Originally slated to close China’s FIRST Film Festival on July 28, South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” has just been removed from the fest’s slate for “technical reasons.” The film, which won the Palme d’Or unanimously at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, is the fifth festival film to rankle Chinese censors this year, according to Variety.
Organizers of the 10-day festival in Xining, Qinghai province, released a social media statement, issuing “sincere apologies for the inconvenience,” but with no further details. The festival’s shuttering of Bong’s dark, class-conflict comedy likely stems from the currently tense diplomatic relationship between China and South Korea, which operates an American-owned anti-missile system, in conflict with China’s own military policies. All Korean films and TV series are also banned from being imported in China for theatrical exhibition and streaming, with no Korean films seeing a release in China in the last two years.
According to reports, “technical reasons” is a tacit euphemism for censorship, with recent cancellations including China pulling blockbuster Chinese auteur Zhang Yimou’s Cultural Revolution-set “One Second” from the Berlinale in February, as well as Hong Kong director Derek Tsang’s “Better Days.” Another film, “Summer of Changsha,” landed in hot water for screening in the 2019 Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard section without the government’s “dragon seal” of approval. This October marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic, and Chinese censors expected to kick into high gear in its wake.
This is also not director Bong Joon-ho’s first brush with censorship. In a case of corporate censorship, his 2014 dystopian sci-fi masterpiece “Snowpiercer” was held hostage by The Weinstein Company for two years before it finally received a quiet release from the defunct company’s then genre banner, RADiUS-TWC. Still, it remains one of the highest-grossing Korean films of all time.
Set for a stateside release from Neon on October 11, “Parasite” stars Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, and Park So-dam, and is the first South Korean film ever to win the Palme d’Or. The 2019 jury was led by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Bong’s previous films include “Okja,” “Mother,” “The Host” and “Memories of Murder,” all of which played the Cannes Film Festival to rapturous acclaim.
IndieWire has reached out to Neon for comment.