Tiananmen film gets director 5-year ban
By Jonathan Landreth
BEIJING (Hollywood Reporter) – China has banned acclaimed
director Lou Ye from making movies for five years as punishment
for sending his latest film “Summer Palace,” an erotic love
story set against the backdrop of the bloody crackdown in
Tiananmen Square, to the Cannes Film Festival without
government approval, official media reported Monday.
Lou, who suffered a two-year blacklisting in 2000 for his
Rotterdam Film Festival winner “Suzhou River,” could not be
reached for comment.
In a telephone interview, the film’s French co-producer
called the decision by the State Administration of Radio Film
and Television “shameful.”
“I am very sad that the Chinese public will not be allowed
to see the fantastic love story,” said Sylvain Bursztejn, the
head of Paris-based Rosem Films.
Love story, sure, but it was the film’s backdrop that
caused trouble with the censors, who refused to review it for
approval for Cannes, claiming that the print submitted was of
poor quality. The director and producers said this was a
groundless excuse by the state, used to avoid addressing the
Reviewing “Summer Palace” would have required censors to
address the film’s use of documentary footage of the social
upheaval in 1989 that led to the deaths of hundreds and
possibly thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators by China’s
army in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
The events 17 years ago still officially are considered
“counter-revolutionary” at the highest levels of the Chinese
Also banned from film work for five years by the film
administration was Nai An, one of the two Chinese producers of
“Summer Palace,” the only Palme d’Or contender from Asia this
year, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said.
A senior film administration official confirmed the ban but
Fang Li, the film’s other Chinese co-producer was not named
in the blacklisting, Bursztejn said.
Under the ban and according to China’s Regulations on the
Administration of Films, Lou and Nai will be barred from making
films for five years, “Summer Palace” will be confiscated and a
fine of five to 10 times the film’s income will be levied,
“Summer Palace” has not screened openly in China, and
industry observers say that there is little chance it will ever
make money here because of the strong likelihood that it will
appear on Chinese streets soon in cheap pirated form, as have
thousands of previous films deemed inappropriate for release by
Director Jiang Wen’s long-banned “Devils on the Doorstep”
– which got him barred from work for a time after he, too,
sent the film to Cannes unapproved in 2000 — recently appeared
in a legal DVD edition that tones down the original film’s
frank portrayal of China’s sore relations with Japan. Sales of
the legal DVD have been poor because illegal, uncensored copies
are available widely.
“Summer Palace” will make its North American premiere
September 13 and 15 at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Lou, who has called “Summer” partly autobiographical, said
in June that he was preparing two new film scripts. He soon
will leave China for a tour of U.S. colleges, pending the
approval of his visa, which was rejected once already last
week, Bursztejn said.
Hollywood Reporter film critic Kirk Honeycutt described
“Summer Palace” as “compelling,” and he hailed the “powerful
performance” of the film’s star, actress Hao Lei.