Both Skyfall and Cloud Atlas have been making waves in the Chinese media during the past few days, turning a spotlight on the notorious censors at the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. They’ve also highlighted why, as my local contacts often refrain, doing business in China is never cut and dried.
James Bond juggernaut Skyfall opened to $5.1M in China on Monday, almost three times the debut of Quantum Of Solace. The film, which prominently features the Shanghai skyline and shows off Macau in what could pass for a travel brochure, is understood to nevertheless have had some scenes modified ahead of release, the BBC reported. The shooting of a Chinese security guard is said to have been excised, and a mention of torture by Chinese security services is said to have been subtitled to remove the reference. Mathew Alderson, a Beijing-based partner at law firm Harris & Moure who specializes in entertainment, tells me that although he has not seen the Chinese version of Skyfall, the reported cuts are “fairly typical examples of censorship. The Chinese are inclined to remove anything that portrays them in a negative light. It could be something as obvious and simple as having Chinese security guards appear ineffective, or because they wouldn’t want people to get the idea that you can walk into some building in Shanghai, kill the guard and walk up to the top of the building… It gets down to a bunch of censors who make decisions based on what they regard as better representing the national prestige of China and directly, or indirectly, the prestige of the Party.”