Martin Scorsese’s Oscar hopeful “The Departed” — in which Boston gangsters try to sell computer technology to ethnic Chinese villains — won’t be showing in China. A state-run distributor has rejected the film, an industry executive said Thursday.
China Film Group, the major importer of films shown in mainland China, told the American movie’s Hong Kong distributor, Media Asia, that the Hollywood hit is unsuitable for Chinese audiences, though it gave no reason, said Media Asia marketing manager Chan Ka-li.
“They sent a letter to us saying this movie is inappropriate, so they won’t import it,” she said.
The move effectively blocks the Warner Bros. movie out of China’s theater market, and Chan said her company does not plan to lobby for a reversal of the decision.
“If they’ve seen the movie and they don’t think it’s appropriate, then there’s probably nothing we can do,” she said.
Yuan Wenqiang, a vice president at China Film Group, confirmed the company’s sales staff passed on “The Departed.”
“After they watched it, they thought it wasn’t suited for the mainland Chinese market,” he said. “They didn’t give concrete reasons.”
Leaking U.S. technology to China is a sensitive political issue, and its portrayal in the movie likely worried the company’s executives.
China allows only about 20 imported films a year, and government censors routinely reject major Hollywood movies.
Last year, they blocked “Memoirs of a Geisha,” which features ethnic Chinese movie stars playing Japanese escorts, amid speculation the government feared the film might fan Sino-Japanese tensions.
But the case of “The Departed” is unusual in that the importer appears to have rejected the movie before it was submitted to censors.
The film is based on a 2002 Hong Kong film, “Infernal Affairs,” about a showdown between a police officer who goes undercover in a Hong Kong gang and a gangster who infiltrates the police.
“The Departed,” which this week earned Scorsese a Golden Globe for best director, stars Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin.
A Warner Bros. spokesman did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
The film has performed well at the box office, closing in on $250 million worldwide, and losing the small-but-growing Chinese market will not be a big blow for the filmmakers.
Also, with film piracy rampant in China, it’s likely that illegal DVD copies will be available.