Authorities Shut Down Beijing Independent Film Festival

Police cars and guards stand at street junction leading to the Beijing Independent Film Festival. Photo by Ng Han Guan courtesy of Associated Press.

Authorities in China have shut down the Beijing Independent Film Festival, yet again.

Scheduled to take place in an eastern suburb of Beijing in the artist town of Songzhuang, the event is intended to showcase documentaries, feature films, and experimental movies to an appreciative audience.

On Saturday, dozens of directors and film-goers were blocked from entering Li Xianting Film Fund, a small film center found along a rubble road lined with galleries and artists’ studios, reports the LA Times. A notice attached to the door read: “Announcement. The festival is hereby called off.” It was signed by the Xiaopu Village Committee.

Each year, all films slated to debut at the festival are not approved by government censors, causing much grief to its organizers with last minute-cancellations by venues wanting to avoid controversy, or, as with this weekend, physical blockades. In 2012, the power to the screening venue was cut, while in 2013, films were only allowed to be shown to no more than five people at a time. This weekend marked the 11th attempt to go through with the event.

In an interview last week, Wang Hongwei said authorities seemed stricter than in the past, as police and representatives of the government tax bureau made multiple inquiries about the event months before it was being held.

The LA Times reached Wang Hongwei and Fan Ron, the chief administrator, by phone but the pair said they could not discuss the situation. Li Xianting, the film fund head, said via his WeChat social media account that Wang and Fan were detained by the police for five hours last Friday. The Voice of America’s Chinese-language service reported that authorities had confiscated the Film Fund’s computers and films.

Despite the many obstacles, when asked why Li is so persistent in organizing the festival he replied, “Because I think it’s significant.” The week-long festival will most likely not resume.

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