The current wrangle is only the most recent protest by Chinese officials that the arts, and film specifically, are being used as a weapon to meddle in their internal affairs. In August, two American filmmakers were blocked from traveling to China to present their documentary about the more than 5,000 children in Sichuan Province who died when a 2008 earthquake caused numerous schools to collapse. Computer hackers and demonstrators took aim at the Melbourne International Film Festival in Australia in July to protest its screening of a documentary about a leader of Muslim Uighurs in the Xinjiang region of northwest China, where some 200 people were killed in ethnic violence last summer. And at last fall’s Frankfurt Book Fair, a diplomatic struggle emerged over the fair’s invitation to two dissident Chinese writers to speak at its official program honoring China.
Darryl Macdonald, the director of the Palm Springs festival, said in an interview that the Chinese consul general in Los Angeles traveled to the desert city on Wednesday. The official told him that the directors of the two films, rather than the Chinese government, which financed the films, had decided that they would not allow their work to be screened unless the festival canceled its scheduled showing of “The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet’s Struggle for Freedom.”
That documentary, by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, follows the Dalai Lama over a year through protests over the status of Tibet that were timed to coincide with preparations for the Beijing Olympics.
The Chinese officials “repeatedly said the assertions presented in ‘The Sun Behind the Clouds’ were all lies, and they reminded us that the United States government had an official position that Tibet is a part of China,” Mr. Macdonald said. “I told them that we have freedom of expression in this country, and that we would not allow any foreign country to dictate what films we should or should not play.”
Read more about recent cases of the Chinese government exporting censorship overseas, via CDT.