As we mentioned yesterday, China has banned media coverage of Disney's new live-action remake of Mulan. The most expensive movie ever directed by a woman (Niki Caro), with a cast full of famous Chinese and Chinese-American actors should have been a huge win for, well, everyone, right? So what the hell happened?
After some stumbles through Development Hell and pandemic-related movie theatre closings, Mulan was released last weekend as a premium VOD rental on the Disney+ streaming channel. Astute observers noticed that Disney gave a shout-out to the Publicity Department of CPC Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Committee in the credits of the film. While the film was mostly shot in New Zealand, Disney CFO Christine McCarthy explained that a few, mostly exterior scenes were shot in China, in "an effort to accurately depict some of the unique landscape and geography of the country for this historical period piece."
On the surface, this may sound good and well. It certainly makes sense that Disney had to get permission from the PRC government to film there; and it's normal to thank a government film department in the credits of a movie if they helped facilitate something to make that movie happen.
The problem is that the Chinese government let Disney film adjacent to an ongoing genocide against the largely-Muslim Uighurs.
The Associated Press sums the situation up a very calmly journalistic way:
Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in the remote Xinjiang region have been locked up in camps as part of a government assimilation campaign launched in response to decades of sometimes violent struggle against Chinese rule. Some have been subjected to forced sterilization and abortion, and in recent months, ordered to drink traditional Chinese medicines to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
Chinese authorities defend the camps as job training centers, though former detainees describe them as prison-like facilities where they were humiliated, beaten and deprived of food.
In other words: it's genocide.
This, understandably, pissed a lot of people off — people who otherwise probably would have been very excited about Mulan, no less!
And now, in turn, the Chinese government's pissed, too. After all, they did a favor for Disney, right? But all these American media outlets are focusing on this whole ongoing fucking genocide thing, instead of lavishing praise on the Chinese government's generosity. Generosity towards a multinational entertainment conglomerate, I mean; not towards the Uighurs, who, it's worth repeating, are still suffering from an ongoing genocide at the hans of the Chinese government. So now the government of the People's Republic of China is banning media coverage of the movie in an act of petty vengeance against everyone who said, "Hey man, ethnic cleansing is kinda shitty."
China is a huge market for American films (which is also part of why China's trying to build their own movie industry). Some US movie production companies have reportedly gone out of their way to pander or self-censor their films in order to make sure they get released in China, so they can make those big bucks. But right now, it's looking like that might not be going so well for Disney and Mulan, something I'm sure they were counting on. Oops.
Disney criticized for filming 'Mulan' in China's Xinjiang [Juwon Park / AP News]
Why Calls to Boycott 'Mulan' Over Concerns About China Are Growing [Amy Qin and Edward Wong / The New York Times]
Exclusive: China bars media coverage of Disney's 'Mulan' after Xinjiang backlash – sources [Reuters]
Disney CFO Admits Filming 'Mulan' in Xinjiang Has 'Generated A Lot of Issues' [Variety]
Disney's 'Mulan' Disaster Highlights Dangers of China Deals [James Palmer / Foreign Policy]
What is happening in China? [Bryan Wood / PBS News Hour]
The Uighurs and the Chinese state: A long history of discord [BBC]
Image: SFT HQ / Flickr (CC 2.0)