Sony under heat for hiring non-Asian director for ‘Mulan’

Sony Pictures’ live-action remake of “Mulan” – a separate project from Disney’s version – has named Alex Graves as its director, despite previous reports that the studio was looking to hire an Asian director.

Graves is best known for directing several episodes of “Game of Thrones” and “The West Wing.”

This decision comes in the midst of heavy criticism toward Hollywood for “whitewashing” traditionally Asian roles by casting white actors, in cases like Scarlett Johansson’s role in next year’s “Ghost in the Shell,” a live action adaptation of a popular Japanese anime, and Emma Stone in “Aloha.”

Some members of the AAPI community are condemning Sony’s decision to hire a white director – they feel it takes opportunities away from skilled Asian Americans workers within the film industry.

“I know a lot of Asian American film directors who are very talented and very driven,” Judy Lei, director of the Asian American International Film Festival, told Newsweek. “In Hollywood, there isn’t a lot of opportunity given to them, this film would have been the perfect [one].”

Others pointed to the fact that the movie follows a female warrior in ancient China breaking barriers by joining the army in place of her sick father, and thus, deserves a director who would better understand that role.

Sony’s version – a Chinese co-production – will have a Chinese lead actress and is targeting an international marketplace rather than just an American audience, according to Deadline.

Lei told Newsweek that the most important fact about the film is that it in fact does have a Chinese lead actor portraying the character of Mulan.

“The most important part is the writing and the actress on screen,” she said. “If they do it right and the director is willing to learn the story behind ‘Mulan,’ that is still okay. But it would have been amazing to have an all-Asian team doing this [film].”

Sony’s version of “Mulan” is set to be released sometime in 2018.