• 2006-03-06

    + 商业周刊,胡戈的故事

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    《纽约时报》总是能够密切关注中国动态,从中国政治经济文化的新闻事件中嗅出点时代进步或者是倒退的味道来,比如上次的超女报道

    这次国内的馒头事件,闹得网上网下沸沸扬扬,我想纽约时报应该又能顺着挑战权威与言论自由的脉络总结出一些新希望吧。可在它的网站搜了搜,却似乎没有什么动静。倒是美国的商业周刊Business Week进来掺乎了一把,报道总体比较客观,没有像纽约时报那样强调意识形态。

    A Chinese Blogger's Tale

    When Hu Ge posted a parody of director Chen Kaige's latest film, he never
    expected it would set off a national debate. But it did.
     
    MARCH 2, 2006, By Dexter Roberts, Business Week

     
    Given the recent uproar over Google (GOOG), Yahoo! (YHOO), and Microsoft (MSFT)
    making concessions to Chinese Internet censors, you would think the disruptive,
    establishment-toppling power of blogging would be pretty muted on the mainland.
    Well, think again.
    Consider the bizarre tale of an internationally renowned
    Chinese film director, his ex-wife, and a hitherto unknown young Chinese
    blogger, who has suddenly emerged as national celebrity. Advertisement

    Hu Ge, 31, is a Shanghai-based blogger who never expected to be a household name
    in China. He spends his days doing freelance video editing for animation and
    advertising companies. After working hours, this die-hard Michael Jackson fan
    plays drums, guitar, and keyboards in a rock 'n' roll band formed with a few
    friends. "I don't like too much attention being paid to me," says Hu.

    But all that changed after this movie buff went to see acclaimed director Chen
    Kaige's latest offering: The Promise. Chen is probably the closest thing China
    has to a Steven Spielberg. And this epic fantasy about an orphaned girl granted
    incredible beauty from an enchantress in exchange for the promise that she can
    never be with her true love cost a cool $35 million to make. While chump change
    by Hollywood standards, that makes it one of China's most expensive productions
    ever.

    STEAM HEAT.  Expectations were thus riding high when the film was released in
    December. Chen, after all, is a bankable director with an impressive track
    record. He's best known for his box office hit Farewell My Concubine, which won
    a 1993 Golden Globe for best foreign film.

    Late last year, Hu plunked down 10 bucks to see the flick and thought it was a
    mediocre piece of work -- as did Chinese film critics. He then crafted a
    20-minute video satirizing Chen's creation and e-mailed it to a few friends as
    something of a lark. "I decided to do this for fun. And also to practice my
    video-editing skills," says Hu.

    End of story? Hardly. Hu's spoof on Chen's work is entitled The Bloody Case that
    Started from a Steamed Bun. It basically takes Chen's poignant mythic drama and
    ridicules it by refashioning the story line into a mock legal-investigative TV
    program. The video ricocheted quickly around the blogosphere and e-mail networks
    at the turn of the year, becoming one of the most downloaded video clips on the
    Chinese Net, according to Chinese press reports.

    Hu's efforts also started getting picked up by newspapers and magazines, and
    eventually became a national story on Chinese TV. Says Hu: "I didn't expect the
    video to spread so widely on the Internet," he says. "And I didn't expect Chen
    Kaige to see this film."

    CROSSING THE LINE?  Chen did see it -- and he was none too pleased. While
    attending the Berlin Film Festival last month, Chen threatened to sue Hu Ge for
    defamation and copyright violations. (Much of Hu's parody uses footage from a
    pirated DVD of The Promise, as well as a legal-affairs show that that is aired
    by CCTV, the state-owned broadcaster.) Chen told reporters from the Chinese
    Internet portal Sina.com: "I think this [parody] has exceeded the normal bounds
    of issuing commentary and opinion. It's an arbitrary alteration of someone
    else's intellectual property."

    Then came the anti-Chen backlash, as Chinese media pundits started to suggest
    the film director was far too thin-skinned about the matter. Chinese Netizens
    even vowed to launch online fund-raising campaigns to cover any of Hu's legal
    costs in a court case, if it came to that. Things really started to turn
    operatic when Chen's ex-wife, Hung Huang, jumped into the fray on Hu's behalf.

    Hung is an author and publisher of the Chinese-language edition of Seventeen
    magazine, as well as Time Out Beijing, a popular entertainment guide. She is
    also something of a celebrity herself, and a well-connected one: Her mother
    actually taught English and translated for Chinese leader Mao Zedong.

    "FREEDOM OF SPEECH."  Hung is also a blogger, whose site is hosted by
    mega-portal Sina.com and reaches hundreds of thousands of Chinese. In one blog
    entry she criticized Chen for losing his cool. "Self-mockery is a weapon of all
    intelligent people. Especially when they meet difficulties, self-mockery can
    instruct and help them out of a predicament," she wrote, according to a
    translation by Danwei.org, a Web site on Chinese media and marketing.

    Blogger Hu is even more critical, suggesting that "the people have a tendency to
    support the weak. And Chen Kaige's actions made the Chinese people feel like he
    is trying to stop people from having the ability to criticize films. The people
    want to protect their freedom of speech."

    Whether this verbal brawl between blogger and filmmaker will end up in the
    Chinese courts is unclear. Chen and Chen Hong, the film director's wife who
    acted in as well as served as producer for The Promise, declined to comment for
    this story, according to Chen Hong's agent when contacted by BusinessWeek
    Online.

    AMAZING STORIES.  Zhu Xiaoyu, a lawyer representing the two production companies
    backing Chen's film, says he has contacted Hu, seeking an apology and admission
    of intellectual-property infringement. "He said he will think about it, but we
    have not received any further response," says Zhu, who works for the
    Beijing-based Haotian Law Office, which represents the Zhongying Group and 21st
    Century Shengkai.

    Meanwhile, the lawyer representing Hu, Guo Yuhang of the Shanghai-based Baiyulan
    Law Firm, is confident his client will win, should the case go to court. Guo
    believes that under Chinese law, "Hu Ge's video falls in the category of art
    critique," and thus is fair use.

    Hu, however, just wants his life back, and would like to stop spending so much
    time talking to journalists. But his new-found celebrity has won him some
    valuable opportunities. He says two Chinese production companies have contacted
    him about collaborating on film projects. He loves Spielberg's work and has
    aspirations of writing and directing his own movies. His own remarkable blog
    story might give him something to work with.

    Roberts is BusinessWeek's Beijing bureau chief

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