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The Price of Foreign Funding: Why 21 And Over will be a very different film for Chinese audiences

Mar. 1, 2013by: Paul Shirey

I don't think anyone is anticipating an emotional coming-of-age drama from this week's 21 AND OVER, starring Miles Teller, Skylar Astin, and Justin Chon.  Far from it.  Coming from the creators of THE HANGOVER, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, there's little doubt that this college-age version will amount to much more than some raunchy humor and drunken stupidity.  And, certainly, films like this have an audience (and an age demographic).  However, for audiences in China, 21 AND OVER will begin and end in a very different way (and location), as brought to light in a recent article by the LA Times, turning it into something that was never intended to be.  The changes are almost like a "what if" version of the film, where the genre suddently shifts from college debauchery to a lesson-teaching cautionary tale. 

Why is this happening?  Well, it's simple really.  Money. Namely, money from Chinese investors (including the government-owned Huaxia Film Distribution Co.) who helped fund the $12 million dollar film in a large deal with Relativity Media, which allows them "creative input" on the final product that is shown to Chinese audiences.

So, what's the difference between the two?  Jon Lucas breaks it down:

21 AND 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.

Ultimately, the message of the U.S. version is that it "celebrates youthful independence in the face of familial expectation and generally glorifies Greek life," while the Chinese version highlights "the perils of a hedonistic West and the importance of embracing one’s roots."

Filmmakers Lucas and Moore seem to feel that this is just part of the process, especially with Hollywood and China getting more and more snug in the financial department.  Last year's LOOPER, from director Rian Johnson, added footage of Shanghai in a deal made with Chinese investors, and the upcoming IRON MAN 3 has shot additional footage in China for the same reasons (and also to earn exclusive rights to debut the film in Chinese theaters, a very lucrative opportunity).  Although with films like LOOPER, which merely added a backdrop, for something like 21 AND OVER it is evident that the funding isn't so much for artistic expression as it is for creative control. 

Ultimately, I think this brings up the question of how much one is willing to give up (or have taken away) as a result of outside funding.  This is much more than a logo at the start of the film or a mention in the credits, this is changing the very nature of the film.  21 AND OVER may not be high art, but it definitely feels like something is off here. I can see the point of the filmmakers just wanting to get their movie made and for it to be successful, but at what point is your work no longer your work and the result of someone else manipulating it? Moore weighs in, saying:

I think any filmmaker deals with it.  I imagine 'Avatar,' when it’s released in China and they dub it, they sort of get to change whatever they want. I think it just comes with the territory -- if you want to release it in China, they get to spin it however they want. They dub it all anyway, so whatever dialogue we all wrote that’s in English, we don’t actually know what the Chinese version says.

What do you guys think about this?

"Don't try that shit in China, Jeff Chang!"
Source: L.A. Times

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5:28AM on 03/03/2013

Meh

Just proves the point that movie making is about one thing, money. If somehow artistry gets in the way that's just coincidence. Not that 21 and Over would ever be art but this happens to tons of good films.

Oh well its a living!
Just proves the point that movie making is about one thing, money. If somehow artistry gets in the way that's just coincidence. Not that 21 and Over would ever be art but this happens to tons of good films.

Oh well its a living!
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+0
11:50AM on 03/02/2013

Interesting article

Great article! But give credit to people that suggests articles to read up on.
Great article! But give credit to people that suggests articles to read up on.
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9:18PM on 03/01/2013

Mr. Baseball

It isn't just China and South East Asia either: even Japan does it. Mr. Baseball was originally written as a story about an American going to work in Japan and his reaction to all the crazy Japanese (much like Lost in Translation) but because it was financed by Sony it had to become the story of an American who goes to work in Japan and learns humility as he adjusts to a new culture.
It isn't just China and South East Asia either: even Japan does it. Mr. Baseball was originally written as a story about an American going to work in Japan and his reaction to all the crazy Japanese (much like Lost in Translation) but because it was financed by Sony it had to become the story of an American who goes to work in Japan and learns humility as he adjusts to a new culture.
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9:15PM on 03/01/2013

Other examples

In South East Asia I see a lot of censorship on Cable TV. When Rambo II is shown in Vietnam, the dialogue is redubbed so that Rambo is in the Philippines, which is actually okay because he wasn't on location in Vietnam anyway. When Zoolander is shown in Malaysia the references to Malaysia are cut so that the "Prime Minister" is from an unspecified country. There was even an episode of Family Guy where Peter Griffin did a reimagination of Anna and the King of Siam which was censored into Anna
In South East Asia I see a lot of censorship on Cable TV. When Rambo II is shown in Vietnam, the dialogue is redubbed so that Rambo is in the Philippines, which is actually okay because he wasn't on location in Vietnam anyway. When Zoolander is shown in Malaysia the references to Malaysia are cut so that the "Prime Minister" is from an unspecified country. There was even an episode of Family Guy where Peter Griffin did a reimagination of Anna and the King of Siam which was censored into Anna and the King so as not to offend Thai viewers.
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8:46PM on 03/01/2013
In fairness, American producers, including executive producers (the money people), manipulate American movies all of the time. They place products. They insist on a certain rating and cut of the film whether the watered-down cut is a good one or not. They cast certain actors and directors whether those people are the best people for a project. They insist that films not be too controversial to audiences. The Chinese financiers are just pulling the same shit that producers pull regardless of
In fairness, American producers, including executive producers (the money people), manipulate American movies all of the time. They place products. They insist on a certain rating and cut of the film whether the watered-down cut is a good one or not. They cast certain actors and directors whether those people are the best people for a project. They insist that films not be too controversial to audiences. The Chinese financiers are just pulling the same shit that producers pull regardless of nationality.

On the other hand, study world history, America. Study Chinese history. It contains a lesson that modern China holds dear. Do not let foreign powers control your economy, politics, and culture. Do not let foreign powers have great spheres of influence. If you do, your beloved native culture will become what natives considered to be corrupted. Then, you'll be mad and sad. And, possibly, you will have a hard time ever regaining that culture. In America's case, our cinema has much freedom of expression (even with the capitalistic oppression mentioned in the above paragraph), and our American movies tell American stories in ways appealing to Americans. Potentially, wise Americans do not want Chinese, Arab, and other parties telling us what our stories can and cannot present. We will decide who are bad guys are and how they are depicted. We will decide what jokes appeal to us. We will decide our films' underlying political messages. We will decide how much sex and violence that we find acceptable. We will decide what is the character and identity of American film for the Americans. Then, foreign audiences can encounter our American culture in our cinematic literature, and they can decide how they feel about our works. We have to be good multiculturalists all of time when viewing foreign movies, whether we like those artistic statements or not.
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7:51PM on 03/01/2013
Situations like this don't bother me too much since I won't be seeing the chinese version. What bothers me is something like the Red Dawn, where they changed the villians from Chinese to North Koreans, and the sake of the logic of the plot, just to make some more money overseas. I understand the studios need to make money, but I don't think important plot details in a story should be changed just for the sake of the almighty dollar (or yen).
Situations like this don't bother me too much since I won't be seeing the chinese version. What bothers me is something like the Red Dawn, where they changed the villians from Chinese to North Koreans, and the sake of the logic of the plot, just to make some more money overseas. I understand the studios need to make money, but I don't think important plot details in a story should be changed just for the sake of the almighty dollar (or yen).
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7:42PM on 03/01/2013
Filmmakers shouldn't have to compromise on their vision of a story for the sake of investors, but unfortunately that's just how things are going. James Cameron was also talking about having Chinese Na'vi in Avatar 2 in order to secure financial backing from Chinese film companies. Without getting into the politics, I think it really would be best if Hollywood and the American film system does not come under the complete control, creatively or financially, of China. As far as possible, Hollywood
Filmmakers shouldn't have to compromise on their vision of a story for the sake of investors, but unfortunately that's just how things are going. James Cameron was also talking about having Chinese Na'vi in Avatar 2 in order to secure financial backing from Chinese film companies. Without getting into the politics, I think it really would be best if Hollywood and the American film system does not come under the complete control, creatively or financially, of China. As far as possible, Hollywood should focus on getting their houses in order, so they don't have to be tenants at someone else's residence - because who knows when one might be forcefully evicted?
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7:04PM on 03/01/2013
I hate when this sort of thing happens to the movie (any movie).
I hate when this sort of thing happens to the movie (any movie).
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