Responding Sunday evening to criticism of Relativity Media for filming scenes from the upcoming buddy-debauchery movie 21 and Over in a province of China where a blind activist has been held under brutal house arrest, the company issued this statement:
“From its founding, Relativity Media has been a consistent and outspoken supporter of human rights and we would never knowingly do anything to undermine this commitment. We stand by that commitment and we are proud of our growing business relationships in China, through our partnership with Sky Land, its strategic alliance with Huaxia Film Distribution Company. As a company, we believe deeply that expanding trade and business ties with our counterparts in China and elsewhere can result in positive outcomes.”
Criticism in the news media from activists in China and via Twitter in the U.S. appeared to catch executives at Relativity off guard, with the dust still settling from recent but unrelated industry fallout over bad publicity surrounding Hilary Swank’s appearance at Chechnya tyrant Ramzan Kadyrov’s birthday party. Reports surfaced earlier Sunday about human rights activists protesting Relativity’s decision to film the now already completed scenes of 21 and Over in the Chinese city of Linyi. The city is tainted by its location in Shandong province where blind activist Chen Guangcheng remains under house arrest in his village of Dongshigu and reportedly subjected to government thuggery.
Relativity’s announcement of the filming last week under its Chinese joint venture drew the attention of activists who are working on Chen’s behalf. They’re particularly unhappy that in Relativity’s press release about 21 and Over Linyi’s top Communist Party official Zhang Shajun — whom activists associate directly with the harsh treatment of Chen — is quoted referring to Relativity’s Ryan Kavanaugh as a “good friend.” Company co-president Tucker Tooley describes Linyi as an “amazing” place. Nanjing-based activist He Peirong said, “I hope Relativity Media will learn more about the real Linyi, about Chen Guangcheng, and see that what is currently happening in Dongshigu village is what is really amazing.” Chen’s village is in virtual lockdown, according to reports, and activists, foreign diplomats and reporters have been turned away, threatened and had stones thrown at them. On Sunday a group of activists was assaulted by men patrolling the village.