Until the next round of Marvel movies come along, Disney’s new live-action remake of Mulan stands as the highest budgeted live-action film with a female director behind it, costing a reported $200 million. It was New Zealand-born director Niki Caro who brought the ancient story to life, but many potential audience members were hoping to see someone with Chinese heritage in the director’s chair for this remake, since the project is so inherently linked with Chinese folklore. Caro addressed that criticism, but ultimately agrees that “more diverse people need to be allowed to tell stories.” Read her quotes below.
Back in February, before the world skidded to a stop due to the pandemic, Caro responded to criticism that a filmmaker with Chinese ancestry, and not a New Zealander, should have been the one to tell this culturally specific story. She told THR: “Although it’s a critically important Chinese story and it’s set in Chinese culture and history, there is another culture at play here, which is the culture of Disney, and that the director, whoever they were, needed to be able to handle both — and here I am.”
That response perhaps wasn’t the exact thing those concerned were hoping to hear, but in a new interview with Film School Rejects, Caro again was asked about the debate about the types of filmmakers that should be allowed to tell different stories, and she acknowledged that it was an important, ongoing conversation that we should all collectively be having:
It’s a very important conversation to be having, and I support it taking place as often as possible. For me, it comes down to two things. Firstly, I resist the idea that you tell somebody who can tell what story. That sounds a little bit like censorship to me. An artist will express themselves, and the burden of responsibility is on the art. That will be judged — and should be judged.
The other side of it is that more diverse people need to be allowed to tell stories. That’s what it comes down to. The people who are hired for all kinds of stories need to be more diverse. It can’t just be white people being hired to make movies, no matter what the subject matter is. Our culture is going to be richer for the more diversity there is, and the art, the movies, the television, it will be better. The more this conversation is being had, the more that diverse artists are given opportunities.
It’s ironic that this discussion about who should be behind the camera has somewhat sidelined the very fact that Caro herself being in the director’s chair is a different type of accomplishment in its own right. But as Caro points out, the benefit of frequently talking about these ideas is that sometimes, Hollywood actually listens. Just look at what’s happening with FX as an example. Here’s hoping film studios continue to open their gates even further and invite more diverse voices to become the new storytellers of this generation.
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