Director lashes out at mainland censorship

Director Lou Ye , who has taken his film Summer Palace to compete in the Cannes Film Festival despite failing to get official approval, yesterday attacked the mainland's censorship system, saying it was a great obstacle for the development of Chinese cinema.

He said he would continue submitting his film to the film authority until it could be shown on the mainland, even if he was told to make noticeable changes. Lou, whose film is the only Asian contender for the festival's top honour, the Palme d'Or, said he had decided to take the film to Cannes to uphold his responsibility as a professional film director.

'I can't forsake the international market just because of a simple approval,' he said. 'We spent three years working on this film and there are so many people from various countries involved. As a director, I must be responsible for the people involved. Thus I decided to go ahead with the screening at Cannes.'

Lou said Summer Palace had been submitted twice to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, as approval was needed for showing the film on the mainland and taking it abroad for competition.

'The first time we were told that we didn't achieve certain technical standards, such as picture and sound quality, and the board refused to censor the film. We gave our last try [before the festival began] but we got the same answer,' he said.

The film, which premiered yesterday at the festival, tells of two lovers during the rise of China's economy from the late 1980s to 2003. The film includes love scenes and portrayals of university students during the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989.

Lou said he did not know if the sex and political content were the reasons behind approval being denied, although the script was submitted for approval before shooting began. He said the authority should be more open-minded.

'But I'm willing to make any compromise in order to have my film shown in China, and that is very important,' he said.

'About 1989 ... the film is a love story set between 1987 and 2003, and 1989 was only part of the film. But I have this problem of forgetting what can or cannot be filmed while I'm working as I get too involved.'

In 2000, Lou was banned from making films for two years after he sent his internationally acclaimed Suzhou River to compete at film festivals overseas without official approval.

Lou declined to say if having two Chinese members on the jury panel - Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai and mainland actress Zhang Ziyi - would favour him in the competition, but said he was happy 'to show the film to audiences of different nationalities'.