All the hubbub about whether Matt Damon is – y’know – too white to play the lead in a film set in medieval China has obscured an important fact about The Great Wall: it’s part of a massive cultural change. Over recent years, we’ve grown used to seeing Hollywood producers trying to wring money out of the increasingly open Chinese market. But now, as The Great Wall demonstrates, Chinese producers are trying to wring money out of Hollywood and the rest of the world. It’s a change that raises some pretty big questions about the business of cinema, as I write in the latest issue of The Spectator:
Above it all hangs the question of whether the two film industries are cooperating for mutual gain or for competitive advantage. Last year, Chinese box-office takings ($6.6 billion) were second only — albeit by some distance — to America’s ($11.4 billion). Is Hollywood piggybacking on China to maintain its privileged ranking? Or is China piggybacking on Hollywood in order to surpass it? The implications in either case are not just financial. Cinema, even when it’s not twisted into propaganda, is a medium through which people see the world. What will we see through it in the decades to come?
For the full story – or as full as 1,100 words will allow – you can read my article here.
Oh, and I also blogged some of the numbers here.