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China’s Homegrown Industry Thrives… While Imprisoning Filmmakers

China's Homegrown Industry Thrives... While Imprisoning Filmmakers

In an odd coincidence of headlines this morning, Variety leads with a story about how China’s homegrown cinema is taking a greater piece of the box office locally, while the Wall Street Journal reports that Beijing-based documentary filmmaker Hao Wu (Beijing or Bust) has been imprisoned.

“Shortly after meeting with the congregation of a Christian church not recognized by the Chinese government, as part of his work on a documentary film,” the story reports, the 34-year-old moviemaker and blogger was arrested, presumably because of the film he was making about underground churches in the country. “Mr. Wu’s editing equipment and several videotapes were removed from his apartment,” reports the Journal.

That Variety laments Hollywood’s inability to dominate the Chinese film market at the same time as the country is imprisoning its indie filmmakers suggests that frequent U.S.-China foreign policy debate: Can we ignore China’s civil and human rights abuses? Apparently as long as their bankrolling our wars.

Variety reports: “Six of the top 10 grossing films in China were locally produced last year — the first time local films have outgrossed Hollywood imports since China opened its screens to foreign product in 1994.”

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This is most disturbing. I was recently interviewed by one of the better papers, The Southern Weekly, in China about by film Factor 8. The Southern Weekly has been reprimanded in the past because of it’s stories with editors having been fire, and now a Party member overlooks what’s printed. Plenty of people here in the US think that my film is “subversive.” The thought was not lost on me that I could not have made my film in China or I too would be thrown in jail. (We’ll see how the article turns out.) And in fact, when I helped some Japanese broadcast journalists I was told that I could not do there what I am doing here — that all reporters have to sanctioned by the government and that’s in Japan! I was told I would be arrested there. There are a lot of things that suck about our government but at least I haven’t been hauled away (yet). My heart goes out to Wu…. I had a conversation with the executive director of the Boston Internatonal Film Festival who is from Haiti. He made a film critical of the way of life there in 1991. One week after his film was released there was a military coup and his life was in immediate danger. They wanted his head. For 18 months he was in hiding until he was given political asylum in the US. This thing probably goes on around the world more than we think or know.

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