The U.S Ambassador to South Korea has been attacked in the country’s capital, according to local reports.
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) March 2, 2015
How the Obama Administration Turned its Back on South Sudan – The Country George W. Bush Helped CreatePosted: February 26, 2015
Unmade in the USA
Less than three years after independence, South Sudan collapsed into bloody civil war. Could the United States, a crucial backer of the young African state, have prevented the violence?
To the outside world, the reference might have seemed cryptic. But in South Sudan, the message was crystal clear: 1991 was the year Machar broke away from the main southern guerilla movement, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), that was fighting against the Sudanese government in Khartoum. The move nearly brought about the SPLA’s demise. Now, Machar was again estranged from the flock and about to mount a new rebellion from the bush. By linking the two events, Kiir was invoking an old and powerful grudge. “It was not in the spirit of reconciliation,” Lam Akol, who led the breakaway SPLA faction with Machar in 1991 and later served as Sudan’s foreign minister, told me. “It was a declaration of war.”
“When South Sudan finally hoisted its own flag in Juba on July 9th, 2011, someone waved a sign that read ‘Thank you George Bush’.”
During and after Kiir’s press conference, forces loyal to the president rounded up and executed hundreds of male Nuers, the ethnic group to which Machar belongs. The soldiers reportedly identified the men by asking their names in Dinka, the language of Kiir’s ethnic group; inability to answer could be a death sentence. In one neighborhood, according to Human Rights Watch, between 200 and 300 men were detained in a building used by police and then murdered by gunmen, alleged to be members of the South Sudanese armed forces, who fired on the prisoners through windows.
Machar denied the coup allegation, but as Juba descended deeper into violence, he quickly took up arms against the government. Soon, blood was flowing across the northeastern portion of the country: in Bor, the capital of restive Jonglei state, and then in Bentiu and Malakal, two major cities in the heart of South Sudan’s oil country. Reports of war crimes committed by both sides followed.
Over the next year, somewhere between 10,000 and 50,000 people would be killed and another 2 million forced to flee their homes. Farmers missed their planting season, and aid agencies warned of an impending famine. According to the United Nations, the humanitarian crisis created by South Sudan’s civil war is now on par with those in Syria, Iraq, and the Central African Republic. “I never thought I’d see the day when people would be fleeing to Darfur,” Toby Lanzer, the top U.N. aid official in South Sudan, told me in August. “But that’s the situation we’re in.”
“These tensions have come to the fore in the Obama era. Unlike Bush, who one senior White House official told me ‘could have been the desk officer’ because he was so engaged on southern Sudan, Obama has preferred to leave details to his staffers, who have not always seen eye to eye with one another.”
A few days after my meeting with Lanzer, I boarded a U.N. plane in Juba packed with peacekeepers and other humanitarians and flew several hundred miles north over swampland and jungle to Malakal, roughly tracing the path of the violence that had exploded across the country. Control of the city had changed hands between the government and Machar’s rebels six times in nine months, and some of the worst atrocities of the civil war had been committed there. The last time rebels overran the city, they burned so much of it that satellite imagery revealed charcoal smudges where whole neighborhoods once stood. Now, the government was back in charge, and it was flooding troops and equipment in ahead of the dry season, when fighting in South Sudan has historically taken place. Rumors abounded of an impending rebel attack.
After a brief stop at the U.N. base near Malakal, where roughly 20,000 civilians were waiting out the violence in overcrowded displacement camps, I caught a ride with UNICEF employees down the rutted dirt track to what used to be South Sudan’s second-largest city. The closer we got, the fewer civilians there were. In the center of town, where abandoned market stalls sat bleakly on patches of scorched earth, the only humans in evidence were government soldiers, most of them carrying AK-47s. When we passed the sagging bungalow that used to serve as UNICEF’s living quarters, half a dozen armed men grinned out at us. Like most structures that hadn’t been destroyed, the building was occupied by the South Sudanese army.
We drove past looted warehouses, shelled government buildings, and rows of thatched huts that had been put to the torch. Not far from the obliterated central market, the ruins of a teaching hospital spilled out into the street: smashed vials, soiled bandages, and now-useless medical equipment. In February 2014, at least 14 people were murdered there when rebels swept into Malakal. The day before our arrival, I was told, staff members discovered a body rotting on the roof of one of the hospital’s annex buildings. While we toured a gutted pediatric complex across the street, I nearly stepped on a skull that was hidden in the grass.
Slogging through what was left of Malakal, it was difficult to imagine that South Sudan was once considered a major U.S. foreign-policy success. Over a span of nearly two decades, three different U.S. administrations worked to bring the new nation into being. Bill Clinton was the first to signal support for the southern separatists battling Khartoum in the Second Sudanese Civil War, which lasted more than 20 years and left an estimated 2 million people dead; his administration unlocked military support for neighboring countries that was then funneled covertly across borders. George W. Bush later made Southern Sudan a centerpiece of his foreign policy, helping broker a landmark north-south peace deal in 2005 that ended the civil war and paved the way for southern independence. The Obama administration carried the ball across the goal line, ensuring that an independence referendum went ahead as planned in early 2011 and pouring hundreds of millions of dollars in development aid into the new country.
When South Sudan finally hoisted its own flag in Juba on July 9, 2011, a delegation of Bush and Obama administration officials was in attendance. In the crowd, the New York Times reported, someone waved a sign that read, “Thank You George Bush.”
Now that South Sudan has imploded in spectacular fashion, however, it offers a case study in the limits of American power: Not only have its tremendous state-building efforts failed to bear fruit, but the U.S. government now finds itself with virtually no ability to shape events on the ground. “We’re at an all-time low in terms of influence,” said Cameron Hudson, who worked on South Sudan policy in both the Bush and Obama administrations.
“There are those who feel that Obama saw little benefit from engaging with the young and troubled nation. Certainly, they say, he did not share the same political incentives as Bush, whose evangelical base championed the southern cause.”
To be sure, the new nation faced long odds. At independence, it had virtually no civil institutions, about 120 doctors for a population of roughly 9 million, and a total of 35 miles of paved roads spanning a territory the size of France. It was also landlocked, ethnically diverse, and entirely dependent on oil revenue. In other words, it faced every major challenge identified by social scientists as a predictor of state failure.
Yet there are American officials who have worked closely on Sudan and South Sudan policy who still feel the situation could have played out differently, and that brutal war could have been avoided. The story of how the South Sudan project came unhinged — pieced together over six months from more than two dozen interviews with current and former U.S., U.N., and South Sudanese officials — is one of extraordinary challenges faced down and enormous errors made by leaders in Juba. It is also the story of how tensions between and within U.S. administrations alienated the South Sudanese government, reduced American leverage, and blinded U.S. officials to warning signs that the new nation’s ruling party was breaking apart.
“The cumulative effect of all these factors was that the United States began to distance itself from South Sudan at a time when the young nation, long supported by Washington, was arguably at its most vulnerable.”
These tensions have come to the fore in the Obama era. Unlike Bush, who one senior White House official told me “could have been the desk officer” because he was so engaged on southern Sudan, Obama has preferred to leave details to his staffers, who have not always seen eye to eye with one another. Key administration posts, including the special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, ambassador to South Sudan, and assistant secretary of state for African affairs, have remained vacant for extended periods during his presidency. “Through the crucial part of the time that the relationship between [South Sudanese] factions deteriorated, the U.S. had nobody in office,” said John Prendergast, a former Clinton administration official who co-founded the Washington-based Enough Project, a group that works to end genocide around the world.
There are those who feel that Obama saw little benefit from engaging with the young and troubled nation. Certainly, they say, he did not share the same political incentives as Bush, whose evangelical base championed the southern cause. (The people in the north — present-day Sudan — are generally Arab and Muslim, while the southern population is mostly African and either Christian or animist.) But if ideology and politics mattered, so did personality: Due to a fateful meeting at the United Nations in 2011, at which Kiir reportedly lied to the U.S. president about military action along his country’s northern border, Obama’s relationship with the South Sudanese president was “poisoned from the start,” according to Princeton Lyman, who served as the special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan from 2011 to 2012.
NIKKOR Motion Gallery
Driven by the Spring Festival period, one of the golden times for Chinese productions, China’s domestic movies are gaining more momentum
The Chinese New Year is approaching an end, but the country’s movie industry boom seems to have just begun, thanks to record high box-office sales during the New Year holiday.
Statistics show that across the country there were over nine million Chinese going to the movies during that period. On the first day of the Spring Festival, there was a record high intake of 356 million yuan or about $57 million at the box office. That’s about 44 percent up on the same day last year.
Even on New Year’s Eve, a time traditionally devoted to family reunions, home banquets and the grand CCTV gala, Chinese moviegoers still spent 21 million yuan ($3.5 mln) in the country’s cinemas.
By Sunday, box offices for the Spring Festival holiday reached 924 million yuan ($154 mln), a 42.15% increase from last year. Industry experts say that China’s movie market is expected to gross nearly 2 billion yuan ($300 mln) during the period.
There were 7 new movies released on the first day of the Chinese New Year, which could be one reason for the high sales.
The costume action movie “Dragon Blade” starring Chinese Kungfu star Jackie Chan leads the box office charts, creating about one third of the total income. It’s followed by Chow Yun-Fat’s family comedy “The Man from Macao II” and fantasy adventure “Zhongkui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal”.
Rao Shuguang, the secretary-general of the China Film Association, says the recorded growth is also partly to do with the increased number of screens across the country, now at over 24,900.
Driven by the Spring Festival period, one of the golden times for Chinese productions, China’s domestic movies are gaining more momentum. Last year, Chinese domestic box-office revenue hit $4.7 billion, ranking the second largest in the world. Made-in-China movies accounted for 55 percent of the total. Read the rest of this entry »
Originally posted on TIME:
French police are searching for the pilots behind several mysterious drones that were seen cruising over Paris landmarks and secured compounds on Monday and Tuesday nights.
Unmanned aerial vehicles are already prohibited across the French capital, the Wall Street Journal reports, but the flights spotted this week have raised surveillance concerns in a city that is on high alert after the January terrorist attacks. The drones were seen flying near the Eiffel Tower, the U.S. Embassy and the Interior Ministry.
Police have not yet established how many drones were involved, or whether there was any connection between the flights.
An increasing number of French Jews are turning to Marine Le Pen’s Front National, despite the party’s past reputation for anti-Semitism, as they now see Muslims as a bigger threat.
Roger Cukierman, the Chairman of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions, said the party was no longer violent and that its current leader had never used anti-Semitic language, The Times reports.
The statement comes as at least 14 percent of France’s half a million Jews look set to support Mrs Le Pen in the country’s Presidential elections in 2017.
“Many Jews now see second and third generation Muslim immigrants, rather than the far-right, as the biggest threat to their community’s safety.”
The feisty blonde daughter of Jean-Marie has been consistently rising in national polling, but has seen a surge of support following the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket terrorist attacks earlier this year which left 20 dead.
Many Jews now see second and third generation Muslim immigrants, rather than the far-right, as the biggest threat to their community’s safety.
“The National Front is a party for which I would never vote but it’s a party which today doesn’t commit violent acts. Let’s be clear: all the violence [against Jews] is now committed by young Muslims,” Mr Cukierman said.
His comments sparked a row among French Jews, some of whom see the Le Pen family as political descendants of the Vichy regime which collaborated with the Nazis following the occupation in 1940.
Serge Klarsfeld, the celebrated French Nazi-hunter, whose father was among the 75,000 Jews deported from France to the death camps in the East, remains sceptical of the party.
Photo/AFP Norwegian Muslims create a human peace ring around the synagogue in Oslo, Norway on February 21, 2015. More than a 1,000 joined a peace vigil in Oslo Saturday, hosted by young Norwegian Muslims in a show of solidarity with Jews a week after fatal shootings in Denmark targeted a synagogue and free speech seminar.
“We want to show our support to the Jews after what happened in Copenhagen.”
As the small mainly elderly Jewish congregation filed out of the synagogue after Shabbat prayers, a group of young Muslims, many of them teenage girls wearing headscarves, formed a symbolic ring outside the building to roaring applause from a crowd of more than 1,000 people.
“This is the best possible response we can give to the polarisation we’ve seen in debates after the attacks in France and Denmark.”
“This shows that there are many more peacemakers than war-makers,” 37-year-old Zeeshan Abdullah, one of the organisers told the crowd.
“There is still hope for humanity, for peace and love across religious differences and background,” he added, before a traditional Shabbat ceremony was held in the open air with many demonstrators adding their voices to the Hebrew chants.
Norway’s chief rabbi appeared visibly moved when he said it was the first time the ceremony had taken place outdoors with so many people.
“It is unique that Muslims stand to this degree against anti-Semitism and that fills us with hope… particularly as it’s a grassroots movement of young Muslims,” said Norway’s Jewish community leader Ervin Kohn, adding that the rest of the world should “look to Norway”.
“Working against fear alone is difficult and it is good that we are so many here together today.”
There was a heavy police presence at the event and sharp shooters placed on surrounding buildings but no incidents were reported. Read the rest of this entry »
Not Exactly Like Going To Summer Camp
“Fighters include people not only picking up a gun, but also going to support Islamists, in some way, including young women who have been attracted to the fight for various reasons and in some cases children.”
The three school friends from East London’s Bethnal Green, ages 15 to 16, left their homes before 8:00 a.m. local time Tuesday and met at Gatwick airport in London where they boarded a Turkish Airlines flight, according to a policenews release.
“We are reaching out to the girls using the Turkish media and social media, in the hope that they hear our messages, hear our concerns for their safety and have the courage to return now, back to their families who are so worried about them.”
– Britain’s Counter-Terrorism Commander Richard Walton
Should the girls see news reports about themselves, Walton said he hopes they’ll listen to such a “direct appeal.”
“Clearly if these three girls travel to Syria, they’re in grave danger,” he said. “We are aware as many people of the treatment of girls and women currently in that part of Syria. You know the prospect is not good and we want to prevent them from getting there.”
“Clearly if these three girls travel to Syria, they’re in grave danger. We are aware as many people of the treatment of girls and women currently in that part of Syria. You know the prospect is not good and we want to prevent them from getting there.”
Statements attributed to one major terror group in the region, ISIS, purportedly described the way its fighters treat women -– from buying and selling young girls as slaves to justifying rape of “non-believers.”
The U.S Senior Adviser for Foreign Fighters, Ambassador Thomas Krajeski, said during a news briefing today that young girls traveling to Syria and Iraqwere being considered as problematic as those traveling to fight.
“Fighters include people not only picking up a gun, but also going to support Islamists, in some way, including young women who have been attracted to the fight for various reasons and in some cases children,” he said, adding the prospect of fighters returning to their home countries to conduct attacks is of “great concern.” Read the rest of this entry »
Pictures of the heavily armed masked militants watching while a pile of drums burnt in the Libyan desert were released earlier today – purportedly by the ‘media wing’ of the local group.
It is understood the brightly coloured instruments had been confiscated by the religious police, and were destroyed near the port city of Derna, in eastern Libya.
‘Unislamic': The group claims it burned the drums because it believes music is against their religion
Seized: A statement said the instruments were ‘burnt in accordance with Islamic law’
A message released with the pictures explains: ‘Hesbah seized these un-Islamic musical instruments in the state of Warqa (we call it the city of Derna).
It adds they were ‘burnt in accordance with Islamic law’.
Whether or not it actually is has been a point of some debate in the Islamic world, but Libya’s ISIS recruits are not the first to burn instruments. Read the rest of this entry »
After training, moderate rebels to get pickups with gear to call for American B-1B bombers
Military officials point to U.S. airstrikes, called in by Kurdish fighters, that helped drive Islamic State fighters from the city of Kobani as the model for the new campaign.
“We were getting information from the Kurds from our command and control element. We were getting information quickly enough for the purposes of what we were trying to achieve: target ISIL fighters and their positions.”
– Lt. Col. Sumangil
Still, there are significant differences with what the U.S.-trained rebels will face. In Kobani, a larger and more-cohesive Kurdish force was fighting from a fixed position against a single enemy—Islamic State—without having to worry about the Syrian regime or other rebel groups.
U.S. officials also are confronted with the fragile nature of the international coalition assembled to fight Islamic State, the uneasy peace with Iran inside of Iraq, and questions about whether U.S. warplanes can or should target the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The plan comes as the U.S. prepares to start training moderate rebels, who are waging a two-front fight against the extremists and the Syrian regime. Defense officials said the training will begin in mid-to-late March in Jordan, with a second site due to open soon after in Turkey.
At the same time, the threat is spreading. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi called on Tuesday for the United Nations to endorse an international military campaign against Islamic State in Libya, a day after he ordered cross-border airstrikes in retaliation for the execution of 21 Egyptian Christians by the extremist group. The U.N. Security Council was to meet in emergency session on Wednesday, but the U.S. and several other council members called in advance for a political solution.
The Obama administration has been facing growing pressure to step up support for the moderate Syrian rebels from Republican hawks in Congress and from some allies, as well as conservative critics.
The first training sessions are to last between six and eight weeks. The training will focus on helping the rebel forces hold territory and counter Islamic State fighters—not to take on the Syrian army.
After that the U.S. will consider introducing what it is calling “the new Syrian force” onto the battlefield, officials said.
A team of four to six rebels will each be given a Toyota Hi-Lux pickup, outfitted with a machine gun, communications gear and Global Positioning System trackers enabling them to call in airstrikes. Read the rest of this entry »
From The Corner:
“The ideology of ISIS is clearly supremacist, in the sense that anybody who is not Islamic in their understanding is to be either enslaved or eradicated. This is a genocidal movement. You kill Christians, you kill Jews, you kill Yazidis…”
“…That’s what we’re up against, and we have an administration that will not even admit that there’s a religious basis underlying what’s going on.”
“[ISIS] is not just Islamic radicalism anymore, or Islamic terrorism, which is only a tactic. This is really Islamist supremacy. And in that sense, it is akin to Nazism. That was racial supremacy; here it’s Islamist.”
— National Review (@NRO) February 17, 2015
“Churchill saved England and civilization because in 1940 he was able to enlist the English language, and he put it to work on behalf of civilization. What this administration is doing is precisely the opposite. It’s sort of deconstructing any resistance with its refusal to acknowledge the obvious.”
“The ideology of ISIS is clearly supremacist,” said Krauthammer on Monday’s Special Report, “in the sense that anybody who is not Islamic in their understanding is to be either enslaved or eradicated. This is a genocidal movement….(read more)
A country torn by civil war provides fertile ground for the extremist group—right on Europe’s doorstep
Yaroslav Trofimov reports: Two rival governments in Libya have fought an increasingly bloody civil war since last summer, as the world paid little attention. While they battled for control of the country’s oil wealth, a third force—Islamic State—took advantage of the chaos to grow stronger.
The beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians by Islamic State followers has finally drawn the global spotlight to the group’s rising clout in Libya, which not long ago was touted as a successful example of Western intervention. The killings prompted Egyptian airstrikes on Islamic State strongholds in Libya and spurred calls for more active international involvement in what is fast becoming a failed state on Europe’s doorstep.
“The situation in Libya has been out of control for three years,” Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi cautioned in a television interview after the video’s release. “We shouldn’t go from total indifference to hysteria.”
– Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi
The Libyan affiliate of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has, in fact, been spreading its sway for months. First it established an area of control last fall in and around the eastern city of Derna, a historical center of Libyan jihadists. Recently, it also took over parts of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte, on the central coast, setting up a radio station there and sending Islamic morality patrols onto the streets.
All the while, the two rival governments of Libya focused on combatting one another, each supported by regional powers. Both preferred to largely ignore the influx of foreign jihadists forming new alliances with local extremists—and their unification under Islamic State’s banner.
“As all the attention of the two sides was on fighting the other side, this kind of group prospered in the political and military void. There are no good guys or bad guys there—both sides have been acting in bad faith.”
– Karim Mezran, a Libya expert at the Atlantic Council in Washington
Libya isn’t the only place outside Syria and Iraq where the extremist group has established affiliates, largely by absorbing homegrown jihadist groups into its project of world domination and religious war until the total triumph of Islam. There are also Islamic State “provinces” in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, in Yemen, and in so-called Khorasan, a region straddling Afghanistan and Pakistan. Read the rest of this entry »
Culte Morbide Antisemetic Méprisable de Haine: Hundreds of Graves Desecrated at Jewish Cemetery in Eastern FrancePosted: February 16, 2015
Tombstones Upended and Broken at Cemetery in Sarre-Union
PARIS — Sam Schechner reports: As many as 300 graves were desecrated at a Jewish cemetery in eastern France, officials said Sunday, the latest escalation in a wave of anti-Semitic violence in Europe.
“Everything will be done to make sure those responsible for the odious and barbaric act will be identified and punished. France is determined to fight relentlessly against anti-Semitism and those who would attack our values.”
– French President François Hollande
French officials are searching for an unknown number of assailants who upended or broke tombstones and headstones in roughly three quarters of the 400 graves at a historic Jewish cemetery in Sarre-Union, a small town near France’s border with Germany, a person familiar with the inquiry said.
“Everything will be done to make sure those responsible for the odious and barbaric act will be identified and punished,” said French President François Hollande. “France is determined to fight relentlessly against anti-Semitism and those who would attack our values.”
The attack is the latest in a series across Europe that has targeted Europe’s Jews, raising concerns over whether authorities are doing enough to stem a rise in anti-Semitism. Read the rest of this entry »
Airstrikes follow release of video purportedly showing the beheadings of Egyptian Coptic Christians
A spokesman for Egypt’s military said Egyptian aircraft had targeted Islamic State training camps and weapons and ammunitions stores in a bombing raid around dawn. The planes returned to their bases in Egypt safely, the spokesman said in a post on his Facebook page.
“We assure that we will take revenge for Egyptian blood and that taking punishment against criminal killers is our right and duty.”
The announcement was accompanied by video footage that the spokesman said showed Egyptian fighter jets taking off at night in preparation for airstrikes on “ISIS in Libya,” according to text accompanying the video.
“We assure that we will take revenge for Egyptian blood and that taking punishment against criminal killers is our right and duty,” an announcer said in an official Egyptian military video posted on the same Facebook page.
“There will be more coordinated airstrikes in the future with Libya and Egypt operating side by side.”
Omar al Sinki, the minister of the interior in Libya’s Tobruk-based government, said Egypt’s air force had struck 7 targets in Derna early Monday. He added that the strikes had been coordinated with the anti-Islamist forces based in eastern Libya and that General Khalifa Haftar, the nominal leader of those forces, was in Cairo on Monday “coordinating” with Egypt’s armed forces and that the campaign would be sustained.
“There will be more coordinated airstrikes in the future with Libya and Egypt operating side by side,” he said
A spokesman for Egypt’s defense ministry declined to comment on Monday beyond what the military posted on Facebook, although a news conference was planned for later Monday.
— Tristan Lejeune (@TristanLejeune) February 16, 2015
Saqer al Joroushi, the commander of Libya’s air force, was quoted by Egyptian state media saying “at least 50” militants had been killed in the airstrikes, in addition to several being arrested. He said Egypt had conducted the strikes “with full respect to the sovereignty of Libya.” He also said Libya wouldn’t allow any ground operations by the Egyptian armed forces.
He separately told the Saudi Arabia-owned Al Arabiya television station that Libya’s own air forces had launched attacks on Islamic State targets in the coastal city of Sirte, a stronghold of those loyal to ousted longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and nearby towns. However, a resident of Sirte said he had seen no evidence of an aerial attack on the city.
In a statement on its Facebook page, Libya Dawn, a more moderate Islamist group that controls the Libyan capital Tripoli, “deplored the violation of sovereignty” and said children had been killed in bombing of Derna. Read the rest of this entry »
The spat began earlier this month, when director Feng Xiaogang lambasted the popularity of a spate of recent Chinese movies based on popular reality television shows
Lilian Lin reports: An unusual public spat between a famous director and the Communist party’s main propaganda arm is shining a light on the state of pop culture in China.
The spat began earlier this month, when director Feng Xiaogang lambasted the popularity of a spate of recent Chinese movies based on popular reality television shows. Such movies, he said on a local television program, are “shot in five or six days” yet make quick money. That hurts genuine filmmaking, he argued, because it draws investor money away from more serious movies.
The apparent target of his criticism was a new film called “Running Man,” which is based on a popular reality show of the same name. The TV show, which is based on a South Korean program and is similar to “The Amazing Race” series in the U.S., pits celebrities against each other in random tasks. (The losers face indignities such as being flung into a swimming pool.) The movie, which has a similar plot, has taken in over 400 million yuan ($64 million) in ticket sales after only two weeks, according to the local film research company EntGroup.
“Is film censorship really based on rule of law and letting the market call the shots? Of course not.”
– Zou Xiaowu, marketing director of theater chain Dadi Cinema
Another movie based on a hit Chinese reality show, “Dad, Where Are We Going?,” took in nearly 700 million yuan and was the country’s third highest-grossing domestic film last year.
Mr. Feng himself made his name initially with light-hearted comedic films that became major box office successes. But in recent years he has turned to more serious films, including 2010’s “Aftershock,” about a deadly 1976 earthquake, and “Back to 1942,” a 2012 film about a famine that killed up to three million people.
“The films that really should be criticized are those films that put people to sleep. At least ‘Running Man’ is logical.”
– Wang Zhengyu, a producer of “Running Man”
His critique of the new reality TV movies is a familiar one, and not just inside China. (A spokesman said Mr. Feng didn’t have more to add.) But the counterargument came from a surprising source: The People’s Daily newspaper.
In an editorial last week, the Communist party’s main newspaper said the films are “the choice of audiences and the market.” The challenge for filmmakers like Mr. Feng, it said, is to “complain less but make more good films.”
A separate, later editorial on the paper’s Weibo social-media account suggested such criticism is hypocritical. “Directors of commercial films looking down upon variety show film is kind of like a crow accusing a pig of being black,” it said. Read the rest of this entry »