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When China Central Television aired V for Vendetta last Friday, viewers reacted in disbelief over the fact that the 2005 film — which some believed had been banned from the airwaves — had surfaced on the broadcast despite its anti-government subject matter.
The Associated Press reports that the airing of the movie, co-starring Hugo Weaving as a masked rebel in a futuristic, fascist Britain and Natalie Portman as his ally, shocked viewers who took to the internet to quote this line from V: “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.”
“Oh God, CCTV unexpectedly put out V for Vendetta. I had always believed that film was banned in China!” Shen Chen, a media pundit, was quoted as having written to his 350,000-plus followers on the social media site Sina Weibo.
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According to the AP, V for Vendetta never played at Chinese theaters and it’s unknown whether the James McTeigue-directed thriller, based on a comic book, was ever officially banned in the country. The news service cites a post on the Communist Party’s People’s Daily website saying it had been banned from broadcast — however, a representative for the agency in charge of approving films said he was unaware of an official forbiddance.
Online chatter over the V airing theorizes that two things may have been at play, the AP reports: either CCTV was taking a risk under China’s censorship, or this was a signal that new Communist leader Xi Jinping is committed to reform.
Although the Chinese government oversees print media, TV, radio and social media sites such as Weibo, CCTV — which is the only outlet with a national broadcast license — has full control over whether to censor a foreign film, sources told the AP.
V for Vendetta, produced and distributed by Warner Bros., is available on VOD in China and pirated DVDs of the film have gained it cult popularity. Some Chinese citizens on social media have used a picture of the mask worn by Weaving for their profile photos.
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