On June 1, a press release announced that the film “Spring, seeing Hong Kong again” won the award for best documentary at the Prague Film Festival in the Czech Republic. The announcement was made on the film’s official website and was published by media outlets such as the Globe Newswire. It says: The 75th Cannes Film Festival ended successfully a few days ago, which is the biggest cultural event in Europe after the return to normalcy since the covid-19 pandemic. “Spring, Seeing Hong Kong Again,” a documentary about Hong Kong, China, sparked heated discussions at the Cannes Film Festival. The film held a screening event on May 27 . The audience applauded for 3 minutes after the screening, some audiences enthusiastically discussed the film and said they were stunned and their impressions of Hong Kong were renewed.
Following the announcement, the China Media Project (CMP) of the University of Hong Kong began an investigation and discovered that the press release was false, as was the production team.
CMP said that after investigating the information doesn’t stand up to close inspection. There is no Prague Film Festival and only two people showed up for the screening. And while the documentary was at Cannes it was not show at the festival itself but at a simultaneous marché du films, a place where you can buy screenings.
The report revealed that the alleged director, Frenchman Benoît Lelièvre, has links to Jin Huaqing, owner of the Jin Huaqing Film Studio company, who is suspected to be the real director. He is a filmmaker who has already made several films aligned with the CCP narrative.
The documentary tries to show the Chinese Communist Party as a benevolent ruler, helping Hong Kong to recover from political chaos and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hollywood is tempted by money
The use of cinema to promote the ideals and clean up the image of the CCP is not new. In addition to the Chinese film industry controlled by the regime, there are costly attempts to influence, manipulate, and buy productions in the Mecca of cinema, Hollywood.
China has the largest film market in the world, which gives it great power in choosing which films can be screened in the country, influencing directors and executives to follow the guidelines and narrative demanded by the censors.
As the article published in Big Think explained that you can bypass the CCP quota system by working with a Chinese film company. But Big Think also pointed out, “However, this method has many conditions, as it requires a film to have a certain number of Chinese actors, filming locations in China itself, and the film cannot portray China as a villain.”
To circumvent Chinese censorship restrictions several movies have changed their original script, for example, in the book “World War Z,” the global zombie plague begins in China, the completely incompetent Politburo is bombed by a rogue official, and Lhasa, Tibet, is the largest city in the post-war world. In the film, it is implied that the plague began in Korea and the other plot points are removed.
In the film “Red Dawn,” the invasion of the Chinese army on American soil was changed to a North Korean army after the Chinese Communist Party protested, losing large sums of money in post-production.
“Kundun,” a work by director Martin Scorsese, tells the story of how the Dalai Lama, fell victim to pressure from the regime. A call from the Chinese Embassy to Peter Murphy, Disney’s head of strategic planning, was enough for the company to drastically limit its release. Disney also made sure that the premier screening was only in two theaters. they also made every effort to take sure the film disappeared from any other theater, a maneuver that was intended to appease Chinese authorities and at the same time not be complicit in the regime’s censorship.
A similar case occurred with “Seven Years in Tibet” starring Brad Pitt and produced by Sony Pictures Entertainment. The film touches on the Dalai Lama’s childhood and the invasion of Tibet by the Chinese army.
Both Martin Scorsese and Brad Pitt were banned in China.
Witness from the inside
Chris Fenton, former president of DMG Entertainment, who orchestrated the creative and commercial activities of DMG, a multi-billion dollar global media company based in Beijing. DMG published the book “Feeding the Dragon,” which unravels the relationship between Hollywood, the NBA, and American Business.
In an interview with Voice of America, when asked about whether China exerted influence on Hollywood, he stated: They have amazing influence over Hollywood. There are a couple of versions of it. One is a premeditated version of what is censored even before it was written or scripted, which is this idea with any sort of sensitive topics, whether it has to do with Taiwan, or Hong Kong or Tibet … things that have something do with human rights issues, whatever it is. Those are essentially taboo in Hollywood.
Fenton went on to point out that even if a movie or let’s say a TV series is not going to show in China and the Hollywood execs think that they can be pretty free with the content and make it for the U.S. or other democratic countries there is a flaw in this thinking. Should the CCP find out about it the American studio or filmmakers will be penalized.