China Reportedly Tells TV Networks Not to Air Oscars Live and to Downplay Academy Awards

The news comes after the Academy nominated a movie about the pro-democracy struggles in Hong Kong for Best Documentary Short.
Oscar statues are pictured at the Governors Ball Press Preview for the 92nd Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday, Feb. 9. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Oscar statues are pictured at the Governors Ball Press Preview.
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

According to a report from Variety, the Chinese government has allegedly “told its local media channels not to transmit live coverage of the Oscars and to downplay the awards ceremony… The order reportedly came from the propaganda department of the Chinese Communist Party and instructed Chinese media to only report on non-controversial awards.”

The alleged order follows this week’s Oscars nominations announcement, in which the Field of Vision-backed “Do Not Split” made it into the Best Documentary Short Subject category. The 35-minute non-fiction short film shows the pro-democracy struggles in Hong Kong.

“Do Not Split,” directed by Anders Hammer, is the third consecutive Oscar nomination Field of Vision has received following “In The Absence” (2020) and “A Night at the Garden” (2019). The movie includes footage of the 2019 Hong Kong street protests. As Variety adds: “The film follows the increase in physical violence and growing desperation by the pro-democracy camp after the extradition law was abandoned, only to be replaced in June 2020 with a Beijing-imposed National Security Law. It also discusses the erosion of rights of freedom of expression and the media.”

This year’s Oscar nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject also include “Colette,” “A Concerto Is a Conversation,” “Hunger Ward,” and “A Love Song for Latasha.” The winner will be announced during the 93rd Academy Awards telecast, airing live in the U.S. on April 26 via ABC.

The nomination for “Do Not Split” isn’t the only Oscar bid that’s fueling potential controversy in China. As previously reported, marketing for the upcoming release of Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland” has been censored on popular social media platforms such as Weibo and Douban in the wake of backlash against the Beijing-born writer-director. “Nomadland” picked up six Oscar nominations this week, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Two past quotes from Zhao have been driving the nationalist backlash against her. The first is from a 2013 interview with Filmmaker Magazine, in which Zhao discussed her interest in making films about the American heartland and said, “It goes back to when I was a teenager in China, being in a place where there are lies everywhere.” The second quote is a misprint from an Australian publication that quoted Zhao as saying “the U.S. is now my country,” when she actually said, “The U.S. is not my country.” Screenshots of the incorrect quote, plus the quote in Filmmaker about “lies in China” circulated on social media after Zhao’s Golden Globe win and fueled outrage, leading to “Nomadland” posters, hashtags, and release date info being scrubbed from social media.

“Nomadland” is currently slated for an April 23 release in China, but it’s not a certainty that it will happen. Head over to Variety’s website to read more about the latest news over China reportedly telling TV stations to block the Academy Awards.

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