By: Madeline Rose
The current relationship between Hollywood and the Chinese film industry is not exactly one built on trust or friendship. Being the top two film markets, it would be in the best interest for the two to play nice, but differing laws and cultures have strained relations for years. Increasingly, American films are being edited to adhere to Chinese regulations before the American films are released in China. Django Unchained went through revisions. Blood was made a darker less realistic color; blood splatter was toned down; graphic scenes were ever so slightly altered. However, the day the film was set to open in theatres, the movie was pulled.
The move was unusual because the film was already edited for Chinese regulations, and in most instances, filmmakers are made aware of censor issues months before the opening date. It’s not so uncommon for Chinese officials to cut down the length of a movie’s theatre run if the audience reaction is a cause for worry. International recognition for the actors in the film and the director, Quentin Tarantino, added to the controversy. Sony Pictures Entertainment is currently working to find out what exactly went wrong, but no details have been released to date.
Unlike the American rating system, China approaches movie ratings with a very all or nothing method. China simply relies on its own censorship. Inappropriate scenes are removed or edited, and some shows and movies are banned altogether. If the movie is playing, then it’s deemed okay for all, regardless of the age of the viewer.
At the moment, American films are not that popular in China. They are not a niche category, but Chinese made films are nonetheless more successful. America is pushing to get movies on Chinese screens due to the opportunity of tapping into the large market, and studios are often more than willing to make the changes in order for their films to be shown on Chinese screens. Iron Man 2 was one of many films that had to undergo serious edits, as was The Karate Kid and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, in spite of both having been filmed in China. Movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, The Departed, and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life are among those films that are banned entirely thanks to themes rather than specific scenes.
While the relationship between Hollywood and the Chinese film industry may seem frosty now, it has already recovered from a history of strain. In 2007 China put an unofficial ban on American films for months. The ban was never declared, but officials went for an extended length of time without approving a single American movie release. The ban was in response to an intellectual copyright case the United States filed with the World Trade Organization to combat the pirating of American movies in China.