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It may surprise a few of you to learn this, but there are quite a few people that live in China. And by a few I mean one-fifth of the world's population. It's a market that Hollywood has been desperate to invade for years now, but there's a small problem: the Chinese government isn't big on American movies. But while the country did recently raise the number of foreign movies that would be permitted in theaters annually - going from 20 to 34 - they also happen to be very strict content-wise and won't let just any film gain access. But the movie industry always finds a way to adapt...
The Los Angeles Times has learned that in the making of the new R-rated comedy 21 and Over, the filmmakers and Relativity Media have made two very distinct versions of the film: while the one shown to American audiences will be filled with all kinds of college-aged debauchery, the version that will be released in China reportedly explains the importance of embracing one's roots and the dangers of the "hedonistic west." The American version tells the tale of three college-aged friends, played by Justin Chon, Miles Teller Skylar Astin, who have a wild night of debauchery, drinking and sex, but to hear co-writer Jon Lucas talk about the Chinese version you'd think that it was a completely different story. "'21 & Over, in China, is sort of a story about a boy who leaves China, gets corrupted by our wayward, Western partying ways and goes back to China a better person,”he told the newspaper.
What's interesting is that this actually isn't the first move that the project has made to get better access to Chinese audiences. Back when the movie was about to start production, the filmmakers were informed by heads at Relativity that they would be packing their bags and heading to Linyi in Shandong province to film once production wrapped at the University of Washington. The studio's head, Ryan Kavanaugh, had brokered a deal with many big Chinese companies which led to the move. It was the footage they shot while in the Asian nation that was eventually used for the second cut.
Obviously the film industry is a business and finding new markets is incredibly valuable, but doesn't this feel a bit wrong? I applauded David Fincher when he refused to censor The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo so that it could play theatrically in India, but this situation is the complete opposite and it almost sounds like the Chinese version is a propaganda film. As a movie-goer, does it bother you that a filmmaker would alter their work like this due to censorship in other countries?