Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Chinese Run Away From Avatar

James Cameron, Left, and Sam Worthington, Right

I'll bet you were of the mind that there's freedom everywhere, and censorship is something out of a textbook.

Think again:

"Avatar" may be too popular for its own good in China.

The communist nation's state-run movie distributor, China Film Group, unexpectedly began pulling the blockbuster science-fiction picture from 1,628 2-D screens this week in favor of a biography of the ancient philosopher Confucius.

Paul Hanneman, co-president of international distribution for 20th Century Fox, the movie's distributor, confirmed the move, which the studio learned about Monday evening.

According to the Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, the switch was made at the urging of propaganda officials who are concerned that "Avatar" is taking too much market share from Chinese films and drawing unwanted attention to the sensitive issue of forced evictions.

Millions of Chinese have been uprooted to make way for high-rise buildings and government infrastructure projects in the fast-growing country. In "Avatar," human colonists try to demolish the village of an alien race to obtain a precious energy source buried under it.

Does that mean that the distributor of the film will retaliate and withhold the next project from China? Does this mean a Google-like denunciation of what passes for civil discourse and public policy in China?

That's anyone's guess. But to yank a film because it is too good at getting a point across makes that film an even safer bet for huge accolades and awards. For people who believe in causes, and advocacy, it's sort of like catnip.

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