Uncensored Chinese film shows at Berlin festival

By Mike Collett-White
Friday, February 16, 2007; 3:41 PM

BERLIN (Reuters) - An uncensored version of a Chinese film was screened at the Berlin film festival on Friday, its producer said, and the director told reporters she hoped she did not live to regret making the controversial picture.

"Lost in Beijing" is in competition in Berlin, and has been at the center of lengthy negotiations between its makers and Chinese state censors who had objections to some of the content including scenes involving sex and gambling.

Producer Fang Li said that a compromise was finally agreed between the two sides, but there was insufficient time for the "Lost in Beijing" team to get two versions ready for Berlin -- one with English, and one with German subtitles.

"This is to confirm that we are only able to provide Berlinale with the original market version (uncensored) of 'Ping Guo' ('Lost in Beijing')," Fang told the festival in an e-mail, which the Berlinale forwarded to Reuters.

"We failed to finish the production work making both English and German subtitled prints for your festival, because we did not have enough time after the censor approval from China."

Fang was the producer of another film, "Summer Palace," shown at Cannes film festival last year without official approval, resulting in its director Lou Ye getting a five-year ban from making movies.

Li Yu, director of "Lost in Beijing," was asked what repercussions there would be from the Berlin screening.

"I don't know as I haven't gone back to China yet," she told reporters following a press screening. "What I hope is I won't have any cause to regret making this film," she added through an interpreter. "Perhaps it may be difficult when I go back."

"If you are a director in China, you need to come to terms with this problem, otherwise you don't make films at all."


Fang said he believed the problem had more to do with age than politics.

"Often it is very old people who make decisions, and it is mainly a conflict of generations," he said.

The main objections from Chinese authorities were sex, gambling, scenes where an older woman has a relationship with a younger man and also how the behavior of the four main characters reflects on Chinese society, Fang explained.

In the movie, much of it shot with hand-held camera to portray the bustle of Beijing, Ping Guo has a child but there is confusion over who the father is.

Her husband seeks to sell the baby to a wealthy club owner who believes it is his, but the arising complications sorely test relations both between Ping Guo and her husband and the club owner and his wife.

The film examines modern sexuality and how a booming economy produces as many losers as winners.

"Business is developing extremely fast in China which is a good thing, but sometimes people can't always keep pace and that's why psychological problems arise," said Li.

Echoing the opinion of other Chinese film makers in Berlin this year, she added that part of the problem was there was no ratings system, only a decision to allow a film or not.

Fang sought to take on the responsibility for screening the uncut version.

"I have decided which version would be screened today," he said. "It's got nothing to do with the director."

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