Film directors stoke controversy, then make money

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 January, 2014, 9:42pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 January, 2014, 10:09pm

The film world and the financial world are not getting along well these days. Days before Feng Xiaogang’s big budget movie Personal Tailor was released in China, some institutional investors dumped the shares of producer Huayi Brothers Media, sparking a run on its shares.

The movie then got panned by most critics and an angry director took to social media, blasting the critics. But despite the row, or maybe spurred by it, the movie broke box office records on opening day, contrary to what the investors feared.

In Hollywood, director Martin Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio are busy defending their latest movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, based on a book by Jordan Belfort, a New York broker turned conman.

Belfort was a high flyer in the 1990s till the law finally caught up with him and he ended up in jail. For co-operating with the law, his sentence was limited to less than two years. He later wrote a book describing his drug and sex-filled life while defrauding investors by selling them junk stocks.

The movie is based on the book, but critics say it is heavily focused on the “glamorous” life he led which included orgies, snorting cocaine off a hooker’s back and dwarf-throwing. One critic said it was three hours of drugs, hookers and wild parties.

The movie is tipped as an Oscar contender and has received two Golden Globe nominations. But the director and the hero were heckled at the screening for Academy Awards voters for glorifying the excesses of Wall Street bad boys.

It got worse after the daughter of a trader associated with Belfort wrote an open letter in LA Weekly, blasting the movie for “exacerbating obsession with wealth” and “glorifying greed”.

Her passionate letter described the pain and shame that she and her family had to go through due to the actions of her father and Belfort. DiCaprio and Scorsese have denied these charges and say the movie indicts greed and was in no way meant to glorify it.

The controversy surrounding the movie has not propelled it to record-breaking takings unlike Personal Tailor. But one person certainly seemed to be helped by the row – Belfort. He is now in talks with some networks to start a reality show.