Though Disney’s live-action Mulan remake is only just now hitting VOD in certain markets—ahead of a cinematic release in territories where movie theaters have been allowed to reopen—the movie’s already come under a significant amount of fire, first for its star’s pro-police comments regarding the protests in Hong Kong, and now for Disney’s decision to film Mulan in Xinjiang and thank local officials.
The latest wave of criticism focuses specifically on Mulan explicitly acknowledging that the film was partially shot in Xinjiang, the northwestern Chinese territory where it is believed that at least 120,000 members of the area’s minority population of Muslim Uighurs have been detained and sent to internment camps. The Uighur detainment is but one part of the Chinese state’s increasingly draconian initiatives using heightened surveillance to monitor the country’s Uighur population, out of a supposed desire to assimilate the Uighurs into Chinese society by stripping them of their ethnic identity, culture, and political beliefs through forced “reeducation.”
Because Mulan’s credits explicitly note that the filming in Xinjiang was “extensive” and thank multiple Chinese governmental bodies, such as the Publicity Department of the Chinese Communist Party’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region Committee (a propagandistic mouthpiece for the wider party), it’s clear that Disney spent time hammering out agreements leading to its being able to shoot in Xinjiang. The problem is that the studio seemingly chose not to consider how Mulan’s production in China would be interpreted by those outside the company who’ve been following the story of the Uighurs’ internment.
Now, Reuters reports that the Chinese government is cracking down on virtually all Mulan press coverage, presumably in an attempt to prevent media outlets from drawing attention to the fact that Disney worked with the government to ensure that it would be able to shoot the film there. Disney has long had high hopes that Mulan would do well at the box office, but the seeming censorship of any coverage in the Chinese press just days ahead of its release there is putting a potential dent into that hope, even before you get to the political quagmire the studio is embroiled in.
Disney’s desire to capitalize on the Chinese box office by producing a version of Mulan intended to better portray the original Mulan legend and potentially appeal more to Chinese moviegoers is understandable; like all film studios, Disney is chiefly in the business of making absurd amounts of money with its projects. But instances like this, where Disney very openly wades its way into the political goings-on of a country, assuming that the public somehow wouldn’t be able to understand what’s happening, speaks to the studio either not having the foresight to understand the significance of its actions, or, in a dimmer view, that Disney simply doesn’t feel as if the Chinese government’s treatment of an ethnic minority is a problem for it to worry about being associated with.
We’ve reached out to Disney for comment regarding this story and will update if and when we receive a response.
For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.