Interference in Hollywood Cinema

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary Remember the films “Seven Years in Tibet,” “Kundun,” and “China Cry” done back in the 1990’s? These three movies were highly critical of the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party. At that time, you had actors like Richard Gere and Goldie Hawn along with director Martin Scorcese who heavily promoted the Tibet cause. But since 2000, China’s influence has grown substantially in the American movie industry. Economics alone is one of the driving forces why you will not see movies these days that are critical of China. China produces the second largest number of movies in the world only behind that of Hollywood. Because of this, many American directors and producers want to get into the China market.

With tens of millions of Chinese viewers at stake, many in Hollywood want to make films that are not only entertaining but have nothing that could be considered “critical” by the Chinese government. In fact, representatives of the Chinese government have been known to be on set in Hollywood to see the production of movies. Why? So that they can report back what movies can be screened in China and which ones might be questionable. In this case they do not interfere with the actual making of the movies. However, major Hollywood companies are actually censoring themselves to accommodate the Chinese movie market. I can give two instances where this self-censorship has had an impact. One is with the remake of the 1984 film “Red Dawn.” The invaders of the United States were originally supposed to have been Chinese. But the company funding the movie, MGM, decided this was a bad move and decided to digitally change the bad guys into North Koreans.

Another case is the film “Mount Olympus Has Fallen,” where the White House is taken over by North Korean agents. Again, there is no mention of the Chinese, and the enemy is North Korea since the United States and certainly Hollywood have nothing invested in that country. In a separate development, the Chinese government-owned Wanda Group—a Chinese conglomerate—has taken over the entertainment corporation AMC. This has given the Wanda Group control of many of America’s movie theaters, and this can give them influence over what films can be shown in not only China but even in America. While I doubt that they will actively censor anti-communist films that deal with the past Soviet Union or necessarily North Korea, it is not impossible. Between the influence of the Chinese government in Hollywood on the one hand, and Hollywood censoring itself, do not expect any films critical of China or Communism anytime soon.

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