China bans Avatar 2D to make way for Confucius

Jan 19, 2010
Tim Edwards

Avatar could stir up popular revolt, but Confucius wasn’t exactly pro-Communist either

A day after Twentieth Century Fox announced Avatar had smashed China's box-office records by taking £44.6m in just two weeks, the film is reportedly to cease showing in 2D in China for fear its subject matter may incite popular unrest.

Chinese 'Avatards' may continue to watch it in 3D, but there are only 550 such screens nationwide, so the film is effectively out of reach for the vast majority of the population.

Hong Kong's Apple Daily reported that China's Central Publicity Department had issued an order to the media "prohibiting it from hyping up Avatar".

"Reportedly, the authorities have two reasons... first, it has taken in too much money and has seized market share from domestic films, and second, it may lead audiences to think about forced removal, and may possibly incite violence."

In the film, the blue-skinned Na'vi fight against the might of the US military to prevent their planet being pillaged for its natural resources.

Despite the more obvious connotations with America's wars in Iraq, China appears to fear that another comparison that could be drawn would be its own policy of forced evictions to make way for property developers.

The reported ban on "hyping up" Avatar appeared to develop into a nationwide ban on the 2D film when a cinema in the southern city Wuxi posted a notice saying: "China Film Group Company... have given notice that Avatar (all versions) will close immediately on 23 January all across the country! We ask your understanding!"

The notice was later clarified by the China News Agency, with the cinema saying only the 2D version would close on January 23.

Quite how effective a ban will be in the country widely regarded as the DVD piracy capital of the world is open to debate, but the ban coincides with the opening across China of a home-grown film, Confucius, which stars Chow Yun-Fat as the legendary philosopher.

Before the news came of the Avatar ban, Chow, best known for his hard-man roles in 1990s Hong Kong gangster films, said he thought his film would appeal to the same people who would go to see Avatar: "They are two different kinds of movies, but they are both about humanity," he explained.

Presumably the film, passed by Chinese censors, does not include Confucius's counsel that: "An oppressive government is more to be feared than a tiger."

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