Already pulled from its prestigious spot as the opener of the Shanghai International Film Festival, war epic “The Eight Hundred” has been dealt a further below with the cancellation of its scheduled release in China next week.
In a terse announcement on its official Weibo account, the film said late Tuesday that, “after consultation between the production team and other entities, ‘The Eight Hundred’ will cancel its original July 5 premiere and temporarily vacate the summer release date window. The new release date will be announced at a later time.”
The statement gave no indication as to what occasioned the cancellation. But China is undergoing a period of strong social and cultural tightening, and Chinese film censors have been especially active lately in ordering changes to films or yanking them from festivals and the domestic release schedule.
Besides “The Eight Hundred’s” announcement, an upcoming film whose original Chinese title translates to “Mighty Wishes” announced Tuesday that it would change its title “due to market demands” to “Tiny Little Wishes.” The slogan on the film’s poster was adjusted from “Having your wishes fulfilled” to “Tiny wishes can also be mighty.” And a TV adaptation of a work by Guo Jingming said it was being renamed “The Flow of Beautiful Times” instead of “A Flowing River of Sadness.”
And on Monday, the Chinese youth drama “Better Days” said it would no longer hit Chinese theaters on Thursday as planned. “Better Days” had already been withdrawn at the last minute from the Berlin Film Festival in February, a fate that also befell Zhang Yimou’s “One Second.”
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“The whole world is moving forward, while Chinese cinema is heading backward,” lamented one of the top comments on “The Eight Hundred’s” Weibo site, on the announcement of the canceled release.
Directed by Guan Hu and produced by Huayi Bros., “The Eight Hundred” tells the true story of a ragtag band of soldiers who attempted heroically to hold off imperial Japanese troops in 1937. Made on a budget of $80 million, the action film has been touted as a symbol of China’s growing filmmaking powers, and boasts a storyline that would seem in sync with the Chinese government’s emphasis on patriotism ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic in October.
But days before the movie was to screen in Shanghai, a cultural research group criticized it as being too charitable in its depiction of China’s Nationalists, who fought side by side with the Communists against the Japanese but then were driven out of China by the Communists in an ensuing civil war.
“We have to make some changes,” a Huayi Bros. spokesman told Variety. “We are still working on getting it out this year.”
Patrick Frater contributed to this report.