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Muddy waters

By Raymond Zhou | China Daily | Updated: 2012-12-13 11:03

Muddy waters

The new battleground

By all accounts, the war of online hype or harm has shifted to Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like micro-blogging service, where big accounts have verified users and celebrities have followers in the millions. To have one of these accounts push a movie is perceived to be much more effective.

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Therefore, when someone you trust extols a movie or any other product, he or she may have been paid to do so, yet without disclosing the fact. Pop star Zhang Jie, with 17 million followers, once claimed that he was undergoing a full-body scan, but the gold chain in his photo turned into a smoking gun because one has to remove such items before using the device, thus inadvertently revealing the post's true nature as an advertisement.

When it comes to movies, again it is small potatoes, with the payment of 800 yuan going to an account of some 100,000 followers. Big accounts tend to endorse films for the account owners or their friends. But that does not mean their praise cannot be bought.

This kind of culture has essentially ruined the authenticity of film criticism in China. When Mudiao Chanshi, a film producer and critic, said a film critic could make as much as 60,000 yuan a month, it could be an exaggeration - but how such a sum, or a much smaller one, can be earned tickles the mind. (The answer: Get paid by film companies, of course, in which case it is not film criticism any more, but publicity material.)

Back to Lu Chuan's case. The director will not say who is behind the mudslinging. Logically, it is a no-brainer, but evidence is hard to come by.

In early 2011, The Lost Bladesman became the first movie to defend itself against the secret war of denigration. But the evidence they could collect showed only they were victimized, but not by whom.

"You should not jump to conclusions," warns Zhang Wenbo, who has a film promotion business.

"It could be your rival with a new release in the same period; it could be a peer who gloats over others' misfortune; or it could be fans who hate stars they see as rivals of their favorites."

When public opinions can be forged or bought, it is not just hapless filmmakers who fall prey. Ultimately, filmgoers as consumers have to pay the biggest price.

Contact the writer at raymondzhou@chinadaily.com.cn.

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