September 05, 2006


Louye_web As punishment for screening SUMMER PALACE in Cannes without official approval from SARFT, China has imposed a ban on director Lou Ye and producer Nai An that will keep them from making movies for five years.

This is the second ban for Lou Ye, who received a two year ban for letting SUZHOU RIVER screen in Rotterdam without official approval. This must be especially galling for Nai An who advised Lou Ye against screening the movie in Cannes ("Lou Ye needs to calmly consider what he is pursuing.") And the other producer, Li Feng, said that the European sales agents accepted Cannes' invitation without consulting with the Chinese producers, putting them in a tricky position.

But it's not just movies that fall afoul of SARFT that get in trouble in China, sometimes it's movies that fall afoul of Mr. Zhao that get into hot water. One example: Carina Lau movie, CURIOSITY KILLS THE CAT.

Mr. Zhao is an employee of Beijing Film Developing and Printing & Video Laboratory and while processing the print of CURIOSITY he decided that some of the sex scenes were in violation of SARFT guidelines and he called a halt to all developing of CURIOSITY materials.  Zhou Hongsen, the vice-director of the film branch of SARFT sent a fax to the lab saying that they had his permission to process the print, but Mr. Zhao suspected the fax might be a fake. The production company reasonably asked for their negative back and Mr. Zhao refused.

After seven days, SARFT told the head of the lab that CURIOSITY had passed its review by SARFT and was A-OK, so the lab and the production company signed a contract absolving the lab of its responsibilities and returning the print materials to the producers. But Mr. Zhao would not give back the offending scenes, saying he was holding onto them "for safekeeping".

Over 20 days after this situation began it was resolved with further meetings between the producers and the lab, Mr. Zhao calmed down, and the movie is slated for a mid-October release.

But before you go thinking that Mr. Zhao is some kind of a nut, he had a reason for his caution: ten years ago Mr. Zhao was punished by the China Film Bureau for a similar matter and has been jumpy ever since. Or, as the head of the lab puts it, "Mr. Zhao was bitten by a snake and has had a fear of ropes for a decade." In the agreement arrived at by the producers and the lab they write that, "The punishment Mr. Zhao suffered ten years ago should not happen again."

See, it's not just the government censoring folks. Except when it is. Last week the Foxconn affair became a restricted topic, and newspapers were no longer allowed to print stories about the controversy. You can read a reporter's editorial on this, including his article that was yanked after the ban was passed, over on the invaluable EastSouthWestNorth.

But then again, it's not always the government doing the censoring. Sometimes it's private business just helping things get a little chilly. Foxconn and China Business News, the paper they sued (which I've been reading as First Financial Daily which might be a direct translation) issued a joint statement that they were seeking ways to work more harmoniously together in the future, sending a clear message to its reporters: hands off my iPod.

September 5, 2006 at 02:34 PM in News | Permalink


What is SARFT?

Posted by: Steve | Sep 5, 2006 6:23:28 PM

Oh, sorry. I got so sick of writing it in a previous post that I started using the trendy acronym. It's the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television - basically a gigantic, 50's era, Mao-hangover ministry that governs all the broadcast media in China.

Posted by: Grady Hendrix | Sep 5, 2006 7:25:54 PM

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