Hollywood in China—What’s the Price of Admission?
A ChinaFile Conversation
Last week, DreamWorks Animation (DWA), the Hollywood studio behind the worldwide blockbuster Kung Fu Panda films, announced that it will cooperate with the China Film Group (CFG) on an animated feature called Tibet Code, an adventure story based on a series of recent Chinese novels set in 9th-century Tibet—even as China’s policies on Tibet are regularly targeted by Western human-rights critics and are a persistent challenge to Beijing’s efforts to improve China’s international image. DWA CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg told The Wall Street Journal that Tibet Code has no “secondary agenda,” but was chosen because it is a “blockbuster story.”
Arguments can be made both for and against this highly visible publicly traded American company’s decision to aid a state-run studio that answers ultimately to the Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party in the making of an animated—and thus more easily dubbed and exportable—film about Tibet when China’s own domestic media long has had its hands tied when trying to tell Tibet stories.
Trading automobile tires or medical equipment with China seems to me to be one thing. But trading the media savvy to use animation and mass marketing know-how to entertain and, yes, teach the world about far-away Tibet in a way that’s unlikely to deviate from Beijing's oficial line that the territory has always been a part of China is another kettle of fish entirely.
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