The Shanghai International Film Festival got off to an ominous start this weekend when officials announced late Friday night that the highly-anticipated screening of The Eight Hundred — meant to be the festival’s grand opening picture — had been cancelled. “Technical issues” were cited for the surprise removal of the big budget blockbuster from the schedule, leading many to speculate that the movie had fallen foul of China’s increasingly strict censorship apparatus.
Chinese productions getting pulled from film festival schedules at the last minute due to “technical reasons” has become a depressingly common occurrence, but it’s still a major surprise for such an issue to strike at a key domestic festival — as oppose to the likes of Cannes or Berlin, which both had to grapple with short notice cancellations of Chinese movies this year.
The Guan Hu-directed, Huayi Brothers-backed action film details the story of a Chinese army unit fighting Japanese invaders in the Battle of Shanghai in 1937. It’s unclear exactly which aspect of Guan’s retelling of this story has caused problems.
The Eight Hundred was originally scheduled for a cinematic release in early July and was due to be one of the biggest films of the summer in China. Precisely what impact these “technical issues” will have on its release remain to be seen.
Possibly in response to the news, famed director Jia Zhangke took to Chinese microblogging platform Weibo to seemingly express dissatisfaction:
In a surprise move, Chinese film director Jia Zhangke, a winner of a series of international film awards including Cannes, posted a pic of a dark sky with caption “The film industry, could not be managed this way.” Seems a complaint about Beijing’s tightened censorship pic.twitter.com/HI97BOjuz7
— Jane Li (@Jane_Li911) June 15, 2019
At time of writing, his Weibo post had been liked over 60,000 times, forwarded more than 30,000 times, and received in excess of 2,500 comments, however those comments are no longer viewable by users.
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