Leading lights of cinema condemn closure of Beijing Independent Film Festival

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 August, 2014, 7:50pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 August, 2014, 2:14pm

The heads of leading film festivals and organisations including the Berlinale, Rotterdam and New York condemned China for shutting down the Beijing Independent Film Festival last Saturday.

They urged the Chinese authorities to stop interfering in the Beijing festival's operations in a petition signed by the leaders of 20 festivals and organisations in Asia, North America, Europe and South America. Among the signatories were Christoph Terhechte, head of the Berlinale Forum; Dennis Lim, programming director of the Film Society of Lincoln Centre; Rutger Wolfson, director of the International Film Festival Rotterdam; Kent Jones, director of the New York Film Festival; and Nashen Moodley, director of the Sydney Film Festival.

Vincent Chui, artistic director of the Hong Kong Independent Film Festival, and Wood Lin, programme director of the Taiwan International Documentary Festival, also signed the petition.

"We call upon the relevant Chinese authorities to permit the Beijing Independent Film Festival to pursue its mission to nurture and exhibit a full range of alternative cinematic voices in China, to allow the festival to operate without interference," the statement said.

Analysts said the shutdown reflected Chinese authorities' determination to tighten their grip on freedom of speech and ideology.

On Saturday, authorities seized documents and films at the opening of the festival in the suburb of Songzhuang. .

Festival organiser Li Xianting, a film critic and founder of the Li Xianting Film Fund, and its artistic director Wang Hongwei were detained but later released.

The festival began in 2006 as a film forum, and it grew into a major independent cinema event.