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The much-anticipated film Snowpiercer has been acclaimed by critics and audiences alike. Renowned Korean director Bong Joon-ho helms a stunningly crafted film with a solid, recognizable cast including Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Jamie Bell and Octavia Spencer, not to mention award-winning Korean actors Song Kang-ho and Go Ah-sung.
This film is a major breakthrough for both Bong Joon-ho and Korea as it would be the first Korean film to get a major American release with the potential to do very well with American audiences. Snowpiercer, almost entirely in English, has already been released in Korea and France (with upcoming releases in Japan, Germany, Sweden and other non-English-speaking countries ) to both great financial and critical success.
So why has no release been scheduled in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa?
The Weinstein Company secured the rights to distribute Snowpiercer in the U.S (in addition to the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, which are also being deprived of the director's cut by default). However the company, and namely Harvey Weinstein, has demanded 25 minutes of the director’s final cut be removed in addition to placing voice-overs within the film to make it more marketable to a general American audience. Director Bong Joon-ho stands by his original cut, as does much of the cast and crew, believing the film will suffer a loss of message, character development and depth should this happen. Additionally many believe American audiences are more than capable of understanding and appreciating this film without the aid of further cuts and voice-overs. Many consider the Weinstein cut will turn a powerfully-themed film with a distinct message into an action/thriller movie with no more depth than many of the mediocre action movies plaguing US theaters currently.
It comes down to a question of ethics and the dictation of what American audiences are capable of understanding. Sequentially it also begs the question why The Weinstein Company's other territories, as mentioned above, are forced to wait on their release alongside the United States. Is it by default they must also wait, or is their ability to comprehend this film in question as well?
"The goal, said TWC [The Weinstein Company] when explaining the request to Bong, is to make sure his film ‘will be understood by audiences in Iowa… and Oklahoma.’ Weinstein also asked for introductory and closing voice-overs to be added in” [http://screenrant.com/snowpiercer-deleted-scenes-us-theatrical-cut-version/].
If artistic imports such as Snowpiercer are continuously reconditioned to cater to a perceived American inability to think outside our own borders and comfort zone then that inability will only continue indefinitely, and the international perception of our own self-serving narrowmindedness will remain deserved.
Kaori Shoji of The Japan Times said this of the film: “As far as I’m concerned, this is required viewing for every human being on the planet” [http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2014/01/02/films/our-movie-highlights-of-the-coming-year/#.Us-cePRDvng].
Let us show Mr. Weinstein that holding this film hostage until the director concedes to his unreasonable demands are not acceptable. The vision of the artist, in this case the director, should be given priority in cooperation with marketing strategies. Altering a work of art to the point where its meaning is lost and no longer discernable to simply make it more palatable is not acceptable. This film, which many have been anticipating for so long, has the potential to make a very stunning point about social classes and the dangers of elitism, an issue that has become prominent in the United States recently.
We must show Mr. Weinstein that we, as Americans, will not stand to be insulted by the insinuation that the general American populace is incapable or unwilling to appreciate a ground-breaking dramatic film from an Asian director, focusing on relevant anthropological issues.
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