TIFF: China and Taiwan face off in Japan

The Tokyo International Film Festival found itself in the middle of a long-running spat between China and Taiwan. As a result, the opening ceremony was disrupted and several mainland Chinese films hav
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The Tokyo International Film Festival found itself in the middle of a long-running spat between China and Taiwan. As a result, the opening ceremony was disrupted and several mainland Chinese films have been withdrawn from the festival.

The Taiwanese contingent wanted their homeland to be called Taiwan, the mainland Chinese wanted it called Chinese Taipei, acknowledging Beijing’s view that the island is more a rogue province than a separate state.

The Japanese festival organisers stayed out of the spat, refusing to back one side or the other. As a result of the stand off, neither the mainlanders nor the islanders took part in the festival’s opening day Green Carpet event.

Despite a number of Taiwanese attendees trying to play down the spat at a Q&A following the screening of Monga (Taiwan’s Foreign Oscar entry), the spat escalated with China formally withdrawing all bar one of its festival films. Buddha Mountain survived the cull, for reasons which are unclear, while nine other films didn’t. Eight were to screen in a sidebar strand, while The Piano in a Factory was due to screen in competition.

The Hollywood Reporter quoted Taiwan producer Huang Liming (Phantom, Where Are You?) criticising the mainland attitude, saying, “We Taiwanese outgrew government control 20 years ago. We resent having to ask permission to be creative.”

The mainlanders didn’t take kindly to the lack of support, blaming the festival organisers rather than the Taiwanese for the problem. Jiang Ping, deputy director-general of the Film Bureau of the State Administration of Radio, Film and TV (SARFT), who led the Chinese delegation to the festival, said to local media, “It is regretful that the Chinese delegation has decided to pull out of festival-related events because the organizers covertly violated the One-China Policy. It has nothing to do with our Taiwan compatriots. It is the fault of the Tokyo organizers.”

This is not the first time the Chinese have withdrawn films from international festivals when organisers have failed to share their view of the world. Last year, the Chinese withdrew films from the Melbourne Festival following its decision to screen Ten Conditions of Love, and subsequently asked the NZ government to have Maori Television pull its screening of the film and interview with director Rebiyah Kadeer.

City of Life and Death/Nanjing! Nanjing! and Quick, Quick, Slow were withdrawn from this year’s Palm Springs Festival after the organisers programmed Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam’s The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet’s Struggle for Freedom.

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