Censorship row rocks Bollywood

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Asia / Pacific Roundabout

A bitter dispute recently erupted in Bollywood over the very hard-handed—and some claim all too often unreasonable—censorship measures implemented by India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). On June 8, the producers of Udta Punjab (2016), a crime drama revolving around drug abuse among teenagers in the northern Indian state of Punjab, filed a petition with the Mumbai High Court against CBFC for demanding 13 cuts to the film before it could be released on June 17. According to local media, the censorship board wanted all references to Punjab removed, including in the title. CBFC chairman Pahlaj Nihalani was quoted in Indian newspapers as saying that although the film’s story and characters were fictitious, “the whole movie is [set in] Punjab and [the producers] have taken [place] names from Punjab. They need to make the cuts and take the [release] certificate.” Prior to going to court, one of the movie’s producers, Anurag Kashyap, on June 6 had tweeted that the CBFC’s stance was “akin to living in North Korea.”

Although the circumstances are unclear, it appears that seeking help from the High Court was successful. Just two days before its scheduled release, Udta Punjab was cleared—with only one cut and an Adult rating because of its graphic depiction of drug abuse and explicit language. Foreign films are not immune to the censorship body’s sometimes overzealous handling either. Just last year, the CBFC blocked an already very much toned-down version of Fifty Shades Of Grey from getting into Indian cinemas. And the latest installment in the James Bond 007 franchise, Spectre (2015), had to concede to cutting two kissing scenes because the CBFC deemed them “unsuitable” for Indian audiences.

SIFF 2016 Wraps with Golden Goblet Awards

This year’s Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF), one of Asia’s most important film events, ran June 11-19, setting several new records in its 19-year-long history. In competition for the coveted Goblet Awards, the festival received an unprecedented total of 2,403 films from 114 countries. Meanwhile, almost 600 different movies were screened in theatres across the eastern Chinese port city, more than ever before, generating over RMB20 million ($3.04 mil.) in ticket sales.

The festival came to a lavish conclusion on June 19 with its Golden Goblet Awards Ceremony, attended by a roster of Asian and international film stars including U.S. actress Meg Ryan, Malaysia’s Michelle Yeoh, and Japanese musician Yoshiki Hayashi (“X Japan”), who posed for fans and press alike during the Closing Red Carpet event. This year’s Grand Jury for the Main Competition was chaired by celebrated Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica, who led a jury panel comprising Canadian director Atom Egoyan, Hong Kong actress Karena Lam, Italian director Daniele Luchetti, Chinese director and screenwriter Tseden Pema, and Mauritanian director and producer Abderrahmane Sissako.

“The world is full of so many different cultures, not just one. The current rise of China and its culture is sure to have a huge impact on people everywhere,” Kusturica said. “Film in China is growing at a dizzying rate. The country has more than 20,000 cinema screens and produces over 600 movies every year. China will certainly continue to significantly influence the global film industry in the future.”

Meanwhile, Japanese filmmaker Kazuo Hara presided over the Documentary Film Jury, made up of Chinese-Canadian director Yung Chang and German filmmaker Lorenz Knauer. After an enormously difficult selection process due to the tremendous quality of the entered films, the panels presented the Golden Goblet Awards to their recipients. The Golden Goblet trophy for Best Feature Film went to De Lan (China), directed by Jie Liu. Italy’s See You in Texas, directed by Vito Palmieri, received the Grand Jury Prix. Finland’s Antti Jokinen was selected as best Director for Flowers of Evil. The award for Best Actor was accepted by China’s Ye Liu for his lead role in Cock and Bull, while the Best Actress prize went to Japanese actress Naomi Fujiyama for her work in The Projects. Best Screenplay was awarded to Andreas Gruber for Hanna’s Sleeping Dogs, an Austrian-German co-production which Gruber also directed. Chinese DP Daming Guo received the award for Best Cinematography for Soul on a String. Outstanding Artistic Achievement was acknowledged with a Golden Goblet trophy for the Philippines’ Hamog (“Haze”), directed by Ralston Jover. The award for Best Animated Film was given to Molly Monster, a Germany-Sweden-Switzerland co-production directed by Ted Sieger, Michael Ekblad and Matthias Bruhn. Wrapping things up, the award for Best Documentary Film went to When Two Worlds Collide (Peru), directed by Heidi Brandenburg and Mathew Orzel.

SIFF New Talent Award Proves Asia’s Creativity

As in previous years, SIFF also included the Asian New Talent Awards to highlight the region’s rising importance for film production and theatrical exhibition alike, with China today being the second-largest movie market after the United States. By introducing the Asian New Talent Awards in 2004, SIFF aimed at acquainting the world with the next waves of young and gifted Asian filmmakers and furthering the development of Asian movies. Since their inauguration, the Awards have recognized many of the region’s top emerging moviemakers, including Mainland China directors Ning Hao and Gao Qunshu and Iranian filmmaker Hassan Yektapanah, accelerating their stellar rise to fame. This year chaired by renowned Hong Kong director Derek Tung-Shing Yee (Full Throttle, Viva Erotica), the 2016 jury included some of the most prominent names in the Asian film industry, like Korean producer Jonathan Kim (Silmido), Japanese director Koji Fukada (Harmonium), Chinese director Zhang Meng (The Piano in a Factory), and Chinese actress Jiang Yiyan (Nanking Nanking).

Commenting on his criteria for determining outstanding films, jury president Yee emphasized the importance of artistry. “Young, talented filmmakers need opportunities to practice their skills, even in inconspicuous positions in the film industry," he said.

This year’s awards drew nominations from a wide range of Asian nations and regions, including Mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, India and Israel. The jury eventually presented the Best Film award to Indian drama Thithi, written and directed by Raam Pratap Reddy, while Best Director was won by Taiwan’s Yujie Chen for Lost Daughter. Raam Pratap Reddy climbed the stage again to also accept his trophy for Best Script Writer. Thailand’s Puttipong Aroonpheng was honored as Best Cinematographer for The Island Funeral. China’s Yi Sun received the Best Actress award for Pleasure. Love, while her male counterpart Yong Qin was recognized as Best Actor for his work in Nirvana.

For inquiries and feedback, contact Thomas Schmid at thomas.schmid@filmjournal.com.