As you may recall, almost a month ago, Django Unchained opened and immediately closed in China on the very same day. It was shut down by Chinese censors for, at the time, unspecified reasons.
China has, perhaps, the most restrictive film censorship boards in the world. Even to the extent that Hollywood studios are beginning to question if it’s really worth it to open films there.
Despite the billions of potential filmgoers there, China officially restricts the number of non-Chinese foreign films into the country. That’s the reason why an increasing number of major Hollywood studio films have scenes set in China (like Skyfall and Looper) as a way to make them more attractive to be chosen to be screened there.
But then again the relentless butchering that censors impose on non-Chinese films can render a film practically incoherent and not worth all the trouble to get a film to play there. As stated before, for example, Cloud Atlas had a whopping 38 minutes cut out by Chinese censors. With a major chunk of the film gone, what’s the point of showing it there?
Django faced the same problem when censors pulled the film, though it has now gotten the approval to be shown there – the first for a film made by Quentin Tarantino.
Though some of the film’s violence was toned down before its first China release by Tarantino himself, the censors objected to the “full frontal nudity” in the film, which is a no-no, and now those frames have been removed clearing the way for the May release.
It also helped enormously that there was a huge public outcry by Chinese filmgoers in both the public and social media space worldwide, when the film was first pulled from theaters by the censors that led them to relent on the film.
But the controversy over what happened to Django has been a wake up call to both Hollywood and China.
In fact, just this week, Elizabeth Daley, who is the dean of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, said in a speech in Beijing at the Beijing Film Academy with hundreds of students and important Chinese film officials present, that the Django incident “would
still be quoted several years down the line as an example of the risks foreign
film companies face when doing business in China.”