"Kung Fu Panda" prompts soul-searching in China

Sat Jul 5, 2008 3:33am EDT
 
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By Simon Rabinovitch

BEIJING (Reuters) - More than just a box-office hit in China, animated Hollywood comedy "Kung Fu Panda" has led Chinese artists to find fault with their own film industry and call for fewer government controls on culture.

The movie, which tells the story of a fat panda who dreams of martial arts glory, was faithful to Chinese culture and laced with good humor, but China itself may have been incapable of producing such a film, a Chinese filmmaker and opera director lamented.

"The film's protagonist is China's national treasure and all the elements are Chinese, but why didn't we make such a film?" Wu Jiang, president of the China National Peking Opera Company, was cited as saying by Xinhua news agency on Saturday.

Lu Chuan, a young film director, applauded "Kung Fu Panda" as a fresh and rich take on Chinese culture, mixing references to martial arts films with classic legends.

"I cannot help wondering when China will be able to produce a movie of this caliber," he wrote in the China Daily on Saturday.

Lu said the government was stifling the creativity of China's filmmakers, explaining how he had been asked to make an animated film for the Olympic Games, which will be hosted by Beijing in August, but decided to walk away from the project.

"I kept receiving directions and orders on how the movie should be like," he said. "The fun and joy from doing something interesting left us, together with our imagination and creativity."

An advisory body to the country's rubber-stamp parliament debated this week why a film like "Kung Fu Panda," produced by DreamWorks Animation, had not been made in China, Xinhua reported.   Continued...

 
<p>Actor Jack Black (L) and Spanish voice actor Florentino Perez pose during a photocall to promote their animated film "Kung Fu Panda" in Madrid June 24, 2008. REUTERS/Susana Vera</p>