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The Beijing version of Time Out magazine ran an obituary this week marking “the death of independent cinema in China” after the 10th Beijing Independent Film Festival was canceled for a second year in a row.
“Here lies the death of independent cinema. It did not die of natural causes,” ran a report by the magazine’s film editor Simon Zhou, chronicling how the festival was stopped by police. Last year’s festival was also banned, although a power failure was blamed.
The film business is tightly controlled in China and independent cinema has grapple with censorship, police control and other restrictions.
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Festival director Wang Hongwei, who is a regular in Jia Zhangke movies, was ordered by authorities to stop the event.
Instead, participants were, bizarrely, allowed to watch the movies on DVDs in groups of two or three, but no more than five. Organizers were told if they tried to go ahead with the festival anyway, the electricity from the village of Songzhuang, home to many artists in the capital, would be cut, and Wang would be put in prison.
After the festival was canceled, participants who had come from as far away as Iran and Sweden, staged a funeral march, with a festival poster standing in for the corpse.
“Police arrived with an official notice from on high and set up surveillance teams to quash any illicit viewing … this is a sad time for Beijing’s film community, and for Chinese creative culture as a whole,” Time Out Beijing’s editor James Wilkinson wrote.
The article was subsequently picked up by the news magazine Caijing.
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