Tale of the pig too lucrative for release in China

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The Independent Online
Peking (Reuter) - The Australian film Babe, a barnyard tale of a pig that wants to be a sheepdog, has been given the the chop by Chinese censors, US film industry sources said yesterday.

The international box-office hit was among 10 foreign films proposed to be shown in China this year under an unwritten quota system allowing new releases to reach Chinese audiences, a source said.

"I don't know why Chinese censors have decided not to allow in Babe," the source said. "It is a charming film."

Chinese sources said domestic authorities might be nervous that the film, in which a talking porker hams it up, might stop local movies from bringing home the bacon. Babe won an Oscar for best visual effects at last month's Academy Awards and had been nominated for best picture.

Peking last year launched a policy that allows distribution of 10 recently released foreign films each year under a box-office sharing agreement.

This has been lucrative for the Chinese partner, China Film, and for Hollywood but at the expense of domestic competitors and has aroused concern among local film officials.

China's censors scratched the latest James Bond blockbuster, Goldeneye, and Apollo 13, which glorifies the US space industry at a time when China's is in some disarray.

This year Chinese audiences have been allowed to see Clint Eastwood's The Bridges of Madison County, Dustin Hoffman in Outbreak, and Keanu Reeves in A Walk in the Clouds and will also see Toy Story and Waterworld.

China last year imported such films as True Lies, The Lion King and The Fugitive, which set box-office records, while many of 150 domestically made films gathered dust.