China Film File: Director Dilemma, Quota Shifts, and Sci-Fi Censorship

Welcome to China Film File, a weekly brief on the business of movies in China. In today’s news: Captain America sweeps China, the Chinese Directors’ Guild is holds back top awards, and CFG ups the film quota for more art-house films.

captain-america-the-winter-soldier-scarlett-johansson-chris-evans

Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

This week, Captain America: The Winter Soldier blasted through China’s box offices, taking $39.23 million in its opening weekend alone. The film’s strong release was definitely aided by a Chinese holiday weekend along with a mainland tour from the film’s stars—including Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson—to promote the film. The strong opening numbers for the new Marvel picture are also definitely helped by the fact that at release, the film occupied around 40 percent of China’s screens.

Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 4.30.30 PM

(Box office results courtesy of Box Office Mojo.)

According to insiders, China is set to increase its annual quota of imported films from 34 to 44 with a string attached–while terms haven’t exactly been specified yet, the extra quota slots will only be made available for  art house-style productions. This recent shift in policy might reflect the character of new China Film Group head La Peikang, who spent years living in France and has a reputation for being somewhat of a worldly intellectual.

The Chinese Directors’ Guild has refused to give out its top annual awards—film of the year and best director—in an effort to draw attention to what polemic director and jury head Feng Xiaogang sees as a recent decline in the quality of China’s filmmaking. Some have interpreted the move as an attempt to protest the obstructed release of Jia Zhangke’s controversial Touch of Sin. However, director Wang Jianshi stated:

“This year’s selection wasn’t aimed at censorship, just at the Chinese film environment. We were just purely talking about films, about returning to origins, everything else was thrown out.”

China’s censors have banned a surreal internet short film about a meteor set to impact Hong Kong in 33 years. Why? Because it’s not just a science fiction film: the meteor serves as allegory to provoke thought along with anxiety about Hong Kong’s entry into the mainland’s political jurisdiction 33 years from now. GVA Creative, the group behind the political science fiction short recently stated:

“The reason the video is being censored by authorities is, we believe, that they think what they’re doing is keeping the society peaceful. But, what we think they are doing is keeping people away from knowing the truth, that China is trying to suffocate Hong Kong to death by importing Mainland Chinese into Hong Kong until there’s enough people for them to control the elections. After that, there will be no open elections in Hong Kong.”

 

The opposition to China’s film censors find a new, unlikely ally in Guo Jingming, the director of blinged-out Tiny Times franchise films. A news segment featuring television personality Cui Jianbin was cut from the air when the host took an opportunity to level complaints against wasteful and corrupt government officials. Apparently, all viewers see is Cui interrupted before he storms off to be replaced by a female newscaster. In a move backing Cui, Jingming took the opportunity to tweet his solidarity about the occurrence to his 31 million Weibo followers:

 “Corrupt officials ought to be cursed – support the host who tells the truth!”

Some of Cui’s censored rant:

Categories

Culture