Thirty-Six People Determine Movies Seen by 1.3 Billion

March 6, 2007 12:00 am Last Updated: March 6, 2007 12:00 am

CHINA—A Chinese film censorship system became the center of attention again when the Chinese movie Apple was shown at the 57th International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, in February.

The 36 members of the Film Examination Committee under China's state-run Administration of Radio, Film, and Television decide what movies can be shown in China based on 11 sets of criteria.

Film freelancer Hu Ge, of Shanghai, said: “As far as I know, no one in the film industry likes the examination, but there are no other options. All the movies must pass the examination, and no one can change this.”

China Legal Evening News reported that the members of Film Examination Committee are not all government officials, that they come from different professions, such as famous professor Zheng Dongtian of the Beijing Film Academy's directing department.

However, Hu has a different understanding: “The examination is focused on ideology. The so-called 'fair examination by members from different fields' is in name only, and no one can trust that. The degree of control is always changing based on the view of the Communist Party leaders. For example, in the 90s, the leaders believed it was all right to loosen up on control. Later, when the leaders changed, the control began tightening up again.”

Among the 11 criteria the File Examination Committee uses, only one is a technical standard relating to lighting and sound. The remaining 10 criteria are based on current ideology.

Several years ago, the movie Devils on the Doorstep, directed by Jiang Wen, failed to pass the examination board because the movie's viewpoint was incorrect—it failed to reflect the Chinese people's fighting spirit during the Japanese invasion (1937 to 1945).

Renowned writer Mr. Ma Jian commented: “This examination system is the same as the control over publication and news reporting. Film is among the public media, and the examination is very strict. There will be more underground or semi-underground films produced in China because of such examination.”

Many films that are not allowed to be shown in China will be published overseas first and later sold back in China in the form of DVDs or VCDs. The 36-member committee of the Administration of Radio, Film, and Television only controls which movies can be shown in theaters, while the distribution of DVDs and VCDs is controlled by the Ministry of Culture and local branches of the Bureau of Culture.

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