“Even Propagandists Get Sick of Propaganda Sometimes”

Occasionally one of my students will ask why Chinese movies don’t seem to have any appeal to foreigners. I think generally they already know the answer when they ask that question, which leaves their real motive for asking up to interpretation. Chinese audiences barely seem to like Chinese movies, given their preference for American films and the lackluster (at best) response to recent Chinese releases. China Realpolitik writes a bit about that over here:

The recent awarding of a prestigious (well, comparatively prestigious) film prize to a propaganda film has highlighted the public’s growing resistance to blatant propaganda. Perhaps more interestingly, the incident offered an insight into the minds of those who produce propaganda for the government – they know all too well that audiences are getting sick of these movies.

Recently, the August First Film Studio received an award for their piece “Shen Zhou 11″. The film, as you might have guessed from the title, highlighted China’s recent forays into space exploration. The August First Film Studio is known as a ‘military studio’. If that sounds unusual, it might be better to describe it as a propaganda studio that focuses on military topics. As a part of the China Film Group, they were one of the studios behind the recent flop ‘The Founding of a Republic’ which despite having a star-studded cast, proved to be an embarrassment for the government. The reviews were poor and audiences had to be cajoled into watching it.

[Studio head Ming Zhenjiang] also candidly admitted to supporting other more creative projects indirectly, because their studio faces these kinds of limitations. When talking about ‘The Founding of a Party’ and its predecessor, ‘The Founding of a Republic’ he said that he didn’t believe audiences would be willing to go and see the same kinds of recycled movies for a third time.

‘Recycled’ really is the best word. The government has restricted the range of acceptable films down to such a small selection that it’s impossible for Chinese studios to do anything other than recycle the same movies over and over again. Watching Chinese tv is absolutely painful, with costume dramas and indistinguishable soap operas so wooden and unoriginal that after watching one you really have seen them all. When I asked a class of thirty students how many had liked “The Founding of a Party,” one student enthusiastically said “yeah!” while the other 29 gave various forms of disapproval. Based on how hard the movie flopped, I wouldn’t be surprised if that mirrored the general public reaction.

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Filed under art, censorship, culture

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