BEIJING — Cuts to the James Bond pic “Skyfall,” which opened strongly in China after a long delay, have prompted renewed calls for China to introduce a film classification system and clarify the terms of censorship.
“Skyfall” took 32 million yuan ($5.14 million) in its opening day on Monday on 8,079 screens, but some viewers were annoyed by cuts, including the shooting of a Chinese security guard in a Shanghai skyscraper, and references to prostitution in Macau and torture by Chinese police.
China does not have a classification system, instead films have to be passed by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.
While the quota system restricting the number of Hollywood pics is a headache for overseas shingles, it is SARFT that is the real power in deciding what movies get shown in China.
The censors routinely remove any references deemed politically sensitive, or references to the restive regions of Tibet or Xinjiang, as well as scenes that make the Chinese police look bad, or strong sexual content.
Ghost references and, with the apparent exception of “Looper,” time travel are also censorship no-nos.
Chinese helmers, such as Feng Xiaogang, and leading biz figures like Bona topper Yu Dong, bemoan the censorship system that they say gives an advantage to foreign pics, which last year outperformed domestic product in China.
Shi Chuan, a professor at the film school at Shanghai U, said that while he thought censorship was a good thing, there needed to be norms for the censors to follow.
“Movie regulators should respect the producers’ original ideas, rather than chopping scenes arbitrarily,” Shi told the Xinhua news agency. At the same time, he said the content of imported movies must conform with local laws and respect local culture and tradition.
At a meeting of the advisory body to China’s legislature last year, Yin Li, vice chairman of the China Film Assn., said there were too many restrictions on Chinese filmmakers.
“I hope China can offer more freedom to filmmakers so that a more favorable environment can be created for the country’s movie industry,” Yin said.
There is speculation among bizzers right now that things could improve under the new leadership of Xi Jinping, who last year was behind the liberalization of a quota system to allow more foreign pics enter the Chinese market.
Earlier this month, journalists at the state-sanctioned Southern Weekend newspaper took to the streets to protest at the way propaganda officials edited a New Year op-ed piece, and many film biz figures came out in support of the reporters.
The Southern Weekend editors eventually struck a deal with the Communist leadership.