Jackie Chan-produced action movie films in devastated Syrian city

A Chinese action film executive-produced by Jackie Chan has triggered outrage after shooting scenes in al-Hajar al-Aswad, a Syrian town destroyed in the civil war. Home Operation, directed by Song Yinxi, is inspired by China’s evacuation of hundreds of its nationals from Yemen in 2015 during the civil conflict there, and is the first joint venture between Chinese and Emirati producers. AFP reported that Song said the film was intended to glorify the Chinese Communist party (CCP): “It takes the perspective of diplomats who are Communist party members, who braved…

Ode to the Spring review – manipulative Chinese Covid-onset drama

This strident and heavy-handed Mandarin-language drama imagines a collage of stories unfolding in Wuhan as the first, terrible wave of the pandemic broke. A husband and wife, both medics, reunite in their car each night where they snatch a few hours of sleep between shifts; their daughter, alone with her piano in their apartment, bickers with the neighbours. A selfless building manager, responsible for distributing supplies to the quarantined residents, starts to cough. Even if it were less mawkish and manipulative in approach, it’s hard to imagine that many people…

‘Tragically ugly’ school textbook causes social media outcry in China

China’s education ministry has ordered a state-owned publisher to rectify a school textbook that went viral owing to what social media users described as “tragically ugly” and inappropriate depictions of children. The mathematics books published by the People’s Education Press contain illustrations of people with distorted faces and bulging pants. Boys are seen grabbing girls’ skirts and one child appears to have a leg tattoo. The books are reportedly used in elementary schools across the country, from Shandong province in the north-east to Yunnan in the south. Photos of the…

Photographer Luo Yang captures rare glimpse of China’s ‘brave and free’ youth

Neon hair, heavy black lipstick, friends gathered around a table in leopard print and lace. Luo Yang’s portraits of young people offer a rare glimpse into modern culture in China. The Shanghai-based photographer says she was drawn to taking pictures as a way of recording emotions that rise up during adolescence. She has been documenting Chinese youth for more than a decade. “They live bravely and authentically under the limits of traditional culture,” she said in an email interview. Luo Yang was born in Liaoning, China and is based in…

Gay references removed from Fantastic Beasts 3 for Chinese release

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore has been edited for release in China to ensure any gay references have been removed. The fantasy sequel, which has an estimated budget of $200m, contains allusions to a romantic history between the characters of Dumbledore and Grindelwald, played by Jude Law and Mads Mikkelsen respectively. Six seconds of dialogue, including the lines “Because I was in love with you” and “The summer Gellert and I fell in love”, were taken out for the Chinese release on 8 April. “As a studio, we’re committed…

How Beethoven inspired 50 years of cultural exchange between the US and China

It was a big year for Tan Dun, the Oscar-winning Chinese musician who would go on to compose the soundtrack for the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In the autumn of 1973, Tan, then a teenager, was sent to a rural commune in Hunan province to plant rice. China was at the height of the Cultural Revolution. One day, Tan heard a sound from a loudspeaker in the field. “Do you want to hear some interesting music? This is called ‘symphony’. The Philadelphia Orchestra is in China,” a friend said…

‘They took my world’: fashion giant Shein accused of art theft

Vanessa Bowman paints the world around her: the 19th-century village church, her back garden, the leaves on the trees in the fields where she walks her dog. Once she has chosen a scene from her rural Dorset idyll, she puts brush to canvas, sometimes poring over the details for days in her studio. Over three decades she has honed a unique style and earned a loyal fanbase, with 20,000 followers on Instagram and commissions from House & Garden, Prince Charles’s Highgrove shop and Farrow & Ball. But when she received…

Uncharmed: why Chinese film fans are shunning Hollywood

Matt William Knowles, a 36-year-old Hollywood actor, has been packing for a forthcoming trip to China in the past week. He’s looking forward to his first China visit since the pandemic. “The last time I was in China was late 2019 when I served as the honorary mayor for a village in southern China.” While his career in Hollywood continues to blossom, finding work in China hasn’t been easy these past few years for Knowles. The pandemic changed the film industry, and the deteriorating diplomatic relations between America and China…

Chinese fans claim censorship as gay storylines removed from Friends

Friends has been stripped of its lesbian storyline for the Chinese re-release of the sitcom, prompting censorship concerns. On Friday a number of entertainment platforms including Tencent – which made headlines earlier this month for carrying a version of Fight Club with a totally different ending – began airing the first season of Friends, which was originally broadcast in 1994. Fans who had seen the programme before were quick to notice the absence of several scenes, including those relating to the character Ross explaining that his ex-wife, Carol, is gay.…

Original Fight Club ending restored in China after backlash

The Chinese streaming platform Tencent Video has restored the original ending to the film Fight Club after it amended the Chinese edition to tell viewers police had “rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals”, prompting a widespread backlash. The wholesale reversal of the anti-capitalist, anarchist denouement to the 1999 hit film, which stars Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter, made international headlines last month. In the edited version, Edward Norton’s character, the narrator, still kills off his imaginary alter ego Tyler Durden, but a subsequent…