Cinematic Butchering and Distribution Thuggery
How greed and censorship are slowly but surely ruining Asian cinema in the US.

 

It's been a really long time since I've written a new article, so I figured it was probably time to remedy that. Today I'd like to talk about something that's been making me incredibly angry. Now I love Asian cinema. Mainly the movies of Stephen Chow, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Anita Mui. There's tons of great Asian films out there, but these people are some of my favorites. But there's something bad happening to these films, and whether you like Asian cinema or not, I would really like you all to know about what's going on. Hopefully, after you read more about this, you'll become as outraged as I am and join in the effort to help put a stop to it. Allowed to continue, it will not only affect Asian cinema, but films from all over the world including the US.


Buena Vista Group, which is owned by Disney and encompases companies like Dimension and Miramax, have been buying up Asian films like Stephen Chow's Shaolin Soccer. They then proceed to edit the hell out of them, put on crappy new musical scores, and add English dubbing even though the movies make far more sense when you watch them with their original Chinese dialogue and have accurate English subtitles to read along with it. Case in point: Miramax has bought the North American distribution rights to the movie Shaolin Soccer. They're currently editing it, cutting out some of the best parts, adding in English dubbing, and changing the music score. Not only are they dubbing it in English, but they've actually added dialogue where there was none and changed other dialogue entirely. They're now planning to release this completely butchered version of this utterly amazing movie to theaters. Now I know many of you haven't seen the movie, so you have no idea how incredibly awesome it truly is. If Miramax has it's way, you'll NEVER see the real version of the film. Why? Because they're using thug tactics to protect their distribution rights in this country and making it so that no one can sell the uncut, REAL Chinese version of the DVD here in this country. Now fortunately I got my copy before Miramax put the skids on companies like
HKFlix selling the Chinese DVD's here in the states. This isn't the only movie this has happened to either. Lots of Asian films have been edited down and bastardized by American companies like Miramax and Dimension. For example, Rumble in the Bronx , a great Jackie Chan movie had, I believe, sixteen minutes cut from it before it was released here in the US. Drunken Master II, another awesome Jackie Chan movie, had the ending cut off because the company that released it, Dimension, thought it was silly or non-PC or whatever. That's why the end of the movie cuts off so suddenly on that particular DVD. I was lucky enough to obtain an uncut version of the film on a Chinese DVD through HKflix. Many people won't be so lucky if these companies continue to use lawyers and thug tactics to block the sale of the real versions of these films in the US while insisting on releasing their own butchered up versions of the films.
Another thing these companies are doing in addition to the butchery and thuggery they already practice, is that they're buying up the rights to a variety of Asian films even though they have no intention of releasing them. There's no excuse for doing this other than pure greed. They buy the rights because they might want to someday release these films. They have no plans of doing so anytime soon, but maybe someday they'll get around to butchering them up and getting them out there to what they view as an ignorant public. In the meantime, we get screwed over as they block us from being able to purchase the real versions of these films in their original form on region free DVD's from Hong Kong.


So what can be done about this bastardizing of these wonderful films. Well
HKflix, which is a wonderful Asian DVD site that sells pretty much any Asian film you could possibly want, has joined in the fight. If you go and look for Shaolin Soccer on their site, you'll see the following message.

 


 

URGENT NOTE: According to Disney*, who claims exclusive North American distribution rights to this film, it is a violation of United States law for any North America-based company to sell this title. Any such competitors of ours selling this title are doing so in violation of U.S. law. We are as unhappy about this as you, and we thank you in advance for your continued support of HKFlix.com.

 

If you'd like to express your opinions about this issue to Disney, we strongly encourage you to visit THIS WEB SITE and sign the online petition they've prepared. We also encourage you to call Disney at 1-800-72-DISNEY, and email them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to politely voice your concerns. Let them know you'd like to see these important Asian films released in their original language, in their original widescreen format, with their original title, with their original soundtrack, and uncut.

 

* We loosely use the term "Disney" to refer to the entire Buena Vista family of studios, including Miramax, Dimension, Disney, Touchstone, etc.

 


 

So if you follow that link you'll go to the Web Alliance for the Respectful Treatment of Asian Cinema homepage. These guys are leading the fight in this battle with Disney, Miramax, and Dimension. I strongly encourage you to read the news and letters and basically go through the whole site to really discover the depth of what's really happening here. And I can't encourage you enough to sign the online petition. Please help to stop the butchering these companies are doing to these fine films, and help spread the word and let people know what's going on.
I'm going to ask one more thing of all of you. I'm officially calling for a boycott of any films released by Disney, Miramax, and Dimension until such time as they stop the butchering of Asian films, stop buying up the rights to films they have no intention of releasing, and stop using thug tactics and lawyers to stop great companies like
HKflix from selling the real versions of these films. Please, don't give these companies even one more cent of your money until these abhorrent practices come to an end.

 

Thank you for helping to support this cause.

 


- Duane L. Martin -
January 16, 2004

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