Cannes: Jia Zhangke Talks China and Censorship

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"A lot of people think money can solve everything," he says about the country.

A moving drama on the problems facing Chinese society, a world premiere in Cannes and questions of whether ordinary Chinese will ever get to see it.

Jia Zhangke has been here before.

The acclaimed Chinese director, winner of the best screenplay honor in Cannes in 2013 for A Touch of Sin, returns to the Croisette this year with his competition title Mountains May Depart. Like Touch of Sin, Mountains was pre-approved by China's censors before its Cannes submission.

That didn't help Touch of Sin, however, after the government in Bejing decided to block the film's release. “Hopefully, this time, the film will be able to be seen in China without any ... complications,” Zhangke tells THR in Cannes. “It's a very complicated issue, but in 2013 the government thought the violence depicted in Touch of Sin would inspire copycats, with people imitating this violent anti-government, anti-social behavior."

He added: "I kept trying to persuade them that there is no way a film could create chaos and violence in a society. One shouldn't blame the director."

There's no violence in Mountains and no overt criticism of the Chinese government. But the film, whose story spans a quarter century, from 1999 to a projected future in 2025, is highly critical of China's version of turbo capitalism and the damage it has done to the society.

“(The society in China) is very money-driven right now. A lot of people think money can solve everything,” Zhangke says. “As a society we are starting to reflect on this, on the damage it is causing to our personal and emotional relationships.”