Live-action Mulan film receives backlash from audiences

Shaelee Haaf and Shaelee Haaf

Adding to the list of live-action remakes of classic Disney films, “Mulan” was released on Disney+ Sept. 4. Some audiences may have looked forward to the movie’s initial release back in March, but many are now calling for a boycott.

Aside from storyline critiques, much of the backlash is centered around two main issues: the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region, where part of the movie was filmed, and leading actress Liu Yifei showing support of police during the Hong Kong protests.   

Thousands of Twitter posts addressed the issues, urging people not to watch the movie using the hashtag #BoycottMulan. 

Many pointed out the end credits gave a special thanks to the Publicity Department of CPC Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Committee, located in the Xinjiang region where an estimated 1.5 million Uyghur Muslims have been forced into “re-education camps.”

The credits also thanked the Bureau of Public Security in Turpan, one of 28 Chinese organizations within XUAR that was added to the U.S. Entities List for participation in human rights violations. 

In an interview with Deadline, Disney CFO Christine McCarthy explained, “The real facts are that Mulan was primarily shot — almost in entirety — in New Zealand. In an effort to accurately depict some of the unique landscape and geography of the country of China for this period drama, we filmed scenery in 20 different locations in China.” 

She went on to say how it’s common practice to acknowledge governments who granted permission to film in the credits. 

The movie received further backlash after Yifei made a post on Weibo — a Chinese social media platform ⁠— stating she supported police amid protests in Hong Kong. 

The protests sparked in June 2019 after an extradition bill to mainland China was introduced. The bill would’ve allowed people who are wanted in other countries and territories to be detained and transferred, even if there were no formal extradition agreements. 

Although the bill was suspended indefinitely, protesters continued to fill the streets and clashed with riot police, facing tear gas and rubber bullets. 

Another notable criticism Disney faced during the production of “Mulan” was the lack of representation behind the camera. While the movie features an all-Asian cast, the director, screenwriters and crew were all predominantly white.

During an interview with Variety, costume designer Bina Daigeler said she visited European museums with a “Chinese department” and traveled to China for three weeks to do research. 

Some argued her preparations were insufficient and questioned why a Chinese designer was not hired for the position instead.

“Mulan” has experienced multiple setbacks this year — primarily COVID-19 alongside divided audiences contributed.