Opium Wars: The Movie
The Dragon in the Film Can
The most expensive Chinese movie ever made is a recently released two-and-a-half hour blockbuster drug drama about “The Opium Wars”, a true and important part of world history.
With a budget of $20 million US and a cast of thousands, Chinese film director Xie Jin pulls no punches telling the long awaited Chinese side of this first volley of violence that started the global “War on Drugs” a century and a half ago.
This Chinese government production clearly implicates the white-ghost foreigners as the bad guys who used opium as a crowbar to knock the Chinese people senseless as a prelude to snatching Hong-Kong.
Director Jin’s cinematic portrayal of this thoroughly rotten aspect of east/west relations still shows deep scars in the hearts of a billion Chinese, and it is curious that “The Opium Wars” was released just prior to the ceremonies that restored Hong Kong to China earlier this year. It is easily the hit film of the year in China.
Dope… danger… subtitles? How could it miss? Yet it did miss general distribution in both Europe and America. No doubt the theme of shame is unfathomable to the cult of victims and cinema fornica devotees in the western media savanna.
As a rule, Chinese “social message movies” do not find wide acceptance outside the workers’ paradise cinema, unless they are quaint peasant struggle dramas or kickboxing flicks(note). After all, what could a billion people know about dope anyway? Maybe we don’t have the guts to see and find out for ourselves…
Movies are the aircraft carriers of culture and the capacity of movies to impact on social consciousness is taken very seriously by button pushers whose task it is to introduce films into circulation. Whoever writes the cheque calls the program and no political system can be easily convinced to accept criticism from the outside, even if it is true. Maybe they will listen to the soundtrack, though.
“The Opium Wars” made a rare New World screening with other controversial cinema from China recently at Trent University, where it was the jewel of a 3-day Asian film festival this summer. Director Jin presented his lavish production in conjunction with the movie “Face Off” by Hollywood’s new favourite film director John Woo.
As “The Opium Wars” tends to offend community standards on top floors of mighty office buildings from London to Los Angeles, it is not a likely candidate for general release in the west in the near future. You will not be seeing this movie between sips of cappuccino or mitt-fulls of popcorn, as no big-buck western film distributor will go near this chase the dragon, do not pass go, do not collect $200 in the monopoly board game offerings on the silver screen.
By Dr Alexander Sumach
There’s actually a good film about peasant struggle, kung-fu (“kickboxing”)and the opium war that has had fairly wide release in video stores inNorth America, titled “Tai Chi II”, but the Chinese/British politics are buta backdrop to some fine martial arts action. The British “white-ghost foreigners”can also be seen exploiting the Chinese people and pushing opium in JackieChan’s “Drunken Master II”, which is widely available in video stores. (back)