China censors OK 'Babel' despite sex, violence

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BEIJING -- China's censors have cleared multiple-Oscar nominee "Babel" to screen on the mainland, local media reported Friday, citing an unnamed source at the Film Bureau.

Foreign distributors expressed surprise that "Babel" had cleared China's censors, who historically have rejected sex and violence in the absence of a ratings system here. Only 20 revenue-sharing imports are cleared for release in China each year.

News of "Babel" clearing the censors' examination was reported by daily newspaper the Beijing News and popular online news portal Sina.com. The Film Bureau could not be reached for comment.

State-run film giant China Film Group, the country's sole licensed film importer, would not confirm a "Babel" approval. However, one CFG official said he hoped to distribute the best picture nominee during the national holiday week following the Lunar New Year on Feb. 18.

"We could do very, very well at the boxoffice because of the free publicity" generated by any Oscars won by "Babel" at the Feb. 25 Academy Awards, Yuan Wenqiang, deputy director of CFG's Import and Export Co., said.

CFG's share of ticket sales from "Babel" could stand to be greater than the share it typically gets from most Hollywood imports because "Babel" is understood to have been bought on a flat fee basis, one Hollywood executive familiar with the situation said.

Most U.S. films passed for screening in China see CFG share about 13% of the boxoffice take with the big studios.
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