Posted by Joel Martinsen on Wednesday, November 14, 2007 at 12:27 PM
SARFT was here.
The version of Ang Lee's Lust, Caution that is showing on the mainland is 13 minutes shorter than the version seen by most of the rest of the world. As with all edits made to pass the SARFT censors, cuts to Lust, Caution are not supposed to affect the film in any material way.
That claim would be debatable, except for the fact that a directive was handed down ordering the media not to debate it. However, one man is not taking things lying down. Dong Yanbin (董彦斌), a PhD student at the China University of Politics and Law, is suing UME International Cineplex and SARFT over the edited version of Lust, Caution. He says that by showing a cut version of the film, UME infringed on his rights as a consumer; SARFT earns his ire for refusing to implement a ratings system that would allow adult films to be treated separately from children's movies.
Coincidentally, UME International Cineplex is run by Ng See Yuen, a Hong Kong producer who has been a tireless advocate of a film ratings system for the mainland. Perhaps not so coincidentally, there was also a directive handed down ordering the Chinese media to "avoid hyping Lust, Caution and the film ratings system."
Here's how the Beijing Times describes Dong's case:
Dong had his lawyer file the suit yesterday. He alleges that the theater infringed on the public's rights, and that SARFT's delay in setting up a film ratings system violates the public's interests. He wants an apology, 500 yuan for emotional damages, and screenings of the uncut version of Lust, Caution "for adults like [him]."
UME argues that it has no control over which version of Lust, Caution it is able to show: "All showings of this film nationwide are of the cut version. We wanted to show the complete version, too, but it's up to SARFT whether it gets cut." The UME manager also pointed out that Ang Lee himself made the cuts in order to get the film certified for distribution in the mainland.
And it turns out that Dong Yanbin's suit may be impossible to file. According to the Beijing Times article, the Xicheng court said that Dong would have to provide an uncut version of the film as evidence before it would register his case.
UPDATE: At Global Voices Online, Meng Zhang translates some online reactions to Dong's suit.
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Big in China: An adapted excerpt from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China, just published this month. Author Alan Paul tells the story of arriving in Beijing as a trailing spouse, starting a blues band, raising kids and trying to make sense of China.
Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
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