Chinese filmmaker Shen Yongping is to stand trial on charges of illegal business activity, becoming the first person prosecuted for documenting China’s constitutional history, Reuters reported Monday. Shen’s eight-part documentary, 100 Years Of Constitutional Governance, is about “the Chinese people’s pursuit of constitutionalism from the time of the Qing dynasty till the present day and their failed experiences,” the filmmaker’s attorney Zhang Xuezhong told the news agency. The move to prosecute Shen comes at a time when China is making efforts to advance the rule of law and will designate December 4 as national Constitution Day. The official state news agency, Xinhua, reports that nationwide activities to promote the Constitution will be held that day, according to a draft bill submitted for discussion at the bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to be held through Saturday. The constitution guarantees freedom of expression, but Shen’s detention has led to a decrease in optimism over the plan to enforce its supervision, Reuters wrote. He has been held at Beijing’s Chaoyang District Detention Centre since late April. However, according to his lawyer, Shen did not engage in any business or make any profit from the film. “This accusation is extremely absurd,” Zhang said. “‘Illegal business activity’ has now become another tactic for them to conduct their political suppression.” Shen crowdfunded the picture, raising more than RMB100,000 from supporters on Weibo. The film was released on the social media platform around April or May and 1,000 DVD sets were produced, but they since have been confiscated by the police. “The arrest of Shen is a signal from the government,” Maya Wang of New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch, told Reuters. “Through these arrests, the government is making clear that the ‘rule of law’ should be understood as an instrument for the state to maintain its monopoly of power, not as a force to rein in arbitrary state power.”
Bill Nighy, Gabriel Iglesias, Colm Meaney, and Game Of Thrones’ Michael McElhatton will lend their voices to the cast of Splash Entertainment’s upcoming animated family feature Norm Of The North. The actors join Rob Schneider, Heather Graham, Ken Jeong and Loretta Devine in the 3D picture about a garrulous polar bear who attempts to stop the building of luxury condos in the Arctic. Norm Of The North is in production and slated to be released theatrically in 2016 with Lionsgate distributing in North America. International sales are handled by Good Universe.
Sherlock co-creator and co-star Mark Gatiss is set to play Peter Mandelson in Channel 4’s one-off drama Coalition. Mandelson, a former spin doctor, is among a group of people behind the rebranding of the UK’s Labour Party as New Labour. The Channel 4 drama is based on the backroom deals that led to the 2010 formation of the coalition government that still exists today; it will focus on the rise of Liberal Democratic Party leader Nick Clegg. Mandelson has been nicknamed the “Prince of Darkness” and, according to The Guardian, Gatiss drew inspiration from the politician for his role as Mycroft Holmes on Sherlock. Gatiss once said he imbued the character with “reptilian and Mandelsonian” qualities, the paper noted. Also joining the cast of Coalition is Bertie Carvel, who won an Olivier Award as Miss Trunchbull in the West End’s Matilda and will star in the upcoming BBC adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. He’ll play Clegg. Mark Dexter, of The Bletchley Circle and Ripper Street, has been cast as David Cameron, and Ian Grieve is playing Gordon Brown. Per the BBC, shooting starts next week in London. Air is scheduled for 2015.
Emmy nominee Billy Eichner’s Billy On The Street has now been sold in Australia, India and Denmark. The comedy will be aired on Foxtel Networks’ the Comedy Channel in Oz, Viacom’s Comedy Central in India and TV2 Zulu in Denmark. The comedy/game show hybrid sees Eichner confront members of the public with a variety of outrageous pop-culture questions. The Parks And Recreation star’s Billy On The Street is handled internationally by Red Arrow.
Little Britain’s Matt Lucas will host this year’s International Emmy Awards ceremony on November 24 in New York. Lucas is best known to overseas audiences for roles in such films as Bridesmaids and Alice In Wonderland. He’s also starring as “an elderly aristocratic English oddball who has fallen on hard times” in new BBC One series Pompidou which airs later this year.