Spielberg, China, and E.T.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

If you haven't heard, Steven Spielberg has decided pull out from any involvement in the Beijing Olympics, where he was supposed to be on a team for the opening ceromonies helmed by Director Zhang Yimou, citing Darfur and China's involvement with the Sudanese government. From Variety:

Steven Spielberg has decided not to participate in this summer's Beijing Olympic Games as an artistic adviser, citing China's lack of progress in resolving the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

His move is a public relations blow to the Chinese government, which is under pressure to force the government of Sudan to resolve the crisis in Darfur. Spielberg's worldwide profile could lead others involved in the Games to pull out and even lead sponsors to reconsider their roles in the event.

"I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue with business as usual," Spielberg said. "At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies but doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur."
And the Chinese Government's response? Word from the Chinese Government and some local bloggers insist that it's more politicising of the games. From The Independent:

We regret Steven Spielberg's decision but we don't need him to stage an excellent Olympics, was China's defiant response to the film-maker's resignation as artistic director of the Beijing Olympics this summer. In line with previous comments about human rights defenders trying to tie political issues to the greatest sporting show on Earth, Beijing officials blamed activists with unspecified "ulterior motives" for trying to spoil the Games.

The tone of the Chinese response is best described as a combination of defiance, nationalistic resolve and a feeling of being hard done by. "It is understandable if some people do not understand the Chinese government policy on Darfur. But I am afraid that some people may have ulterior motives, and this we cannot accept," said Liu Jianchao, aForeign Ministry spokesman. He emphasised China's concern about the humanitarian crisis in Darfur but insisted China had been playing a constructive role in promoting peace there.

The news has not been widely reported in China but it has prompted a reaction among bloggers. One described Spielberg as a volunteer salesman working without a salary, peddling the American Dream by making blockbusters. "Maybe without his help we can show during the Olympics the more traditional side of our culture. Farewell, Mr Spielberg! Maybe the people of Iraq need you more than us."
At the same time as all of this is happening, China is apparently also censoring Spielberg's film E.T. as well as any movie with aliens, ghosts, or the supernatural. From the Telegraph UK:

Even before Spielberg announced he was pulling out of the Beijing Olympics, Chinese officials were plotting against his most lovable creation - ET.

In a new twist in the Chinese censors’ campaign to clean up the country’s viewing habits, aliens, ghosts and all other aspects of horror and the supernatural are to be banned from videos.

Video and audio products often “involve alien-looking characters and fictional storytelling, both specifically plotted for the sole purpose of terror,” the General Administration of Press and Publications, one of two main censorship bodies, said.