Authorities have shut down the 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival, scheduled to begin on Saturday August 23rd through to Sunday August 31st. According to China Digital Times, organizers, would-be attendants and directors found two policemen and a number of plain-clothes guards blocking the entrance to the festival.
The Guardian reports the guards said they were simple “villagers” when asked about their identity.
The Beijing Independent Film Festival is organized by film critic Li Xianting through the Li Xianting Film Fund, and gives voice to China’s underground indie and avant-garde film directors. It also acts as a springboard to gain international interest; some award-winning Chinese films were first played here.
Unfortunately for it, the Film Festival is also a small, marginalized but independent platform to share and discuss work of directors outside the state-approved film culture of the ruling Communist Party, another film industry gaining recognition and investments.
Fan, the festival’s executive director told the Guardian that “Nothing we want to do is against the party or the government. We’re a very transparent organization.”
The Festival has already experienced official obstruction during past iterations, but always managed to take place, changing venues or replacing large public events with smaller screenings in private homes. This year’s Festival has been forbidden in its entirety, in spite of claims of recent relaxation of the Chinese censorship policy.
According to the festival’s directors, the authorities have raided Li’s offices, confiscating material gathered over more than 10 years, as well as the cameras and phones of participants and bystanders – giving them back after deleting pictures of the event.
Li and Wang, another Festival organizer, were hauled away and released after a few hours of detention.
According to the Guardian, police forces and Tongzhou District authorities did not confirm blocking the Festival and declined to comment on the situation.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. By Luo Shaoyang from Beijing, China [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons