Will Christian Bale's Drama With Chinese Thugs Help 'Flowers Of War' Win Oscar?

Here’s a test of whether any publicity is good publicity: Christian Bale was in China for the world premiere of his historical drama The Flowers Of War but found time afterward for an eight-hour drive outside Beijing in an attempt to meet with a blind Chinese dissident. Instead his group was met by some local toughs who knocked aside cameras, roughed up Bale and his entourage, and eventually chased them in an unmarked van. Oh, and it was all captured by CNN cameras (see video below). Not to impugn Bale’s sincerity. But the Zhang Yamou-directed Flowers Of War, set against the backdrop of Japan’s attack on Nanking in 1937, is China’s entry into the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar race and is the nation’s most expensive movie production of all time. So plenty is at stake for its reception in the marketplace. The incident could help the film’s visibility in the U.S., where it is in the heat of awards season and earned a foreign-language film nomination from the Golden Globes yesterday. Wrekin Hill has set a qualifying run for December 21 in New York and December 23 in Los Angeles and San Francisco, followed by a later bow nationwide.

  1. I know this isn’t a political board, but how long is the US going to let China continue to be bullies? Their human rights violations are atrocious. Their workers toil under terrible conditions. They export shoddy and dangerous materials — contaminated food, chemical-laden dry wall, et al — and they undermine US production by selling their products for less than home-produced items.
    Lower prices aren’t everything. I’d rather spend $10 more for a shirt that wasn’t made in China, because I, for one, would prefer to not to support any Chinese endeavor when I have a choice.

    1. We are simply not the “super power” we once were. I mean, what could we REALLY do? If you believe polls, 75% of us believe we are going in the wrong direction. We can’t even take care of ourselves.

  2. So this is a real question for everyone — not a snarky one — as I don’t know the answer: Why would he do this film, take their paycheck, then intentionally do something that he knew would cause discord? This film is obviously a nationalistic take against the Japanese — it will unquestionably be used for political purposes — so why do it? Was he feeling guilty? Or, would it have been better to make sure this was a success, widely seen, and encourage MORE Chinese investment in international media, something that may have a bigger long-term impact? Now, they may just shut that investment down because of this “uncontrollable” star.

    1. Thank you. I wondered the same thing. This film seems like propaganda against the Japanese, who were guilty of many unseemly things in WWII. But they are now one of the West’s closeset allies. Now the positions are reversed with the Chinese currently being guilty of multiple human rights violations, and he must have known about them before he did the film. So he does this to look like he does not agree after the fact?

      Not sure why this would get the Chinese an Oscar, just don’t see the connection. They might get the Oscar because the US and other countries want access to the money there, not for any other reason. Greed speaks very loudly in many industries and the film industry is no different.

        1. What is rude about the internet is people who like to preach. I know quite a bit about World War II and what the Japanese and Germans did. My father was an engineer in Germany. He saw many “unseemly” things, so please, don’t get so bent out of shape over a word.

          1. James, a part of my family comes from the Nankin area and let me tell you the Japanese did the worst things imaginable there. They burned down our old family houses and killed a lot of our folks. The family didn’t want to discuss it to this day because it was unbearably painful.

    2. I think a lot of people in general, go in to places like China with the idea of being open to a new market and a new culture and a new frontier (and yes, lots of new money) and it’s been presented to them in that way. Then, they get there and have experienced it for themselves and genuinely want to do something to draw attention to the problems that exist and they know have been glossed over.
      I’m not really a fan of Christian Bale at all, but I don’t really see this as hypocritical. I think he probably saw a lot with his own eyes while he was there and wants to address it.

      1. I don’t necessarily discount his current sincerity. But, why not try and visit while making the film? I just question timing. He behaved while filming, but now feels the need to want to talk to the disicdent after the film is done. Not saying he was a pawm as others (Edward Norton) also have made films in China, but wonder how he will handle this incident while he is doing press, especially in the States.

        But the Chinese government does not like it if films are made that are negative towards them. Though not a great film all involved with Seven Years in Tibet where the Chinese government’s behavior was brought into question are still banned from ever entering China. The government does hold grudges.

        1. Given the filming schedule I doubt he’d have the time. Yimou was said to have a grueling schedule (16-20 hour shoots) … and during his break had had his daughter with him … If you’re going to do something risky like poke the Chinese government in the eye, you’d make sure your kid is not placed at risk.

          Who’s wants to bet the The Dark Knight Rises won’t get a China showing due to Bale’s action? :)

  3. Wait – so where is the footage of “cameras being slapped away” and Bale being “roughed up” cuz it’s certainly not in this clip. This is just a couple of fat dudes mumbling and Bale running away with very little resistance.

    1. It’s called journalistic “embellishment”.

      And, no, I’m not being snarky towards you, huh.

      Would you – or anyone – care if the article read: A couple of fat dudes mumbled as they escorted an unresisting Christian Bale away from his targeted destination?

  4. The Japanese committed horrible atrocities against the Chinese during WWII but the Chinese Communist thugs who are still in power have committed equally horrible atrocities against their own people and are still in power.

    Maybe this is Bale’s point. To shine a light on this. Working in the Chinese film industry which is heavily controlled by the government and is really just an extension of the Chinese government dirties everyone’s hands though.

    1. “Working in the Chinese film industry which is heavily controlled by the government and is really just an extension of the Chinese government dirties everyone’s hands though.”

      So what are you saying? That Chinese filmmakers should simply not bother making movies? That Zhang Yimou should never have become a director in the first place because of how much control the government exerts over the industry?

      Are you aware of how much censorship existed in Shakespeare’s time? Plays could be censored and banned from the Elizabethan playhouses for treasonous or seditious content. Tolstoy’s and Dostoyevsky’s novels had to get through the Czar’s censors in Czarist Russia. Dostoyevsky’s Notes From the Underground has never been published complete because he was forced to edit out certain parts. By your logic, he shouldn’t have bothered being a novelist because literature in his time was just an extension of the Russian government.

  5. Impugn all you want. This was a set up for publicity for the film and for Bale. And it worked. We’ll have to wait to determine the degree of success.

  6. If you are a decision maker in this industry, it’s time to ask yourself if doing business with China is a smart decision and a moral one. The United States is headed into a collision of ideologies and economies with China the likes we haven’t seen, and many youth have never seen, since the Cold War. Will the public come out to support blockbuster films with subtle Chinese agendas and funded by Chinese investors? Will they, when it looks more and more as if the United States will go to war with China in the next five to ten years?

    China has gotten ahead, not by smarts and good will, but by mistreating much of their population, forcing children into labor, forcing women into limits on reproduction too graphic for this forum. China censors freedom of speech, punishes pacifist thinkers as seen above, looks the other way when corporations pollute water sources and produces junk that is unsafe to buy.

    Why is China a country that any American would choose to work with and endorse? The hypocrisy of making a film about resilience and the human spirit–Eli Roth’s upcoming The Man with Golden Fists a prime example–for a buck is not lost on anyone. It’s time for liberals in this industry to demand a boycott on Chinese film productions. The United States risks becoming like China the more our creative industries release product showing China in a semi-uplifting light. The more we work with them to make a buck, thus empowering and popularizing their disregard for life and dignity. Think about it. Support films made in the USA.

    1. Your entire post is simplistic.

      The United States has committed plenty of human rights abuses, but usually it happens abroad, far from home. From the CIA-organized coup in Iran in 1953, to the coup in Guetemala, the U.S. has done plenty of terrible things. And can you honestly say that the U.S. has not “looked the other way when corporations pollute”?

  7. The “blind Chinese dissident” is Chen Guangcheng, a blind lawyer and activist who’s under house arrest (with his family!) for defending women forced to have abortions or get sterilized.

    I support an open market and in no way does this situation reflect on all Chinese officials, but this is far from a mere political dust up, this is base human rights and these issues need to be addressed if there is going to be any investment relationship. The fact that more people are learning today about Guangcheng is a very good thing, bravo Christian.

    1. Don’t want to be a downer on this board, but China is one of the few countries to try and get a handle on the population growth problem in their own country. Why is that when a country makes the decision that having more than one child is a selfish act we go to bat for the selfish people. There are only so many resopurces in the world and not every country thinks it is a RIGHT to pop out kids that the world doesn’t need. If only the countries in Africa as well as India would do the same maybe we wouldn’t have all the poverty we have in the world. Did that ever dawn on any of you?

  8. This never would’ve happened if he went there dressed as Batman. :-)

    All kidding aside though, I doubt this will help it win an award but it will bring attention to China’s ongoing human rights problems.

    1. Wow, you can’t see the difference between a handful of suspected terrorists being waterboarded to the brutality, extreme censorship, abuse and the like that occurs in China? Get a clue.

      I give Bale a lot of credit for this.

  9. hate to bring up this, but hey, how about those unseemly things great US done in IRAQ or VIETNAM or wherever ?

  10. I highly doubt that the Chinese side was involved in this for publicity. The contradiction of what is charged about China and they would stoop to this just for promotion of a movie? The fact is this is Christian Bale alone. He’s being criticized for taking part in this movie. Just like Hillary Swank and criticism for attending teh birthday party of a human rights violator, Bale people probably thought this stunt up because of the criticism of being involved. Bale was suppose to be interviewed on CNN. He didn’t show up and instead the reporter of the CNN crew was interviewed instead. Wanna bet alarm bells were rininging in Hollywood when this first broke? The next Batman movie comes out next summer.The last one was fortunate to be shown in China. I guarantee you this if Hollywood is not working damage control, the next Batman movie will not be seen in China. So all signs show this was Christian Bale’s doing alone in order counter criticism with this movie and his reputation of the past that’s got him hot water before.

  11. Love the typo in the article; it’s Yimou, not Yamou. I think Yamou is that famous yam juggler from Reno.

    Also love the political discourse erupting here; there is always some head in the sand American whining that people are trying to “educate” him. This is the only civilized country where people fight for the right to be blissfully ignorant.

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