China censors ban 'Beijing' from Berlin fest


BEIJING -- China's censors have banned "Lost in Beijing," by emerging female director Li Yu, from competing in this month's Berlin International Film Festival, the film's producer said Thursday.

Producer Fang Li said that Li was unavailable "due to the bad situation we are facing now. She is not in a mood to do anything since our film has been officially banned from going to the Berlinale."

Fang said he was called to a meeting at the Film Bureau in Beijing on Wednesday afternoon and handed a written ban that said, "According to current regulations, your film needs further modifications and therefore is not allowed to go for the 57th Berlinale."

A source near the festival confirmed that the film in its current form had been rejected by the Chinese government, adding that the option of making further cuts remained a possibility.

"It is banned for Berlin only at this moment," Fang said in an email. "If we cut out all the things they wanted us to cut we may still receive an OK, but the film is completely destroyed."

Fang said he and Li would continue to lobby the Film Bureau until the last minute before deciding whether to go to Berlin in spite of Beijing.

"We will fight for one more week before Berlin to see how things are going. We will only decide what do to then," he said.

A festival representative declined comment other than to say they were awaiting final word from Beijing.

The ban trashed hopes Fang expressed last week that a compromise struck with China's Film Bureau censors might help Li avoid the controversy that enveloped director Lou Ye's "Summer Palace" at 2006's Festival de Cannes.

Through his Beijing-based Laurel Films, Fang also produced "Palace," which went to France in May without Beijing's approval and got Lou banned from filmmaking in China for five years.

"We have good communication with the Film Bureau this time," Fang said of "Lost," which is about the sexually charged relationship between a Beijing massage parlor boss (Tony Leung) and a female employee (Fan Bingbing).

"Previously, a film like this would have had no room to negotiate, but this time both sides are making great compromises," Fang said at the time.

While "Palace" had plenty of sex to offend censors, Lou said that it was his treatment of the politically taboo Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 that prompted the Film Bureau's refusal to examine the film on the grounds that the print submitted was "technically flawed."

Whether it was sex or something else in "Lost" that drew the ban was not immediately clear.

Born in 1973 in the coastal province of Shandong southeast of Beijing, Li has gained modest recognition in recent years on the international film festival circuit for her first two films: "Fish and Elephant" (2001) and "Dam Street" (2005).

Paris-based Films Distribution is handling international sales on "Lost."

Scott Roxborough in Cologne, Germany, contributed to this report.