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To Dub, or Not to Dub?

Heated debate before '24' debut on local TV

When Jack Bauer, the supercop in the hit US television series "24" busts a bad guy on Shanghai TV, will he yell "freeze" or "bu xu dong"?

The question of English or Chinese dialogue is being debated among local TV audiences as they await the December 28 debut of the series on the East Movie Channel.

"24" is among 200-plus US movies and TV series in the channel's lineup. It hasn't been decided what language Jack Bauer will speak, but most imported films and series will be dubbed in Chinese.

East Movies will be the second film channel available to local audiences, following China Central TV's Channel 6.

"We choose to buy mostly dubbed foreign productions because we believe the majority of our audiences want to watch these versions," said Chen Yuren, East Movie director.

However, a lot of viewers, particularly the young, don't think that's a good idea.

"The original sound of the actors is more genuine and touching," said Ji Weiwen, a 20-something white-collar worker.

"Compared with dubbed films, more and more locals want to see the original version at a cinema because it is 100 percent original," agreed Chen Qingyi, an official with the Shanghai Film Art Center, one of the most popular movie theaters in town. "Besides, the sound track quality of original versions is better."

"We are even planning to introduce some Cantonese pieces of Hong Kong movies in the future," Chen said.

Shanghai Paradise Warner Film City, located in a shopping mall and popular with young people, finds original versions are sometimes more popular, said Xu Xiaomeng, marketing manager.

"When Matrix III was screened, we had two versions, dubbed and not dubbed. Two-thirds of our audiences choose the original version," Xu said.

But dubbed films have their followers.

"To my disappointment, the captions change so fast that when I try to read them, I always miss the story," said Ji Xiaolin, a woman in her 40s. "That can affect the continuity of seeing a movie."

Ji's words are echoed by many middle-aged locals, who don't know much English and easily become inpatient with the subtitles.

Wang Guangdi, 60, also enjoys dubbed films. He believes that the dialogue in the film, if adapted according to the local taste, are effective to eliminate the barriers between different cultures and help the local audience better understand the movie.

Until very recently, almost every imported film was dubbed when shown at local cinemas.

(eastday.com December 6, 2003)

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