Melbourne Film Festival attacked by hackers over Uyghur invitation

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The Melbourne International Film Festival ticketing site was attacked by international hackers after the festival refused to withdraw a film. In addition, six films have been withdrawn from the festival.

These events all happened in the wake of controversy about the festival’s invitation to Rebiya Kadeer, president of the World Uyghur Congress. Kadeer appears in the 55-minute documentary The 10 Conditions of Love, directed by Australian filmmaker Jeff Daniels. Kadeer, whom Beijing blames for inciting recent ethnic violence in Western China, was granted a visa to attend the festival. A representative of the Chinese Government rang the festival and argued on the phone for around an hour that the film should be withdrawn. The festival refused the request.

Shortly after, the festival website was hacked and had to close down for a day. A week later, the website was hacked again, and the Chinese hackers booked out all film sessions on the website. The festival cleared these bookings, but they were rebooked from China very quickly.

In a different campaign against the inclusion of The 10 Conditions of Love, all four Chinese films that were scheduled in the festival were withdrawn. The festival scheduled two Chinese replacements, but these were also withdrawn by the producers. MFF spokeswoman Louise Heseltine said it was very disappointing that the films, which had been sold out, could not be shown. “It’s a major inconvenience—people have bought tickets for these sessions and now we’ve had to find replacement films.” The festival fears that this incident could affect the booking of Chinese films in future years.

The campaign against the documentary did not end there. Australia’s ambassador to Beijing was called in over the film.

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The Australian cinema chains Greater Union (most Australian states except Queensland) and Birch Carroll & Coyle (Queensland) have rebranded their major cinema complexes. All of the complexes that contain both Gold Class and large-screen cinemas in the complex have been rebranded as “Event Cinemas.” This has come with a new logo and appears in all newspaper advertising. The complexes without Gold Class have retained their original Greater Union/Birch Carroll & Coyle branding. Many of the complexes are getting a makeover in conjunction with the new branding.

E-mail your Australia/New Zealand news items to David Pearce at insidemovies@hotmail.com.