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Silence Surrounds Jia Zhangke’s ‘Sin’

China media told not to report on controversial Cannes film, November release uncertain

HONG KONG — Silence surrounds the release of Cannes prize-winning film “A Touch of Sin” in its domestic Chinese market.

Directed by Jia Zhangke, a darling of the international art-house set, the four part story is a highly critical examination of corruption, venality and sex trafficking, with suicides at a giant electronics factory as a back story.

For several months it has been pegged as being set to receive a theatrical release in November, but still a more specific date has still not been set.

Now reports are emerging that the Chinese authorities have banned local media from reporting on the film or reviewing the picture, which claimed the best screenplay award at Cannes, where it played in competition.

U.S.-based China Digital Times reprints what it says are instructions from the Central Propaganda Department, issued on Oct 24.

The reporting ban may be designed to allow the authorities to argue that the film was released. But in starving it of publicity, they may ensure that it fails to find a wide audience.

Significantly, the film was backed by state-owned media giant Shanghai Film Group, along with Japan’s Office Kitano and Jia’s own Xstream Pictures.

Calls and emails to Xstream and Office Kitano have yielded no comment.

In an interview published Tuesday in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, Jia says censorship in mainland China has become lighter and more flexible, but he tries not to think of official opinions while making a movie for fear of self-censoring.

“So, every time I shoot a film, I am prepared for it to be my last. If I shoot a film to suit other people’s needs, it’s meaningless for me.”

In the same interview, he also says that the film may find its audience in other ways. “Nowadays, the internet is very developed – once I shoot a film I think there are ways for people to see it.”

Jia previously directed films including “Unknown Pleasures” and “Still Life” and produced Yu Likwai’s “Plastic City.”

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