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HONG KONG — After sitting in censorial limbo for more than three weeks, Django Unchained might soon be freed for release on mainland China, with local media claiming a May 7 release has been set for a version with full-frontal nudity removed.
Sony says it has not been notified of any release date.
Since the film was abruptly pulled from the country’s screens on the morning of April 11 — with some cinemas actually having to stop already-underway screenings after receiving directives from official distributors China Film Group — speculation has abounded about when Quentin Tarantino’s film will be green-lit again for release, if ever.
Quoting an individual with knowledge of the situation, sina.com reports that the film’s nudity has been removed and that the new version will be released in early May.
Meanwhile, a post on the TNABO microblog — one of the more authoritative sources of film industry news and statistics in China — said Django Unchained will be “returning to the big screens on May 7” after undergoing another round of censorship, with its specific reference to “big screens” pointing to how the cancellation of the original release has led to film buffs reporting having watched the film on illegal downloads or pirated discs.
The film’s representatives in the country, the Chinese arm of Sony Pictures Entertainment, did not return The Hollywood Reporter’s calls requesting clarification about this latest twist in the Django release saga. Apart from a simple statement on Apr. 11 from Sony’s Los Angeles-based spokesman Steve Elzer — he said his team “regrets that ‘Django Unchained’ has been removed from theaters and is working with the Chinese authorities to determine whether the film can be rescheduled” — the company has declined to comment on the situation.
The Chinese film regulators’ brutal approach in yanking Django Unchained from cinemas has led to a public outcry which has spread beyond the Chinese blogosphere into real-life domain. In a speech delivered to hundreds of students at the Beijing Film Academy and in the presence of China Film Group vice-president Zhang Qiang on Tuesday, University of South California’s School of Cinematic Arts dean Elizabeth Daley said the incident would still be quoted several years down the line as an example of the risks foreign film companies face when doing business in China.
With both the authorities and Sony refusing to reveal more details about the cancellation of the original release, rumors have spread about what exactly led to the officials ordering the film to be pulled from cinemas — or why the film was actually allowed to pass through the country’s stringent censorial regime in the first place.
Despite having its bloodshed toned down — Tarantino himself adjusted the color and extent of blood being spilled, Sony China executive Zhang Miao said in a report run on the Southern Metropolis Daily two days before the film opened — the version of Django made available to Chinese cinemas contain scenes of nudity, which are usually considered no-go in the country.
But other theories about the incident have also been in circulation, too. Sources who decline to be named have told The Hollywood Reporter that the film has fallen foul with the authorities because officials consider its narrative of a suppressed class rebelling against their tyrannical rulers of being too politically explosive in a country frequently criticized for providing minimal political emancipation for its citizens.
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