New York Film Festival Director Protests Beijing Indie Fest Shutdown

NY Film Festival director Kent Jones (right)

The heads of the Berlinale Forum and various international festivals also express "deep concern" in a petition

The heads of the New York Film Festival and several international festivals have protested the shutdown of the 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival by Chinese authorities over the weekend.

A petition signed by film festival organizers in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America expressed support for the Beijing event and the Li Xianting Film Fund, which organizes it.

Among the signatories are New York Film Festival director Kent Jones, Film Society of Lincoln Center director of programming Dennis Lim, Berlinale Forum head Christoph Terhechte, Torino Film Festival director Emanuela Martini and Nashen Moodley, director of the Sydney Film Festival.

The Beijing indie festival has tried to provide a platform for independent cinema, but China's ruling Communist Party has been tightening the screws on movies from outside its highly monitored and regulated film industry.

Critic Li Xianting, one of the organizers, said this weekend that police searched his office and confiscated materials he had gathered over more than 10 years.

"As independent film festivals and supporters of independent cinema, we have learned with deep concern that the Chinese government and police authorities have prevented the 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival, based in Songzhuang, Beijing, from opening last weekend, August 23rd, and detained its organizers Wang Hongwei, Fan Rong and Li Xianting for several hours," the petition says. "We are also deeply concerned that BIFF’s sponsoring organization, the Li Xianting Film Fund, has been raided, and the entirety of its invaluable archives of independent Chinese cinema have reportedly been confiscated."

The people who signed the petition also called upon the Chinese authorities "to permit the Beijing Independent Film Festival to pursue its mission to nurture and exhibit a full range of alternative cinematic voices in China, to allow the festival to operate without interference and to allow the Li Xianting Film Fund to continue its vital mission of archiving and supporting independent Chinese filmmakers."
Other signatories of the petition include Goteborg International Film Festival artistic director Jonas Holmberg, Hong Kong Independent Film Festival artistic director Vincent Chui, Rutger Wolfson, the director of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Taiwan International Documentary Festival program director Wood Lin and Alonso Izaguirre, director
 of Peru's Lima Independiente Festival Internacional de Cine.

Twitter: @georgszalai