'Beijing' producers banned from industry

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BEIJING -- China's highest film regulatory body on Thursday banned the production company of "Lost in Beijing" from the film industry for two years, the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television said on its Web site.

SARFT ordered that Beijing Laurel Films and producer Fang Li be banned for "seriously violating" regulations including online distribution of "pornographic" trailers and clips from the film, and for screening an uncensored -- and therefore unauthorized -- cut at the 57th Berlin Film Festival in February.

Laurel Films and Fang also were ordered Thursday to halt distribution of the film in cinemas, as an audiovisual product, and any online broadcasts of it within 15 days of the order. The censored version film already is available in stores via legitimate DVD distribution. Whether the ban referred only to the uncensored version of the film or all versions was not clear.

The film's co-producers, Beijing Polybona Film Distribution and Beijing Zhong Hong Real Estate Development Group, were severely reprimanded but not restricted from operating in the film industry.

The authorized version of director Li Yu's film hit Chinese theaters in late November after about 15 minutes of racy footage was removed, and the release date delayed from May until August and then finally November.

"Lost in Beijing" ("Ping Guo," or "Apple," in Mandarin, the name of the film's main character) follows the story of Apple (Fan Bingbing), a foot masseuse who is regularly fondled and later raped by her boss, Tony Leung Ka-Fai. When Apple becomes pregnant after the rape, she and her husband (Tong Dawei) agree to give the baby to Leung and his wife in exchange for monetary compensation. However, when the baby is born, Tong discovers the child is his, and bribes a doctor to change the baby's blood type instead of forfeiting the money.

Aside from its sexual content, the story shows the increasing disparity between the rich and poor in China, with foot massage parlor boss Leung driving a Mercedes, while window washer Tong rides to work on a bicycle.

This is not Fang's first brush with the wrath of SARFT. Fang also was the producer for "Summer Palace," a romance set against the backdrop of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, whose director Lou Ye was banned from mainland filmmaking for five years in 2006.

Lou did not clear the film with the state censors before going to the Festival de Cannes, where it screened without official approval.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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