July 21, 2008

(Movie) News You Need to Know: KFP & AT

"The Panda That Roared"

As you know by now, Getafilm is not the place to check in for late-breaking news. The story about Kung Fu Panda's controversial success in China has been kicking around for weeks. Richard Bernstein continued the conversation in Sunday's New York Times, though, so I figured it could still hold some interest.

Here's the deal: The movie has been a smashing winner in Chinese cinemas, causing some of the 1.3 billion Chinese to wonder a.) how did the Americans (Dreamworks Animation, in this case) so accurately portray aspects of our culture, and b.) how come we weren't the ones making this movie?

Bernstein brings up two interesting points. First of all, he claims "a continuing historical imbalance in cultural cross-fertilization. The West’s use of China as an artistic setting is unmatched by any Chinese use of Europe or America as backdrops for its own cultural productions." Secondly, he declares that the Chinese are way behind us in animation technology.

I don't necessarily disagree with those claims, but I think all of it really boils down to this bit: "...a different lesson is being drawn from the film’s success, a lesson that goes to the heart of China’s cultural situation, namely that a movie like Kung Fu Panda could have been produced only in an atmosphere of cultural and artistic freedom that China doesn’t enjoy."

Do you agree/disagree? What are the implications if this is true? By the way, make sure you see Up the Yangtze if you haven't already.

"The High School Years: Still Raw and Unfair"

Also in yesterday's NYT, a Q & A between Karen Durbin and Nanette Bernstein, director of the upcoming documentary American Teen. Although I previewed it after it played at MSPIFF in April, I was looking for another opportunity to plug this film before it comes to Minneapolis next week.

Burnstein doesn't say much more than she did in the Q & A after the MSPIFF screening, and unfortunately she fails to mention that the documentary is not an MTV show about the awkwardness of kids during their high school years. Don't be distracted by the hilarious moments (and there are many of them) - American Teen packs an emotional punch as it touches on themes involving family, independence, and socioeconomic status.

Make the trip to see it at the Lagoon next Friday, August 1.


  1. I saw it at MSPIFF as well and have simply been too lazy to post my review. Great movie, hopefully it does well.

  2. I hope so, too, Matt. It's up against a lot of great documentaries this year, but deserves to get some attention in the summer doldrums of August.

  3. I still have not seen "Up the Yangtze," but as usual, want to.

  4. Might be a tough one to catch, Nick, as I don't know what its screening life will be. I know Sam said it was going to have DVD distribution soon though, so if nothing else you might be able to get to it before Oscar season, when I expect to argue that it deserves some consideration.

  5. I know it is playing at a film fest not so near me at the end of this month, but we'll see.

  6. Hey, Daniel. Sorry for the random comment, but can you e-mail me - I have a question for you. My e-mail is kathds100 at yahoo. Thanks!

  7. I've been critical of China's censoring ways in the past, but I'm kind of keeping shut about it lately. Their political system is in flux and the ins and outs of it are way beyond my understanding.

    Having said that, I think artistic freedom is the way to go.

  8. I'm really curious as to what the Chinese reaction would be to Up the Yangtze. As much as I liked KFP like everyone else, I was actually surprised to hear their reaction to it, since as the article mentions, this isn't the first time it's happened.

    Maybe it IS that there hasn't been a time of creative freedom like this in China before, and there are enough people making noise about it that it finally reached our shores.

    It's an insanely complex cultural situation over there (not that I have any direct knowledge). China is one of those places that is literally changing overnight.

    I'm on the edge of my seat for the Olympics.

  9. I can't expect a negative reaction of Chinese people for this movie, because is clear that it is not the objective of the producers.

  10. What, did you forget to include your spam link in the last comment?

    It was interesting to re-read this dusty post, though, so we'll call it even.


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