The Chinese government has banned the 10th Beijing Independent Film Festival for the second year in a row. Festival director Wang Hongwei, himself an actor having starred in several Jia Zhangke films, was ordered by authorities to stop the event.
Instead, ticketholders were allowed to watch the movies on DVD's in groups of two or three, but no more than five, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Organizers were told if they tried to put on the festival anyway, the electricity from the village of Songzhuang would be cut and Wang would be put in prison.
After the cancellation announcement, fans who had come from as far as Iran staged a funeral march with a poster for the festival as the corpse. "Police arrived with an official notice from on high and set up surveillance teams to quash any illicit viewing...this is a sad time for Beijing's film community, and for Chinese creative culture as a whole," said Time Out Beijing's James Wilkinson.
One of China's leading news magazine ran a tongue-in-cheek obituary for the festival, marking "the death of the independent cinema in China."
"Here lies the death of independent cinema," read the report in Caijing, "It did not die of natural causes." The story told how the festival was stopped by police, while noting that a power cut was erroneously blamed for last year's cancellation.
China's mainstream movie industry is supported by the government, which recognizes the growth potential in the world's second-biggest film market, however, censorship means films are often confined to safe storylines, according to the Associated Press.
"They just want us to make films about food, clothes, entertainment," said documentary maker Yang Lina, "They don't want people to think, they don't want people to have the freedom to express themselves, they don't want people to have independent and free ideas."
Chinese Star Jia Zhangke At The Cannes Film Festival