Looks like an epic backfire for Hollywood and their love of China.
Five years after an unprecedented era of frenzied East-West dealmaking, cash flow has stopped, Donald Trump’s trade war lingers, censorship is on the rise and human rights abuses in the Middle Kingdom have upended business prospects for the U.S. film industry: “It’s hard to know what’s going to happen.”
In the run-up to Chloé Zhao’s historic best director win for Nomadland at the 93rd Oscars, Disney began tiptoeing around potential land mines with regard to China, the director’s home country and the studio’s most important international market. “Please note in your ongoing coverage of Nomadland that Chloé Zhao is a Chinese filmmaker,” an executive for Disney-owned Searchlight emailed members of the Hollywood press on March 4. “You may accurately refer to her as Chinese or a Chinese National.”
A number of news outlets, including The New York Times, had mistakenly referred to Zhao as Asian American, but the bluntness and blanket nature of the proviso was conspicuous. As it would turn out, Disney had abundant reason to be concerned over how the provenance and perceived allegiances of its rising star director, who was also helming the studio’s forthcoming $200 million Marvel tentpole Eternals, were being portrayed to the world.