Censorship is a huge problem in China, as it is in Iran and some other countries, and governments are becoming less and less tolerant of criticism. We have just seen it at Cannes, at the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs. This, along with Critics’ Week, are two important components that accompany the main Cannes Film Festival. A “surprise” film by Chinese filmmaker Liu Jian was released at the eleventh hour. It was an animation, A portrait of the artist as a young man.
Unfortunately, it was to be the only Chinese film in a Cannes section this year.
While it’s thought the ongoing Covid pandemic in Beijing and Shanghai may have been the reason the film couldn’t be included in the Directors’ Fortnight, it’s also possible that it was just an excuse.
Because, Liu fell under the blow of Chinese censors in 2017 with his second animated feature film, Have A Nice Day. It was created in Berlin and was the very first work of its kind to have been performed in Competition. But the work, a black comedy, was pulled from the Annecy Film Festival in France, apparently under pressure from Beijing.
Iranian Jafar Panahi also had to deal with such music. Banned from making films for 20 years, he embarked on a campaign of defiance, discovering inventive methods of getting behind the camera. His Taxi, which won the Golden Bear in Berlin a few years ago, was a classic example. He disguised himself as a taxi driver and took his taxi through the streets of Tehran to pick up passengers. He placed a small webcam on the dashboard and recorded his conversations with them. A beautiful film came out of it.
Art is a restless creature and cannot be chained. Cannes once obtained a film from an Iranian director hidden in a USB stick, which in turn was buried in a cake and smuggled into the Festival.
The effervescence never fails in Cannes.
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