What happens when China makes a hit movie disappear?

Screenshot of the movie

movie screenshot return to dusthas been removed from streaming in China, but is still available through pirated YouTube copies.
screenshot: YouTube

return to dustA movie that caused a stir in China was unceremoniously pulled from the country’s streaming services yesterday, according to multiple reports on social media.Mention the film on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, and even Prohibited. Will fans outside of China see this movie? Maybe, as long as you don’t mind a little movie piracy.

Written and directed by Li Ruijun, return to dust It debuted at the Berlin International Film Festival back in February, and slowly found success in China this summer, raking in more than $7 million. vice. But it’s that success that makes the film’s removal from the streaming service all the more puzzling.

The film tells the fictional story of Ma Youtie and Cao Guiying, two newlyweds in an arranged marriage in rural China who find love and devotion to each other on the fringes of modern society. You Tie and Guiying struggle in poverty, using donkeys for farm work, while the film’s antagonist, a man who wants to kick them out of his home, drives a luxury car. There has been speculation that the wealth gap in the film is why it was removed from the Chinese streaming service.

“Everyone knows there are a lot of poor people,” Lee recently told economist“But the government doesn’t want the Chinese to see too much.”

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has previously said he wants “positive energy” in the domestic media, and without spoiling the second half of the film, we can assure you return to dust There is no fairytale ending. But according to The Economist, even this was apparently fixed in post-production, where the reviewers added an afterword, and in the end everything was fine for our main character.

The trailer is return to dust still available YouTube, but at the time of writing, the video-sharing service also hosts multiple pirated copies of the film. It’s those pirated copies that may be the only way to watch the movie for a while, even if they’re removed from existence by the movie’s distributor, which is currently issuing a copyright notice. We should note that the copy of Gizmodo watched on YouTube did not make any changes to the ending.

There is currently a lively debate on American social media about the ethics of pirated media that is not seen anywhere else. A decade ago, these streaming giants were welcomed with open arms, giving people access to a large library of movies and TV on-demand with a small monthly subscription.But the subscription price There are gramsQuite large, the product has been spread out into too many services to count. To make matters worse, some of the biggest players have started dropping streaming native shows and have no choice but to watch them.

Previously, physical media such as DVDs provided a way to watch movies or TV shows that weren’t available on streaming media. But when a show debuts on a streamer and that streamer decides to drop it, the medium is completely gone, save for the copies you can find on pirate sites. And, frankly, people in the 21st century aren’t really used to the idea of ​​big corporations having complete control over when to watch a particular show or movie. Back in the mid-20th century, it was probably pretty normal to see something on TV and then never see it again until you could see it on replay. But in the Internet age, this business model is completely unnecessary.

Is it ethical to watch a movie like this? return to dust What if the Chinese government decides to ban its free public display on YouTube? You have to decide for yourself – we are not here to tell you how to live your life. But rest assured, a full century from now, pirates will likely be the only ones with many of the TV shows and movies of our time.

It is estimated that about half of films made before 1950 and about 90% of films made before 1929 are lost forever Thanks to the movie studios that don’t care about saving.Given the way we’ve seen big media companies treat TV shows that just came out Years agowe won’t hold our breath, preserving access is really the most important thing.

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