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Disney bans Scorsese’s ‘Kundun’ over Chinese pressure

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Martin Scorcese's 1997 film Kundun is banned on all formats by Disney following Chinese government pressure (Photo/Next Tree)

By Tenzin Dedan

DHARAMSHALA, Nov 15: In a yet another move that signals the power dynamics between Hollywood and China, entertainment giant Disney has banned Martin Scorsese’s 1997 film “Kundun” in all formats, in response to Chinese government pressure. The film captures the story of His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama and the Chinese occupation of his homeland, produced by a major studio.

The controversy surrounding “Kundun” dates back to its inception in 1996 when cameras started rolling. According to reports from World of Reel, Disney received a call from the Chinese embassy expressing the government’s anger. A Chinese Film Bureau official stated, “We are resolutely opposed to the making of this movie. It is intended to glorify the Dalai Lama, so it is an interference in China’s internal affairs.”

The repercussions were swift, with Disney CEO Michael Eisner revealing to The New York Times that “all of our business in China stopped overnight.” Moreover, Martin Scorsese and some members of the cast remains banned from entering China due to his association with “Kundun.”

Christian Toto, an award-winning film critic and journalist, explained the damage control measures Disney took to appease the Chinese government. In October 1998, Eisner met with Chinese premier Zhu Rongji to discuss plans for a Disney theme park in China. Regarding “Kundun,” Eisner stated, “The bad news is that the film was made; the good news is that nobody watched it.” He went on to apologize, pledging to prevent such incidents in the future.

China, however, was not satisfied with mere apologies. The government demanded further concessions, including forcing Disney to buy distribution rights to Chinese films and hiring a Chinese performance group to promote “Mulan” in Europe.

The fallout from these events is felt even today, 26 years after the film’s release. Disney has placed the movie “Kundun” in a vault, making it currently unavailable for viewing. The official trailer has been removed from the internet, and physical copies are challenging to obtain, with several Blu-ray editions marked as “currently unavailable” on Amazon.

The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) recently investigated the cultural banishment of “Kundun,” producing a YouTube video titled ‘The Movie Disney Doesn’t Want You to See’. The video has gone viral, raising awareness of the situation, although mainstream media coverage has been limited, with Christian Toto being one of the few journalists addressing the issue.

5 Responses

  1. When you get to the Southern Gate in Beijing, you would see its basically on an island, because of the road that separate the gate from Tiananmen Square. Opposite to Mao Tse Tung’s mausoleum which stands at the Southern end of Tiananmen Square. When you exit Mao Tse Tung’s mausoleum you would look directly North when standing on the stairs facing north. You would see on the opposite side the wall with the picture of Mao
    Tse Tung on the wall. The number that you would see would be ’76’ or the year would be 1976. I think you would have figured it out? That number is not on the wall but I would call it ‘hidden’.

    When you see the picture of Mao Tse Tung’s face on the wall and realize the ‘number’ as mentioned above, you should get a map of Beijing and look directly north. Directly north there is the Lama Temple. It’s not visible from where you stand on Tiananmen Square. So to grasp an idea how would you directly from Tiananmen Square to the Lama Temple in your mind. It would be done with ‘a bow’ or Arch. This would be an idea from Heaven because of the firmaments shape, or the atmosphere around the earth. The idea of ‘hidden’ relates to an idea of over the horizon, like our solar sytem. We have what we call the Kuiper belt, and Van Allen belt. Both are hidden from plane sight and the Kuiper belt is just beyond our solar system where comets originate also travelling in a elliptic orbit into our solar system. This is related to the ‘hidden’ and the idea of Heaven.

    We calculete the trajectory with formula’s and relate it to numbers.

  2. China also blocked a Hollywood fill project based on Lhagyari King Songtsen Gompo in 2006. The film would have been bigger than Kundun or seven years in Tibet.

    The unnamed Hollywood director I heard even visited Lhagyari boy to tcv school dharamsala to his boys hostel room ( secretly) in 2006 to get the feel of the exiled king’s life. But china blocked the movie project. Big loss for Tibetans.

  3. Let’s see how well Killers of the Flower Moon does in box offices compared to Barbie.

    The internet has plenty of geo-restricting–just look at how maps are drawn depending on what part of the world you are in.

    If the pandemic had shown anything, perhaps it is that viruses can also drive the trajectory of “all living things”, but that has been known for centuries although at the time, viruses were not identified.

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