Chinese Director Jia Zhangke's 'A Touch of Sin' Leaks to Piracy Sites

3:40 AM PST 03/04/2014 by Patrick Brzeski
Getty
Jia Zhangke

With its China release still held up by government censors, the appearance of the award-winning film on torrent sites is bad news for the director and his investors.

An early version of Chinese director Jia Zhangke's critically acclaimed film A Touch of Sin turned up on top piracy sites over the weekend. On torrent providers such as The Pirate Bay, the illegal copy has already logged thousands of downloads. 

The development is bad news for Jia and his investors in China, where the film has yet to get a theatrical release. 

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While Jia says government regulators gave him permission to screen the film at the Cannes Film Festival last May -- where he won the best screenplay award -- he has so far been denied a permit for an official release at home. Despite the film's many references to issues deemed politically sensitive by Chinese authorities in the past, Jia has consistently told the press that he was confident the film would eventually land a local release.

As the early version of his film spread online, the art-house director took to Weibo, China's version of Twitter, to lament the situation.

"I spoke with the authorities again yesterday afternoon to discuss the release of the film," he tweeted. "That very night the leaked torrent spread online. I apologize to my investment partners for losing the Chinese mainland market. My own company will bear the financial responsibility."

A Touch of Sin got a limited release in the U.S. in October. It has also been a favorite on the international festival circuit. 

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The movie is told in four loosely linked parts, each based on a true-life violent incident in contemporary China. There are references to corruption, prostitution and the many hardships faced by ordinary Chinese during the country's "economic miracle."

So far, the pirated copy of the film, which doesn't include subtitles, presents viewers -- whether Chinese or international -- with some considerable linguistic barriers. The movie's multiple narratives take place in four far-flung regions of China, from the booming southern megalopolis of Guangzhou to the northern mountainous province of Shanxi. To fully comprehend the film, a viewer would need to understand four Chinese dialects.

Jia says he and his backers at Shanghai Film Studio are pushing on with their campaign to sway the censors.

"I have been working hard to get the movie in theaters. It is something worth doing, and I won't stop trying," he posted to his Sina Weibo account. 

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