Shanghai Film Festival Cancels ‘The Eight Hundred’

The opening screening of the patriotic war movie “The Eight Hundred” at the Shanghai International has been cancelled. Regulators cited “technical reasons” for the film’s cancellation. Despite this official explanation, there is speculation among industry insiders that unexpected censorship from Beijing is behind the unusual last-minute cancellation of the war film. Variety’s Patrick Frater and Rebecca Davis report:

The Shanghai Film Festival has abruptly yanked its opening movie, the $80 million patriotic war drama “The Eight Hundred,” on the eve of the fest’s kickoff, Variety has confirmed. A restored 4K version of “Midnight Cowboy” will play tomorrow night instead, the organizers announced Friday evening on social media.

The cancellation of the Saturday premiere was made for unspecified “technical reasons,” which is often a euphemism for problems, although a source close to the project told Variety that that is not the issue in this case and that the film had successfully passed the content stage. “Technical reasons” were also cited in the withdrawal of Zhang Yimou’s “One Second” from the Berlin Film Festival in February.

[…] “The Shanghai International Film Festival opening film screening of ‘The Eight Hundred’ originally planned for June 15 has been canceled due to technical reasons,” the production team said in a Chinese statement shared on social media. “For the inconvenience this brings to all the guests and media, we respectfully hope you can understand and hope everyone will continue to support us.”

“The Eight Hundred,” from well-established studio Huayi Bros., is directed by Guan Hu (“Mr. Six”) and centers on the sacrifice of a ragtag group of Chinese soldiers in 1937 Shanghai as imperial Japanese troops advanced. The theme would appear to be in keeping with the patriotic message that the Beijing regime wants to promulgate this year to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. [Source]

Patrick Brzeski at The Hollywood Reporter looks at the similarities between the cancellation of “The Eight Hundred” and the censorship of  Zhang Yimou’s “One Second”:

Although the details and exact rationale remain unclear, the order to suspend the film’s screening represents yet another uptick in the Chinese government’s increasingly repressive handling of popular entertainment and culture.

The Shanghai imbroglio mirrors the shocking censorship of Zhang Yimou’s latest film at the Berlin International Film Festival in February.

The celebrated filmmaker had been set to premiere his latest passion project, the period drama One Second, in Berlin’s main competition, where he previously won the Golden Bear at the start of his career. The early buzz surrounding One Second suggested that the work was a return to form for Zhang — some who had seen it in Beijing even referred to the film as a masterpiece and a lock for major awards — but the film was abruptly ordered withdrawn from the festival just days before its premiere.

Authorities again cited “technical reasons,” but sources close to the filmmaker said the film’s setting during China’s politically sensitive Cultural Revolution era were to blame. The project has been mired in government ordered recuts ever since, and no plans for a release have been announced (for a deeper look at what may become of Zhang’s unseen potential masterpiece, see here). [Source]

June 14, 2019, 3:26 PM
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