Beijing Independent Film Festival shut down on opening night, again
After being effectively shut down by a ‘mysterious’ power cut last year, the Beijing Independent Film Festival was once again forced to stop proceedings on Friday when police arrived with an official notice ordering the event to stop.
Immediately after the opening ceremony in a Songzhuang cafe-cinema, which was attended by directors from as far afield as Iran and Sweden, the assembled crowd were informed that the planned screenings would not be taking place as scheduled.In a repeat of last year’s event, the crowd dutifully filed over to the nearby Li Xianting Film Foundation, newly rebuilt with a three-storey screen, for what most assumed would be a private screening. Unfortunately, any plans for such an event were scuppered when police arrived with an official notice from on high and set up surveillance teams to quash any illicit viewing.
Actor Wang Hongwei (best known for his collaborations with director Jia Zhangke), festival organiser, managed to reach an agreement with the authorities to enable the festival to continue… sort of.
Jury members and other approved parties were allowed to sign up to receive DVDs of all the films due to be screened during the festival. After watching the films in private, they will be able to take part in the festival’s scheduled discussions and lectures (which are being permitted to continue). If organisers refused to agree to these conditions, electricity to the entire area would be cut and Wang himself would be imprisoned.
Simon Zhou, Time Out Beijing’s arts editor, expressed festival attendees frustration in an editorial posted on Saturday:
After the announcement, there was an impromptu funerary march, with the poster of the 10th Beijing Independent Film Festival standing in for a photograph of the deceased. It was led by a woman in her fifties or sixties; she staggered and laughed, perhaps so that she would not cry: here lies the death of independent cinema. It did not die of natural causes.
On Twitter, one user posted a photo of documentary filmmaker He Xiaopei carrying the festival’s poster in an “impromptu funeral march”:
[Image: Closure notice erected at the Li Xianting Film Foundation in 2012, the image was used as the poster for this years festival. Credit: BIFF]