Since December 2003, we have been making objections to Buena Vista International Japan, the Japanese distributor of the film "Master and Commander:the Far Side of the World", on their promotional campaign of the film that is far removed from the film.
We held a signature-collecting campaign from March 1st to March 8th, 2004. 84 people signed and 80 of them wrote sincere comments.
This is the letter we sent to 20th Century Fox and Mr. Peter Weir with these comments.
Dear Messrs. Rothman and Parker:
We take keen interest in the controversy surrounding Buena Vista Japan's promotional campaign for "Master and Commander" which was just released on the 28th of February here in Japan. We are of the understanding that some fans have already been sending you petitions, but this time we've decided to launch a joint petition since we have not seen substantial improvement in this matter so far.
Buena Vista Japan (BVJ) must have informed you of their promotional strategy for "Master and Commander" in Japan. Quite regrettably, instead of attracting positive interest, it has roused public anger, contempt and disgust. The situation is rather serious that we urge you to step in, not to take all the explanations and excuses from BVJ for face value, and attempt to rescue the film.
First of all, we would like to state our argument on why we find Japanese distributor's promotional activities so problematic.
A) BVJ's promotional strategy portrays the epic as a "melodrama of young boys sent to the battlefield", but that is not even remotely a part of the theme. When the director Peter Weir made a trip to Japan in the beginning of February, he left such comments as "The notion of 'childhood' did not exist in those days," "I don't intend to send any particular message through my film," "I hope you enjoy the two hours." BVJ's campaign that packages the film as "war tragedy" or "tragedy of young boys" are evidently not in line with the philosophy of the filmmakers.
B) The promotional copy "In order to make up for the loss, England was forced to send young boys to war" was later changed to "young boys were fighting on sea now turned into a battlefield". The falsehood has become less acute on the literal bases, but the emphasis is still put on "'the young boys sent to war". Also, the first copy persists in the promotional materials other than newspaper ads, and continues to propagate fraudulent information.
C) The great part of the campaign ignores Patrick O'Brian's themes and the crucial elements of Peter Weir's film. Instead it forges such information as "the midshipmen longing for their families," or "Lord Blakeney's letter to his mother", turning "Master and Commander" into a tear-jerking drama of abused innocence. Such manipulative act is not in the interest of a film promotion, whose primary aim should be arousing audience's interest by introducing the true subject matter. It deserves to be labeled as fraud.
D) Since the information and images created by BVJ's ads deviate greatly from the original theme or the chemistry of the film, they are expected to incur following damages, or those damages have already been reported on the Internet.
i) The potential fans who could be pleased with the original themes, story line, or the general feel of the film would entirely misinterpret the subject matter and would decide against watching "Master and Commander".
ii) If those who took interest in "Master and Commander" through the promotional campaign would actually see it and find out that it's not what they've expected, they would be confused and disappointed or feel deceived. They might hold the film and the Japanese distributor contemptible, or might even become averse to the film industry as a whole.
E) Such act of insincerity profoundly hurts the feelings of the fans of "Master and Commander", the fans of the filmmakers and the cast, the fans of Patrick O'Brian, and cinema-goers in general. It is in strict conflict with consumer interests, and continues to be inimical to industry morale if no action is taken against it.
Based on this argument, we have been making the following demands to BVJ, on the belief that they are vital for rectifying the situation.
A) What we find as most detrimental to film's image are the ad copies containing the following lines.
i) "We don't know how to fight. We don't want to die. Farewell mother, etc."
ii) "Young boys were sent to the battlefields etc."
Therefore it is crucial that those lines be removed from all the printed promotional materials, and that those materials be withdrawn from public spaces.
B) BVJ should contact all the mass media that is planning to introduce the film in articles or programs and notify them of the change in ad copies. Also the mass media taking up the film in their web materials should be asked to remove those ad copies.
C) BVJ should refrain from reusing the current promotional materials when selling DVDs and videos for rental or for private use. The current ad copies should not be used on the packages of DVD or videos. The Japanese theatrical trailer and trailers for TV spots should not be included in the Japanese version of "Master and Commander" DVD. (If the rights for DVD and video sales should belong to a different party, our demands should be communicated to them accordingly.)
"Master and Commander" has just been released in Japanese theaters, and there are already many angry voices heard on the web posted by those who feel manipulated by the fraudulent ads, the trailer, and the TV-spots. Since the Japanese distributor is not making much effort to undo their blunder so far, we must request your intervention in this matter. We hope this petition will arouse your interest in our cause, and rescue the film you have striven so hard to bring about.