China film festival shuts down after independence becomes ‘impossible’

Event’s titles have previously tackled issues such as homosexuality and sensitive political history

Ellie Harrison
Tuesday 14 January 2020 10:12 GMT
Xi Jinping's government has ordered a cull of books which deviate from Communist Party doctrine
Xi Jinping's government has ordered a cull of books which deviate from Communist Party doctrine

The last truly independent film festival in China has been shut down, with organisers releasing a statement saying it has become “impossible” to run the event in the country.

The China Independent Film Festival (CIFF) has been “halted indefinitely” following the crackdown on freedom of expression under Chinese president Xi Jinping.

Many of the films at the festival, which was founded in 2003, have tackled issues such as homosexuality and political history deemed sensitive or inappropriate by the Communist Party.

Variety reports that some movies effectively remained underground projects as they did not have the government “dragon seal” of censorship approval required for screening in public.

“We believe that given the current local organisational circumstances, it has already become impossible to organise a film festival that truly has a purely independent spirit and is also effective,” read the statement.

It added that CIFF has already completed its “historic mission” of promoting “films for freedom” and said: “Saying goodbye before it all rots and degenerates is our greatest way of respecting that history and expressing our best wishes for the future.”

One of the festival’s organisers, Zhang Xianmin, told Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post: “We are just back to the usual rule under the Party. We just went back to 20 years ago, when there was no room or opportunity for independent films. If we had promoted the commercialisation of CIFF, that might have made it safer and we could have had the chance to survive.”

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