South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite was canceled from screening Sunday as the closing film for China’s FIRST Film Festival.
To provide some context, Parasite is a violent, dark comedy about class conflict and greed that tells the story of a destitute family’s growing involvement with a very wealthy one. It is the first South Korean film to receive the Palme d’Or award, Cannes Film Festival’s highest honour, and was pulled the night before it was screened at China’s FIRST Festival due to “technical reasons”. The FIRST Film Festival was a ten-day event in Xining, Qinghai province, that sought to support new talent by focusing on Chinese directors’ first and second films. The removal was apologized for, but no reason was offered.
There are a couple factors that could have contributed to this. A big one is China’s tense diplomatic relations with South Korea for the past couple of years, ever since the Korean government agreed to the installation of an America-owned anti-missile system. That was followed by a ban on the import of Korean films and TV shows. No Korean films have had a theatrical release in China in those two years, and most Chinese film festivals have avoided selecting Korean titles.
Another possible reason is that Chinese censors are working overtime to prepare for October’s 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. In the past six months, even a distasteful adjective used in a film title has become grounds for moving it to another, less sensitive time. Not only have several Chinese films (such as The Last Wish and martial arts flick The Hidden Sword) been pulled from the summer lineup, there has also been some disputes involving film festivals in the past few months, Cannes included.
There’s a lot of frustration brewing in the Chinese public about this issue, but there’s not much they can do about the government’s strict policies. Hopefully these films will be fairly released over the next year, and given the room to breath they deserve.