Banned Chinese director enters film at Cannes

Lou endured previous ban with French festival entry

HONG KONG -- A prominent director who was banned in China for screening a movie at Cannes without government approval has defied Beijing again by entering another film at the prestigious French film festival.

Among the films competing for Cannes’ top Palme d’Or prize announced Thursday is Lou Ye’s “Spring Fever.” The news marks the re-emergence of the Chinese filmmaker after officials banned him from making movies in the country for five years after he showed his last film, “Summer Palace,” at Cannes without government approval in 2006.

In making “Spring Fever,” Lou risks once again incurring the wrath of Chinese film officials.

Little is known about the film. Cannes organizers did not announce details of the project Thursday. The Chinese Web site reported Thursday that “Spring Fever” was secretly shot in the eastern city of Nanjing and is a drama set in 2007 about romantic entanglements between three friends.

Lou’s producer, Nai An, said in a phone interview that Lou is editing the film in Paris, France, but refused to reveal its plot. She said she and the director weren’t worried about running afoul of the Chinese government again and had not heard from officials.

“We’re not thinking about it too much. We’re just doing our job. We’re just making a movie,” said Nai, who was also banned for five years because of “Summer Palace.”

Luan Guozhi, director of international co-operation at China’s Film Bureau, told the AP that Lou did not seek approval to enter “Spring Fever” at Cannes but declined to comment further because he didn’t know details about the film or the Cannes competition lineup.

Lou has had several run-ins with Chinese censors. His 2003 film “Purple Butterfly,” a film set against Sino-Japanese hostilities starring Zhang Ziyi, was allowed to show in China. “Suzhou River,” about the relationship between a courier and an alcohol smuggler’s daughter, wasn’t.

“Summer Palace” was especially problematic because it depicts the Chinese military’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy student protesters in June 1989, which killed at least hundreds, and features explicit sex scenes and full frontal nudity.

The Tiananmen Square crackdown remains a taboo subject in China because the government has branded the protests a “counterrevolutionary riot.” Chinese censors are known to be prudish about sex scenes.

But Lou’s qualification for the prestigious Palme d’Or competition for the third time solidifies his status as a top Chinese director. “Summer Palace” and “Purple Butterfly” both qualified for the contest, but neither won.

The ban has helped boost Lou’s cachet in the West. The U.S. edition of the DVD for “Summer Palace,” released by Palm Pictures, prominently states on its cover that the movie was banned by the Chinese government.