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China’s government is notorious for censoring work it deems critical of the country; it’s also infamous for its opaque decision-making processes, which often make it difficult to identify censorship in the first place. The latest instance came up during the 2019 Berlin International Film Festival, when veteran filmmaker Zhang Yimou’s “One Second” was pulled from the competition lineup shortly before its premiere for “technical reasons,” according an official statement posted by the film’s representatives and circulated by the festival. That term led many to assume that the movie, which deals with a prison escape during the Cultural Revolution, did not pass muster with China’s Communist Party.
If indeed Zhang’s latest work is a victim of censorship, he wouldn’t be the only the major Chinese director to face that fate. In 2013, Jia Zhangke’s multi-part “A Touch of Sin,” which explored the specter of violence throughout Chinese society, was banned in China and never received a theatrical release, even though it won the best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival and found acclaim around the world.
Berlin - News - Rounds - Week - Jia
As the Berlin news made the rounds this week, Jia was in the United States to promote his latest exploration of China’s evolving identity, “Ash is Purest White,” which premiered at Cannes last year. Asked about the allegations of censoring Zhang, Jia bemoaned the meager explanation for the decision.
“The only person who really knows what’s going on is Director Zhang,” the filmmaker said through a translator at the offices of Cohen Media, noting that there had been no other reporting on the decision to pull the film beyond the statement. “That’s the official government story, and Director Zhang’s story as well, but we learned about it from the media and no one really knows what’s really going on. So a sense of transparency will help. If we...
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