorities.

"A few years ago, there was a Sino-German joint production called The Diaries of John Rabe," she said.

"Everyone found the subject matter acceptable. But I know that the process of production was extremely chaotic, and the movie that resulted from it could hardly be described as exceptional."

With China producing nearly 900 movies of its own for the domestic market in 2012, experts say differences in taste and a formidable censorship process will continue to be a major obstacle to foreign movies seeking a return at the Chinese box office.

Reported by Shi Shan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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