Hollywood interpretations of Asian themed movies and books often racebend the originals (e.g. 21, Last Airbender, and Akira), catering to what they assume are the tastes of a mostly white audience. China Lion, the distributor of the Chinese movie, The Butcher, the Chef, and the Swordmen, is taking a different approach by targetting the Chinese American market. In a partnership with AMC, China Lion is showing the movie in some heavily Asian areas such as Monterey Park and Arcadia in California.
China Lion’s Milton Barlow acknowledges that many Chinese Americans are not in the habit of movie going. Indeed, some Asian American filmmakers have complained about the lack of support that they receive when making an Asian American themed film. Barlow says that he thinks it will take about two years to get Chinese Americans to get in the habit of attending movies in theaters. To deal with the issue of piracy (bootlegged DVDs being available long before a movie comes out in the US), China Lion plans to release movies simultaneously in the US and China.
I don’t know if China Lion’s strategy will succeed, but it is definitely a nice change from racebending. The Butcher, the Chef, and the Swordsman was released in the US and Canada on March 18, 2011 and can be seen in a selected number of theaters.