China Release in Question for Jia Zhangke's Cannes Best Screenplay Winner 'A Touch of Sin'

Jia Zhangke

No screening date for the critically acclaimed portrait of Chinese social ills has yet been given, and government authorities have ordered local press not to cover the film.

Mystery surrounds the Chinese release date for director Jia Zhangke's Cannes best screenplay-winning film A Touch of Sin, which was due to be released in China in early November but has not yet been given a screening date.

Dai Yingying, promotions director at Jia's production company, Xstream Pictures, said no date for the film's release had yet been confirmed.

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There have been reports of directives issued by the Chinese government to local media to avoid covering the movie, according to China Digital Times, a website from U.C. Berkeley's journalism school.

CDT quoted an instruction from the Central Propaganda Department saying media should not conduct interviews, report or comment on the film.

Jia is a major figure at international festivals -- his Still Life won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2006 -- but he is rarely seen at home in China.

He had mentioned early November as a possible release date in postings on Weibo, but his Weibo account has gone quiet in recent weeks, except for references to how the film is doing overseas, such as when he won the $100,000 Abu Dhabi Film Festival Prize late last month.

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It has always seemed likely that A Touch of Sin would find it tough to get permission to be shown in Chinese cinemas, due to its provocative subject matter.

The movie is told in four loosely linked parts, each based on a high-profile, violent incident in contemporary China. There are references to corruption, prostitution and the tragic backstory to China's remarkable economic growth, such as a suicide at an assembly plant, similar to the real-life series of suicides at Foxconn in Shenzhen, where Apple products are assembled.

Jia is one of the leading figures of China's so-called "sixth generation" of directors. His early work, such as landmark films The Pickpocket (Xiao Wu, 1997) and Platform (2000), were produced independently, outside of the official Chinese film system.