'Black Coal, Thin Ice' Clears China Censorship, Gets March Release Date

Courtesy of Fortissimo
"Black Coal, Thin Ice"

Film Bureau passes Diao Yinan’s gritty noir set in coal mining country.

The Golden Bear winner at the Berlin Film Festival, Black Coal, Thin Ice, Diao Yinan's offbeat contemporary noir, will be released in China on March 21, having cleared censorship.

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There had been concerns that the movie might not make it past the Film Bureau because the subject matter of the film examines contemporary Chinese issues, which is not always a favored theme for the censors.

Lead actor Liao Fan, who plays an alcoholic former detective in the quirky noir movie, won the Silver Bear for best actor, the first Chinese actor to win in this category.

Black Coal, Thin Ice was the fourth mainland Chinese movie to win the Golden Bear, after Xie Fei's Women From the Lake of Scented Souls in 1993, Zhang Yimou's Red Sorghum in 1988 and Wang Quan'an's Tuya's Marriage in 2007.

The coal mining industry is politically sensitive in China, and the government doesn't like movies set in the business. There have been numerous corruption cases centered around private mine owners in northeast China as well as appalling mine disasters because owners cut costs in the wrong places.

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The film's producer and director had previously said the movie had passed censorship, but no date had been formalized.

Another film that was in competition at Berlin was Ning Hao's No Man's Land. It had been banned for over four years for its "nihilist" theme, before finally securing a release in recent months. A previous Silver Bear winner, 2003's Blind Shaft by Li Yang, which also took place in the mining industry, was banned in China.