The first trailer landed last week for the Matt Damon-led film The Great Wall, and it wasn’t well received. People were quick to point out that although the film was set in China, it appears to star Matt Damon, a white actor. The internet took no time in saying that The Great Wall is yet another example of Hollywood ‘whitewashing’ in film.
The film is a period piece set during the construction of The Great Wall in China. Matt Damon fights with Chinese soldiers, in an alternative universe where fantasy elements are reality. Whitewashing is when you take a white character and have him save a culture not his own.
In the wake of the backlash, the director of the film, Zhang Yimou spoke about the allegations in an interview with EW:
“In many ways The Great Wall is the opposite of what is being suggested. For the first time, a film deeply rooted in Chinese culture, with one of the largest Chinese casts ever assembled, is being made at tent pole scale for a world audience. I believe that is a trend that should be embraced by our industry.
Our film is not about the construction of the Great Wall. Matt Damon is not playing a role that was originally conceived for a Chinese actor. The arrival of his character in our story is an important plot point. There are five major heroes in our story and he is one of them – the other four are all Chinese. The collective struggle and sacrifice of these heroes are the emotional heart of our film.
As the director of over 20 Chinese language films and the Beijing Olympics, I have not and will not cast a film in a way that was untrue to my artistic vision. I hope when everyone sees the film and is armed with the facts they will agree.”
In many cases, Hollywood has been guilty offing this, but I don’t think that is the case. The director has a good argument.
The Great Wall is scheduled to hit theaters in February 17, 2017.
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