Director Chen Kaige's blockbuster film "The Promise" certainly is a headline grabber.
The most expensive Chinese film every made - costing 340 million yuan (US$42.5 million) - it was also the subject of a popular parody.
Now, the movie company that made the film has been accused of damaging the environment at a location where one of its film sets was built.
"The shooting of 'The Promise' has destroyed the natural surroundings of Bigu Tianchi in Yunnan Province's Shangri-la," Qiu Baoxing, vice minister of construction, said on Tuesday at a forum in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province.
A reinforced concrete structure was abandoned on the shore of the lake, and more than 100 spiles in the water, Qiu said, citing media reports. Moreover, canteens, raincoats, bottles and plastic bags litter the area.
The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), the nation's top environmental watchdog, has instructed the provincial environmental protection bureau to investigate the issue, Zhu Xingxiang, a SEPA official, said yesterday.
He said that SEPA had not received a letter of complaint about the movie company's alleged environmental misdemeanors.
The film set was built at Bigu Tianchi, a mountain lake at an altitude of 4,000 meters in picturesque Shangri-la County.
Some reports indicated that the ecosystem around the lake had also been destroyed. A China Central Television report covered the story late last month.
Qiu's remark was the first official criticism involving the deterioration of the lake's environment.
Chen Hong, the movie's producer and Chen Kaige's wife, told People's Daily that things had been left behind to be auctioned off to help pay for the clean-up. However, the Chongqing Commercial News reported Chen as saying that the company had given money to the local government to deal with the problem.
No confirmation of any money given to a local government could be made yesterday, but Li Jufang, an official of the Diqing Tibet Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan, said clean-up work had begun.
The concrete structure on the lakeshore has been mostly dismantled, Li said, who insisted that the work affected the surrounding environment only slightly.
Last August, the movie company sent a letter entrusting disposal of the material left on site to the prefecture government, Li said.
The prefecture government then told the Shangri-la county government to auction off the materials left behind to help pay for the clean-up, the official said.
"A lesson learnt from this is that we will demand that whoever shoots a movie here in the future is committed to protecting the environment," Li said.
An online survey by the website Sina.com indicated that 95 percent of the respondents thought the shooting of the movie destroyed the environment and more than 80 percent suggested that authorities adopt regulations to avoid future incidents.
Lu Xinyuan, another SEPA official, said regulations to this effect would be drafted in the future. Further site investigations need to be conducted before a decision is made to ban or restrict the future shooting of movies at scenic sites.
(China Daily May 11, 2006)