Let’s all have a big international punch on!
David Penberthy, the editor of The Punch get quite agitated about the Melbourne Film Festival insanity.
The quick background: Melbourne Film Festival decide to include a film about a woman accused by Chinese government of being a terrorist. In return, the Chinese government demand they cancel the film, and some Chinese directors withdraw from the festival.
I will say my opinion about all this at the end, but first I want to “sling mud” at the fear-monger David Penberthy, because the last thing Australia needs is over-exaggeration of China’s badness, because the Chinese government itself does good enough job of that.
“Penbo” began with the normal tabloid attack on the cosmopolitan types often associate negatively with the sipping of the milky coffee (for what reason, I never understand – something about milk not being cool?).
Superficially, it’s an arthouse issue that affects a small number of culture vultures and cineastes who won’t see a movie unless it’s got subtitles.
Quickly into the stoking the long-standing (always?) fear by Australians of Chinese “descending” by force of gravity… oh sorry no of course it has been updated, these days is… Chinese imports:
It’s actually one of the most compelling and alarming stories in Australia today, as it shows how the most pernicious features of a totalitarian regime have been imported into our own country.
How so imported? By the fact that Australia allow Chinese consular officials to reside inside the country, where they might make complaints? These diplomats are a Chinese import, and a cheap one at that. Ha, yes I guess all countries should cut diplomatic relations if they don’t like each other.
No, but really being serious, what is really the cheap import from China this time, according to Penbo? Two words: totalitarian dictatorship.
In case the meaning isn’t clear from the word itself, American Heritage definition of “totalitarian”:
“Of, relating to, being, or imposing a form of government in which the political authority exercises absolute and centralized control over all aspects of life, the individual is subordinated to the state, and opposing political and cultural expression is suppressed.”
“of a political system in which there is only one party, which allows no opposition and attempts to control everything” [emphasis add by me]
Despite human rights abuses, media control, whatever, anyone who ever has been to China, wait, anyone who has even seen a PICTURE of the chaos of a China street corner will know how absurd this is. (Actually a picture of anywhere except Tiananmen, where those green armed police guarding the palace always make a great tourist photo, just like Buckingham, make you feel like you are defying the authority, right? Especially ABC journos, weren’t they called to be “soft on Communism”?!).
And then, as they say, “and then…”:
A total of seven Chinese movies have been cut from the program as directors pulled out for fear of being black-banned or persecuted for sharing the bill with the Uighur film, or the podium with Kadeer.
Not need to ask why, of course, everyone knows all Chinese just obey the government commands. Is it not possible some or all of the Chinese directors who pull out actually themselves decide don’t want to attend, maybe because of the race riots last month and the possibility Kadeer’s organisation have some connection, or the belief in that theory in China? Actually I think this is a perfectly reasonable way to express dissatisfaction with a festival organiser’s decision. They are not trying to stop people seeing the film.
Think about this please Mr Penbo: if someone make a documentary following Bin Laden around, of course most Australians and many Americans probably want to see it (unlike Chinese, who just wish this Kadeer film not exist). However, if Bin Laden travels around and makes appearance at some film festivals, maybe say Cannes, and a bunch of American directors withdraw in protest, are they automatic acting because the American government told them to?
The article goes on to talk about how mass numbers of “Chinese nationals” have been buying all the festival tickets, sabotaging the website and even playing the Chinese national anthem down the phone!
“It’s a sort of faceless tactic, and it’s consistent with the type of intimidation tactics and approaches that have been taken elsewhere.”
Ooooooh, those faceless Chinese! Never showing their faces, except when they come out in public for the TV cameras to make…
…rent-a-crowd ugliness at last year’s torch relay.
This last mentioned item is maybe the important point of the whole issue. It IS the same forces working as the torch relay last year:
a.) it’s definitely the work of some angry youth of China, and not the Chinese government doing it, although they would minimise this behaviour if they understand their own interests (as explain below); once Chinese government complains something publicly, and suddenly the Chinese “angry youth” get angry.
b.) only some Chinese persons are like this: maybe a few hundred thousand get very loud on-line, make a lot of noise. That’s how many per-cent of the population?
c.) the bunch of comments at the bottom of Penbo’s article look like written by the “angry youth” of Australia. Just like those after the torch relay last year.
Meanwhile, public opinion in the two countries moves further apart.
Obviously the Chinese government couldn’t possibly be controlling these “angry youth” reactions. My roommate is just come to Perth from Shanghai (where I think most people actually DISSlike the Chinese government) but still his first reaction is that “if this film is biased and will make people think badly of China then we should try to protect the country’s international image.”
The problem is the government apparently still don’t understand that this kind of reaction create MUCH more harm to China’s “international image” than the screening of a doco film about a little old lady that don’t like China at a film festival in the “arse end of the world”.