A Hollywood studio on Monday defended its decision to film part of a buddy comedy in a Chinese city where a blind activist is being held under house arrest, saying it advocates human rights and that engaging China in business could bring positive results.
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 no-go zone, where activists, foreign diplomats and reporters have been turned back and threatened.
Rights activists have criticized Relativity's choice of Linyi as a location and the way it touted its close government connections in a press release last week.
Relativity said Monday in an emailed statement: "From its founding, Relativity Media has been a consistent and outspoken supporter of human rights and we would never knowingly do anything to undermine this commitment."
Relativity said it was also proud of its growing business relationships in China. In August, Relativity said that it will distribute future films in China through a joint venture called Sky Land, which it owns with two other companies. Sky Land recently announced an alliance with one of the Chinese government's official film distribution agencies, Huaxia Film Distribution Company.
"As a company, we believe deeply that expanding trade and business ties with our counterparts in China and elsewhere can result in positive outcomes," Relativity said.
The incident points to the potential risks of engaging with the Chinese government to improve one's chances of tapping into one of the movie industry's most coveted yet most inaccessible markets.
Hollywood studios operating in China have been frustrated for years by a de facto quota of 20 foreign blockbusters a year.
Relativity describes "21 and Over" as a comedy about two childhood friends who drag their buddy out to celebrate his 21st birthday.
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