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It's the comedy-film equivalent of an empty calorie. It's inexcusably tiresome, and you've seen the same movie at least eight dozen times in the past three years. But unlike most movies about hormonal drunkards, this one is unique in the sense that it was at the center of a human rights controversy.
Rights activists have criticized a Hollywood studio for filming a buddy comedy in an eastern Chinese city where a blind, self-taught activist lawyer is being held under house arrest and reportedly beaten.
Relativity Media is shooting part of the comedy 21 and Over in Linyi, a city in Shandong province where the activist Chen Guangcheng's village is located. Authorities have turned Chen's village of Dongshigu into a hostile, no-go zone and activists, foreign diplomats and reporters have been turned back, threatened and had stones thrown at them by men patrolling the village...Relativity declined comment but said in a press release that filming in Linyi began last Wednesday. In the release, Linyi's top Communist Party official Zhang Shajun is quoted as calling Relativity's chief executive Ryan Kavanaugh a "good friend" while Relativity's Co-President Tucker Tooley describes Linyi as an "amazing" place.
(Chen Guangcheng is the blind Chinese civil rights and anti-poverty activist who gained international fame for his work documenting the Chinese government's policy of forced late-term abortions and sterilization. He was arbitrarily detained in August 2005 and escaped house arrest in April 2012. He also looks like a fantastic Grand Theft Auto character.)
Relativity Media (a studio previously involved in films like Bridesmaids and Shark Night 3D) caught the ire of a lot of Chinese human rights campaigners and pissed off their allies in the West. "Picking Linyi as a film location is probably not a good idea, but signing a deal with [Zhang Shajun] a person who is directly responsible for one of [the] most egregious and cruel abuses of a human rights defender in China is really beyond the pale," Nicholas Bequelin, senior researcher in the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, told TheWrap.
21 and Over was the first film made under Relativity's Chinese co-production venture. The decision to film in the city in Eastern China was a result of Relativity's deal with Chinese authorities: In order to distribute in the People's Republic's hugely profitable market, the studio was required to produce an alternate cut of the film specifically for Chinese theaters. The Chinese version is a cautionary tale; it changes the main character to a Chinese native who travels to an American college campus as an exchange student, becomes ensnared in a world of objectionable youthful dissipation, and then returns to China having learned his lesson. (The filmmakers' Chinese "liaison" had creative input.)
The United States looks bad, and Chinese moviegoers presumably get to have a nationalistic chuckle along with their cultural propaganda.