Government recently intervened to stop the gritty animated crime movie Have
a Nice Day from being shown at the Annecy International Animated Film
Festival in France, making the cartoon just the latest in a long list of
Chinese movies that have aroused the ire of Government censors, audiences or
both. China’s history is full of cinematic controversies large and small, and
the past ten years have had plenty. Below are the most controversial Chinese
films of the past decade.
Ang Lee’s erotic
spy thriller kicked up a fuss for its graphic sex scenes, but its greatest
controversy in Mainland China wasn’t because of all the heavy petting. Seven
minutes worth of cuts ensured that the movie could come out in the Mainland,
but star Tang Wei was banned from all media in the country for a period.
Speculation had it that this was less about her sex scenes than the fact that
her character was romantically involved with a Japanese collaborator.
City of Life and Death
brutal, violent portrayal of the Rape of Nanking didn’t stop his movie from
getting a Mainland release and becoming a breakout critical and commercial hit.
Including a sympathetic Japanese soldier among his cast of characters, however,
didn’t just lead to the movie nearly being taken out of cinemas, but also
resulted in death threats against Lu and his family.
normal for a Hong Kong movie to get blocked from release in the Mainland. What
isn’t normal is for the star of that movie to applaud the fact that it’s been
banned. Derek Yee’s Shinjuku Incident was billed as the first serious
role for Jackie Chan – so serious that it was banned from release in China for
violence. When asked about censorship shortly afterwards, Chan opined that
Chinese people need to be controlled and said he wasn’t sure if freedom was
good or not, kicking off plenty of consternation in his home town of Hong Kong.
The Story of an Abducted Woman
least-known and most morally abhorrent of all the movies on this list, The
Story of an Abducted Woman tells the 'inspiring' true story of a woman who
chose to stay with her husband and become an award-winning teacher in a rural
Hebei village – after being sold into marriage there by human traffickers. The
movie conveniently leaves out parts of her ordeal such as being raped, forced
to stay and beaten by her husband. It’s currently the lowest-rated movie on
Chinese film fan site Douban.
The Great Wall
Zhang Yimou and The Great Wall’s international conglomerate of producers
probably thought that casting Matt Damon in this made-in-China fantasy action
flick could safely bridge the Chinese and American markets. Then
Taiwanese-American actress Constance Wu called out the casting of Matt Damon as
whitewashing, giving the movie a wave of negative press in America. Even as the
controversy made a big splash in the US, there was no equivalent outrage in
China, but The Great Wall still fell short of the box office it needed
A Touch of Sin
Zhangke was already favourite of international critics, but A Touch of Sin
garnered him a new level of praise for its shocking, stylish violence and
portrayal of China’s social problems. That same international attention may
have spooked Chinese censors, however. Originally approved for production by
the Government, the film was then blocked from cinemas in the country. What’s
probably the most lauded Chinese movie of the 21st century is now just as
famous for being banned as it is for its filmmaking.