Thursday, February 04, 2010

James Cameron as the King of China

By Chip Tsao | published Feb 04, 2010

James Cameron, director of the science-fiction epic “Avatar,” almost inadvertently started a tribal war in China after tourism chiefs in Hunan tried to cash in on the popularity of his smash-hit blockbuster by renaming a peak in their province “Hallelujah Mountain” after the floating rocks in the movie.

But this decision angered people in the town of Huangshan in Anhui, who insisted that the “Avatar” rocks look more like the famous Yellow Mountain in their province. Cameron himself was asked to be arbitrator of the dispute during his recent publicity trip to China. The former self-proclaimed “King of the World” (as Cameron joyfully dubbed himself after winning the Best Director Oscar in 1998 for “Titanic”) ruled that it was in fact the Yellow Mountain that had inspired his photographers, who spent four days in 2008 taking pictures of the mountains in China as research for the film.

But it was too late. A rock spire in the Wulingyuan Scenic Zone in Hunan, previously known as the “Southern Sky Column,” was re-christened “Hallelujah Mountain” in a special ceremony two weeks ago as “Avatar” officially became China’s most popular film, beating “Confucius,” and grossing more than $100 million at the box office. The municipal government even set up a special tourism department called “The Avatar Tourist Affairs Bureau,” set to reap billions of dollars from the millions of Chinese who are about to flood into the area to admire the heavenly beauty of planet Pandora.

It was a dangerous move. What the short-sighted Hunanese don’t know is that the word “hallelujah” sounds pretty subversive. The mountain could very well become an attraction for underground Catholics, who are steadily growing in number in China, and the area could even turn into something of a holy tourist destination akin to a Jerusalem of China, thus threatening the legitimacy of the ruling Communist Party.

Previously the mountain appeared as a phallic symbol that was supposed to bring good luck to infertile couples who made the pilgrimage to worship it. But under its new moniker, the mountain could look more like a Messiah for those who feel marginalized and bullied, and could even give rise to another revolutionary hero like Jesus Christ, who might lay claim to becoming the new King of China.

If the mountain is indeed re-christened, then why doesn’t Hunan step it up a notch and change the name of its province? Surely with a deft name change it could attract more tourists than it does today as merely the birthplace of Chairman Mao. Think of the possibilities that would open up with “James Cameron Province.” If Steven Spielberg started feeling a bit jealous, he’s welcome to come to China to shoot Indiana Jones Part V with an aging Harrison Ford leaping off roofs in the Forbidden City while fighting the evil eunuch portrayed by Jet Li over the long-lost sword believed to belong to the late Emperor Qin Shi Huang.
The Forbidden City could then be renamed “Steven Spielberg City” to commemorate the honor bestowed upon it by being selected as a film location by the world’s greatest cinematic genius. Although it should have also been re-christened “Bernardo Bertolucci Palace” in the 1980s because that was where the famous Italian director decided to film “The Last Emperor.” In those days, we were simply too shy to do it. We lacked the courage and imagination because we were poor, unlike today.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home