Ron Howard to Direct Biopic About Pianist Lang Lang, Whitewashing Fears Already Setting In

In the wake of "Mulan," netizens are questioning the proposed biopic's overwhelmingly white production team

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3:44 PM HKT, Thu September 24, 2020 1 mins read

Oscar winner Ron Howard will direct a biopic about renowned Chinese pianist Lang Lang, and the internet is already suspicious.

The film will reportedly be based on Lang’s memoir Journey of a Thousand Miles, tracing his rise from childhood to superstardom within the classical music world.

Lang Lang was born in Shenyang in the northeastern Chinese province of Liaoning, where his family made huge sacrifices to support their child’s burgeoning talent, and placed the piano wunderkind under enormous pressure. He has previously spoken of how his father was so demanding that it almost drove him to suicide.


“Lang Lang’s story is one of determination, passion, sacrifice, and finding the inner strength to beat the odds,” said Howard in a statement. “This film is a bridge between two cultures that share universal truths about the gauntlets we face in the pursuit of greatness.”

“Dream big, work hard, and always believe in yourself,” added Lang Lang. “This movie, thanks to Ron Howard’s vision, will inspire young people around the world to follow their dreams and never forget they are one in a million.”

However, some aren’t so excited about the project.

The Farewell director Lulu Wang took to Twitter to express her worries about Lang Lang’s story being told by an overwhelmingly white, American team.

“As a classically-trained pianist born in China, I believe it’s impossible to tell Lang Lang’s story without an intimate understanding of Chinese culture + the impact of the Cultural Revolution on artists & intellectuals [and] the effects of Western imperialism,” she wrote.

“I’m not saying this because I want to direct this movie. I do not,” she added. “I just don’t think these are the artists to grapple with the cultural specificities of Northeast China where Lang Lang (and my family) are from.”

Other netizens on Twitter voiced similar sentiments to Wang. “There are more than enough capable Chinese directors, why does this keep happening,” wrote one user. Several others joked that Scarlett Johansson would play Lang Lang, referencing her controversial lead role in the live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, in lieu of an Asian actress.

The critique comes after a nosedive box office performance by Mulan, in which Disney banked big on telling Chinese stories for the Chinese market, and ultimately produced something that failed to resonate with their target audience.


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