Quote of the Day: “Fifteen Months Later, Despite 50 Alterations and Deletions, Censors Have Yet to Approve This Film.”

Today’s quote of the day comes from a CDT Chinese faux “Dragon Seal” visual about acclaimed sixth-generation filmmaker Wang Xiaoshuai’s battle to get his latest film “Above the Dust” 《沃土》(Wòtǔ, “fertile soil”) past the censors at China’s National Film Bureau. The film will make its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival on Saturday, minus the censors’ seal of approval:

This CDT “Quote of the Day” card is designed to resemble the China National Film Bureau’s “Dragon Seal” of approval that appears before the credits of all films that have been approved by Chinese censors. The text is red and white against a dark green background, with a red-and-gold seal in the middle, in the shape of a dragon.

Large text: This film was submitted to the censors in October 2022. Fifteen months later, despite 50 alterations and deletions, censors have yet to approve this film.
Small text, at bottom: According to Variety, director Wang Xiaoshuai’s new film “Above the Dust” will premiere at the Berlin Film Festival without the “Dragon Seal” of approval from China’s National Film Bureau. Chinese authorities have contacted the director and ordered him to withdraw from the festival or risk punishment.

Variety’s Patrick Frater explored the film’s historical subject matter and the director’s commitment to having his film screened in Berlin:

With a young teen boy as the protagonist, the film depicts a hardscrabble family in a village in northwest China in 2009. While their neighbors slowly migrate to the city, the boy’s parents dig up the arid land in search of family heirlooms. Communicating with the ghost of his grandfather, the boy learns about the 1950s reforms that transferred peasant-owned land to the government and about the disastrous Great Leap Forward.

[…] Wang will go ahead with the screening of “Above the Dust” in Berlin without the “Dragon Seal” of approval from China’s National Film Bureau. Without that pre-credits signifier, no film from China may legally play in Chinese theaters or show in an overseas festival.

[…] Chinese authorities have contacted Wang and ordered him to withdraw the film from the festival — or risk severe consequences for both Wang and its Chinese production company. The movie is an unofficial co-production with the Netherlands’ Lemming Film.

“There’s pressure on the production company and myself. A lot of pressure. It is forbidden to show the film without a Dragon Seal in Berlin. But Berlin selected it. I’m happy about that,” Wang tells Variety. “This is the film that I wanted to make. About China. About our lives. About Chinese history and reality.” [Source]

In other film censorship news, documentary filmmaker Chen Pinlin has been arrested for making a documentary about the White Paper Protests that occurred in late 2023. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) provided more detail:

On February 18, Chinese authorities charged Chen, who published a documentary on anti-COVID restriction protests in late 2023, with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” according to Chinese human rights news websites Minsheng Guancha and Weiquanwang. On January 5, Shanghai police arrested Chen, who published work under the pseudonym Plato, and detained the filmmaker at the Baoshan Detention Center [in Shanghai].

[…] The protests, also known as the “White Paper Movement,” started when a deadly apartment fire in the northwest region of Xinjiang killed at least 10 people in November 2022, and questions were raised about whether the government’s stringent lockdown measures prevented the victims from escaping.

Chen posted the documentary Not the Foreign Force on the first anniversary of the White Paper Movement on YouTube and X, formerly Twitter, in late November 2023, according to those reports. The documentary compiled extensive protest footage, translated social media posts demanding freedom of expression, and reported that some protesters remained detained. Chen’s X account and YouTube channel were deleted within that week. [Source]


Subscribe to CDT


Browsers Unbounded by Lantern

Now, you can combat internet censorship in a new way: by toggling the switch below while browsing China Digital Times, you can provide a secure "bridge" for people who want to freely access information. This open-source project is powered by Lantern, know more about this project.

Google Ads 1

Giving Assistant

Google Ads 2

Anti-censorship Tools

Life Without Walls

Click on the image to download Firefly for circumvention

Open popup

Welcome back!

CDT is a non-profit media site, and we need your support. Your contribution will help us provide more translations, breaking news, and other content you love.