China's Great Classical Novel “The Water Margin” is getting made by Netflix?
Netflix announced its plan to produce a movie adaptation of the classic Chinese book "Water Margin" on Twitter, last Friday (Nov.13).
"The Water Margin(水滸傳)'' is regarded as one of the most famous and influential novels in China, considered as one of the 'Four Great Classical Novels' of ancient Chinese literature. According to Netflix, “this action-adventure saga is filled with glory, romance, and intrigue and will explore timely questions of loyalty, leadership, and people’s duty to take on society’s issues regardless of the personal cost.”
Japanese director Shinsuke Sato, who made one of Japan’s biggest box-office hits of 2019, will helm the project, and Matthew Sand, who penned the Mark Wahlberg thriller "Deepwater Horizon", to develop the actual script. However, the absence of Chinese producer triggered a wave of doubts and debates on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform.
“An ancient Chinese story created by a Japanese film director and an American writer? "Not another Mulan!” While many Chinese social media comments express their concern on the possible misunderstandings and stereotypes in the eyes of foreign viewers,
many other mentioned this adaptation can be a subtle way to spread Chinese culture and are looking forward to this new version with a different interpretation. Others expressed positive opinions, and said “The original Water Margin is a story full of murderous conspiracies, exploring human nature and political games. The theme is not naive buddy loyalty at all. However, the Water Margin versions filmed in China are all too often simple martial arts dramas. I am looking forward to Netflix’s effort and hope the adaptation will be as high-quality as Game of Thrones.”
Caixin Global claimed that many of the debates on the Internet have centered on whether a non-Chinese production can properly implement classical Chinese novels. While some mentioned it as “cultural appropriation”, others worry it will fall prey to “Western” concerns about “political legitimacy”.
Assuredly, led by Netflix, the era of producing remakes of foreign ancient masterpieces has begun. This is not the first attempt that Netflix plan to make Chinese speaking language contents, early in September, Netflix also decided to adapt international best-seller 'The Three-Body Problem' to one of its original series. By acquiring local shows and creating remakes that have global appeal certainly shows an active attempt to enter into the Asian market and a further endeavor into content diversity. However, a proper resolution to alleviate Chinese people's concern on forthcoming movies becoming another “Mulan” should be made. And it is critical to remind our-self that to not fall into “cultural appropriation” in a globalized world that we are living in.