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  1. #1
    Mid
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    Anger at Australian film's 'whitewash' of war hero

    Anger at Australian film's 'whitewash' of war hero

    SYDNEY — A film about an Australian-Chinese war hero in which the lead role is played by a white actor has provoked anger in Australia at the "whitewashing" of the nation's history.

    Billy Sing, whose father was Chinese and mother British, was a decorated soldier from the disastrous Gallipoli campaign of World War I at which he earned the name "The Assassin" for his success as a sniper.

    But in the yet-to-be released television film "The Legend of Billy Sing", his character is played by a young Caucasian actor.

    "I'm very sorry to learn that somebody is trying to whitewash a Chinese-Australian face with a white face. It's a disgrace," Tony Pang, president of the Chinese Australian Forum told AFP.

    "To see this distortion of historical fact -- it's sad."

    Pang said Australia's Chinese community had been subjected to such treatment in decades gone by but that times had changed.

    "The question I ask myself is what if (former prime minister) John Howard is being played by a Pakistani? It's ridiculous. It's just not appropriate."

    Director Geoff Davis, who cast his son in the lead role, defended his decision to The Australian newspaper last week, saying he had been unable to find an actor to play Sing's Shanghai-born father.

    The filmmaker said his aim was to "create a fictional story validated by having people perform true deeds, in the tradition of the historical novel".

    But former National Party senator Bill O'Chee, whose father was Chinese and mother Irish-Australian, said he was "deeply disappointed".

    "We'll now have people growing up thinking Billy Sing was white," he said.
    Henry Makeham of the Australia-China Youth Association said the film was a lost opportunity to showcase the contribution of ethnic minorities to Australia's wartime history.

    There was no shortage of Australian-Chinese actors who could have tackled the role, he added.

    "It was essentially a whiting out of a Chinese-Australian hero," he told AFP.
    Queensland-born Sing was an avid cricketer and kangaroo hunter before he enlisted with the 5th Light Horse Regiment.

    He is credited with being the most successful and feared sniper in the Gallipoli campaign, having killed more than 200 enemy soldiers.

    He died in Australia in 1943.

    google.com

  2. #2
    Mid
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    Studio portrait of William ‘Billy’ Sing. [AWM P03633.006]

    Studio portrait of William ‘Billy’ Sing

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mid View Post
    Director Geoff Davis, who cast his son in the lead role,


    There was no shortage of Australian-Chinese actors who could have tackled the role, he added.
    Yes, but he wanted his son to play the part. Racist?

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    Why oh why do film companies feel the need to distort history in this way !

    Its hard enough to get youngsters interested in their fathers/mothers and grandfathers/grandmothers world, they dont want to read books about the 20th century, might get them to watch a film and then................ rant...rant...rant

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mid
    "We'll now have people growing up thinking Billy Sing was white," he said.
    Henry Makeham of the Australia-China Youth Association said the film was a lost opportunity to showcase the contribution of ethnic minorities to Australia's wartime history.
    He is quite correct, it's a shame and not particularly understandable.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mid
    "We'll now have people growing up thinking Billy Sing was white," he said.
    Well he looks it in his photo, so why all the fuss

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    Tony Pang is the mastermind behind the whole David Carradine death. If I were the director, I'd hire Will Smith to play Billy Sing.

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    Hansum Man! panama hat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bower
    Why oh why do film companies feel the need to distort history in this way !
    Indeed

    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Wilson
    He is quite correct, it's a shame and not particularly understandable.
    As above . . . utterly ridiculous. The man was half Chinese, half Caucasian . . . to gloss over the fact that he was half Chinese is contemptible. Australia has a wonderful history of racism and discrimination on all levels, it is a shame that this is carried on now

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    Couldn't they have emphasized his dual ethnicity in the script, dialog, narrative? Without seeing the film I don't think we can judge the fairness of the portrayal. Is the race of the actor really the most important factor? With a little makeup a white actor such as Guy Pierce could fit the bill, I think. A deliberate attempt by the film to "gloss over" this man's Chinese side and somehow convey the notion that he was a white Australian would be contemptible indeed, especially given Australia's deeply racist history, but to say that the choice of actors in itself automatically constitutes an attempt to do so is not defensible based on the evidence given in the article. If the man is half European it would be, based on Chee's appearance in the photograph, equally unjust to have him played by an actor with strongly Chinese features. Chow Yun Fat would be no more appropriate than Russell Crowe.

    Edit: Instead of "Couldn't they have" I should have written "Isn't it possible that they have. . ." Has anyone seen this film? It sounds like an interesting story, one that given Australia's history begged to be made.
    “You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think.” Dorothy Parker

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    You're quite correct, of course, but . . .

    Director Geoff Davis has cast his son Josh in the lead role, while Sing's Chinese father is played by the veteran actor Tony Bonner, who came to prominence as a blond-haired helicopter pilot in the Skippy TV series.
    Having a Caucasian play the son is one thing but to have a blond Aussie playing the Chinese father . . .



    Davis said the problem in casting Sing as a Chinese-Australian arose when he couldn't find a 60-year-old Chinese actor to play his father.

    Davis said the problem in casting Sing as a Chinese-Australian arose when he couldn't find a 60-year-old Chinese actor to play his father.

    "Asking Tony to play it as Chinese would not only have been racist and demeaning. It was also financially irrelevant -- we could not have afforded the make-up," he said.
    With Australia's Chinese/Asian population in the double-digits . . . I find that hard to believe . . .

    Nepotism is one thing, it's the man's movie . . . but does this guy look even remotely mixed?

    ( ohnotheydidnt: Director slammed for 'white-out' of legendary Gallipoli sniper Billy Sing )

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    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    With a little makeup a white actor such as Guy Pierce could fit the bill, I think.
    You are not serious are you ???



    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    Has anyone seen this film?
    no

    Quote Originally Posted by Mid
    But in the yet-to-be released television film

  12. #12
    better looking than Ned
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    What a load of crap

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    [QUOTE=Sir Wilson;1424312]
    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    With a little makeup a white actor such as Guy Pierce could fit the bill, I think.
    You are not serious are you ???



    No comparison. Thanks for playing.

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    ^ looks like mel gibson.

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    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    No comparison. Thanks for playing.
    But it was funny.

    Seriously, though . . . you saw the two photos of the actors in the father and son roles . . .

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    Oz should stick to its normal television blockbusters like Neighbours and Home and Away.

    If this movie is anything like Gallipoli it,ll be a just a load of jingoistic crap.
    The original Gallipoli was one of the poorest efforts I have ever seen in making a War movie, however you must never let the facts get in the way of the real tragedy.

    I think I will give this one a miss...
    "Don,t f*ck with the baldies*

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    Quote Originally Posted by thehighlander959
    If this movie is anything like Gallipoli it,ll be a just a load of jingoistic crap.
    How about 'Australia' . . . . cringe

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    Quote Originally Posted by panama hat View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    No comparison. Thanks for playing.
    But it was funny.

    Seriously, though . . . you saw the two photos of the actors in the father and son roles . . .
    I don't find blackface funny- curious from a historical perspective, and to a certain extent I think Al Jolson should be judged by the standards of his age, but it seems that some people in Japan

    and Australia
    Harry Connick Jr weirdly unimpressed by Australia's blackface Jackson 5 | Life and style | guardian.co.uk
    still don't get it. (The yamamba are pretty scarce in Japan these days, thankfully.)

    Yes, it looks like a dodgy choice of actors, and at least appears to be a bad decision guided nepotism. I still think it is unfair to judge the film before it has been released, and I resent (including for personal reasons you (PH) likely understand) the insinuation that having one Chinese parent makes the child "Chinese." It is the same logic used by white racists with their "single drop" and similar "theories," and it is ironic and rather pathetic that such persists. Damned shame if the movie turns out to be crap- if so maybe it will result in someone picking up the story and doing it properly. Too bad Brandon Lee is dead

    Then again, maybe he wouldn't have been considered sufficiently "Chinese-looking."

    I've already decided that if a movie is ever made of my Steven Seagal-like exploits as a spy and renegade commando I want the role of me played by Denzel Washington.

    Come to think of it, maybe it is time for a cinematic retelling of the Gallipoli story, based on history rather than myth.

  19. #19
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    There is a precedent here. Seen a few films where Jesus is portrayed by a white man.

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    Quote Originally Posted by panama hat View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by thehighlander959
    If this movie is anything like Gallipoli it,ll be a just a load of jingoistic crap.
    How about 'Australia' . . . . cringe
    That movie has everything! Even a crocodile! And it is nice to see an elderly actress get a leading role.

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    Hansum Man! panama hat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    I don't find blackface funny- curious from a historical perspective
    I don't think the poster meant it in a derogatory manner

    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    I still think it is unfair to judge the film before it has been released
    I agree, but the film is not being judged, rather the choice of actors

    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    I resent (including for personal reasons you (PH) likely understand) the insinuation that having one Chinese parent makes the child "Chinese."
    Absolutely, I agree with you completely here . . .

    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    Come to think of it, maybe it is time for a cinematic retelling of the Gallipoli story, based on history rather than myth
    Egads . . . you mean not everyone was a hero? And they were all white as the driven snow?

    You should watch the move 'Breaker Morant' . . . very interesting

    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    I want the role of me played by Denzel Washington.
    Don't be ridiculous, that would never fly . . . . . Are you 184cm tall?

    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    That movie has everything! Even a crocodile! And it is nice to see an elderly actress get a leading role.
    Elderly? You should be smacked around the ears with wet fish for that

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    Quote Originally Posted by panama hat View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    I don't find blackface funny- curious from a historical perspective
    I don't think the poster meant it in a derogatory manner
    I took it as a deliberate misrepresentation of what I was trying to say.

    Quote Originally Posted by panama hat View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    I still think it is unfair to judge the film before it has been released
    I agree, but the film is not being judged, rather the choice of actors
    Plenty of past films have sounded miscast at first, and turned out to to be fine ("Monster," for example.) In any case, an accusation of racism and of pretending that an Australian hero was not half Chinese is being made solely based on the possibly poor selection of an actor who represents the white rather than the Chinese half. Doesn't sound quite fair; for all we know the film deals bluntly with the hardships Sing likely encountered growing up in Australia at that time, in the Army and elsewhere (doubt it, but still). Would we be having this discussion if the producers had chosen Jet Lee? It certainly wouldn't have been a more sensible choice, but would people be up in arms because Sing's "white heritage" was being "glossed over?" I'm guessing not.

    I think a much better judgment could be made by reading the script than be looking at a still or two. To be honest, given the choice of Tony Bonner as the Chinese father (!?!), I'm guessing that those suspecting the worst could very well be right, but at this point it seems more fair to suspend judgment. If it is as bad as expected, then cutting loose with both barrels would be appropriate, of course.

    Quote Originally Posted by panama hat View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    Come to think of it, maybe it is time for a cinematic retelling of the Gallipoli story, based on history rather than myth
    Egads . . . you mean not everyone was a hero? And they were all white as the driven snow?

    You should watch the move 'Breaker Morant' . . . very interesting
    Heroism not really the issue when it comes to the "Gallipoli" movie- have you seen it? Anyway, "Breaker Morant" deals with a different war, of course, and is a much better movie than schmaltzy, ahistorical "Gallipoli."
    Quote Originally Posted by panama hat View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    I want the role of me played by Denzel Washington.
    Don't be ridiculous, that would never fly . . . . . Are you 184cm tall?
    How tall was King Kong?* (Ever see "The Stunt Man" with Peter O'Toole? "How tall was King Kong?" is an oft-repeated line from that very good film.)

    *3'6" in the original, much better Cooper version.

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    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    I took it as a deliberate misrepresentation of what I was trying to say.
    How can it be a misrepresentation of what you were saying ?

    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    Couldn't they have emphasized his dual ethnicity in the script, dialog, narrative? Without seeing the film I don't think we can judge the fairness of the portrayal. Is the race of the actor really the most important factor? With a little makeup a white actor such as Guy Pierce could fit the bill, I think. A deliberate attempt by the film to "gloss over" this man's Chinese side and somehow convey the notion that he was a white Australian would be contemptible indeed, especially given Australia's deeply racist history, but to say that the choice of actors in itself automatically constitutes an attempt to do so is not defensible based on the evidence given in the article. If the man is half European it would be, based on Chee's appearance in the photograph, equally unjust to have him played by an actor with strongly Chinese features. Chow Yun Fat would be no more appropriate than Russell Crowe.

    Edit: Instead of "Couldn't they have" I should have written "Isn't it possible that they have. . ." Has anyone seen this film? It sounds like an interesting story, one that given Australia's history begged to be made.

  24. #24
    Hansum Man! panama hat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    Would we be having this discussion if the producers had chosen Jet Lee? It certainly wouldn't have been a more sensible choice, but would people be up in arms because Sing's "white heritage" was being "glossed over?" I'm guessing not.
    You're quite possibly correct in your assumption . . . possibly we believe we have a 'stronger' self-image as a majority on 'our' country.

    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    Heroism not really the issue when it comes to the "Gallipoli" movie- have you seen it?
    many, many moons ago

    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    Anyway, "Breaker Morant" deals with a different war, of course, and is a much better movie than schmaltzy, ahistorical "Gallipoli."
    Yes, a different war but there is still a similar line

    Quote Originally Posted by robuzo
    *3'6" in the original, much better Cooper version.
    So, you're 3'6 to Denzel's 6.01/2 (according to his bio)?

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by withnallstoke
    There is a precedent here. Seen a few films where Jesus is portrayed by a white man.
    Ghandi too. By a 'White' Brit (of some Indian exrtraction or other) no less...

    Ghandi:



    Award winning Brit actor, Ben Kingsley:




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