Famous Chinese film director Xie Fei published an open letter on the internet on Saturday, making a case for the replacement of China’s current censoring mechanism with a motion picture rating system.
“To move from the current administrative review system to a rating system that allows for a self-governed and self-disciplined film industry, bound by legal restrictions and administrative supervision,” said Xie in the letter. He rendered the current mechanism “outdated” and maintained that a rating system is the key to a vibrant film industry and cultural scene in China’s market economy today.
With a set of clear legal restrictions and institutional enforcement, film producers can be their own “gatekeepers who are responsible for the society and legal consequences,” he said.
The full version of Xie’s letter was later reposted by the Chinese Film Directors Association on Weibo,
With no rating system in place, films in China must be deemed suitable for all audiences in order to be screened according to a set of guidelines approved by the State Council in 2006. Xie disapproved of the ambiguity in the review process and criticised the frequent departure of administrative practices from the Constitution law.
Xie is the artistic adviser for a film currently under inspection. The film was picked out due to screen representations of controversial military leaders Lin Biao and his son, as well as themes of homosexuality.
Lin died in 1971 when his plane crashed on the way to Mongolia, after what believed to be a failed coup against Mao. He was officially condemned as a traitor by the Communist Party.
Xie pointed out that Lin Biao had appeared in other films before, and challenged the inconsistency of the evaluation criteria. He also maintained that homosexuality is a part of the society and “deserves to be respected by law and the public.”
“Our current review system is not the rule by law, but the rule by man, something that we wanted to end a long time ago,” said Xie.
Xie is a world-recognised Chinese film director, as well as a professor at his alma mater, the Beijing Film Academy. He was the director of award-winning films Black Snow and Woman from the Lake of Scented Souls.
His open letter caused considerable reaction from internet users. Many show support for his cause, although grim about the feasibility of his proposal. “To abandon the current system means decentralisation. For government officials, decentralisation means ‘bloodletting’ – you might as well take their lives,” comments one Weibo user.
Another recalls the recent CCTV broadcasting of the long-censored dystopian film V for Vendetta traditionally seen as an epitome of democracy.
Yet others separate censorship from a rating system. “For some reason I feel like motion picture rating and film censorship are two different things. Anyway, I still support the imposition of a rating system – parents will not have to worry about their kids watching inappropriate films anymore,” says one internet user.