SARFT spoofs domestic films
by Chang Ping / SMW
What is SARFT for? Most people would think that it is used to criticize domestic film and TV; otherwise, why would it issue ban after ban on TV and demand cut after cut during film reviews? Not long ago, a SARFT official issued a statement after watching a TV program that parodied Curse of the Golden Flower and The Banquet, saying, “artistic works should not be permitted to criticize domestic film.” Perhaps because this had too much of a “officials may set fires but the people may not light lamps”-flavor and was too divorced from common sense, the media felt uncomfortable recording his exact words in their reports, and voluntarily changed it to “domestic films cannot be spoofed” (不准恶搞国产电影).
But it appears that SARFT was not grateful; they apparently really wanted you to understand: forbidding you from playing at something was for no other purpose than to keep it for themselves. So goes criticism, and so goes such a fun pursuit as egao. For example, saying “Restricting broadcasts of foreign cartoons during prime-time is the cry of the youth” is very egao: evidently those TV stations were stupidly unaware of the demands of the audience, but fought to broadcast foreign cartoons that were detested by the general youth. Recently, a deputy director at SARFT blasted Li Yu’s Lost in Beijing and urged Jia Zhangke to learn sympathy for others. No matter how you look at it, straight-faced irony, egao criticism.
According to that deputy director, Lost in Beijing tells the story of a migrant worker couple. The wife is raped by her boss, and the husband uses this to blackmail the boss for 20,000 yuan. When he finds his wife is pregnant, he demands 120,000. The deputy director said, “As artistic expression, this story can be forgiven. But as Chinese people, we cannot permit this film to make an insulting depiction of our times.” Why is it that “Chinese people” and “artistic expression” are so incompatible? His statement sounds a little bit insulting to the Chinese people. As for the story, even speaking from a strict interpretation of the law, isn’t this just an out-of-court arrangement of a civil matter subsidiary to a criminal investigation, commonly called a “private settlement”? Give it to a judge, and it’s possible that the judgment would be for 120,000 yuan – how does this insult the Chinese people? It’s too egao! Thinking it over, it’s best just to trust the analysis of someone online: “What an outrage! How could our Our bosses or leaders rape? Our boss only seduces, commits adultery, and drives good women to prostitution!”
As for Jia Zhangke, this deputy director’s evaluation was genuinely innovative. Jia Zhangke has neither box-office nor scandal; isn’t it his reliance on “compassion for lower levels” that’s allowed him to make it to today? Even Zhang Weiping wasn’t so bold as to deny this point during their argument, and he even admitted that Jia makes “art films” – in the minds of movie people, “art film” is a term of respect. This deputy director used his position as a “good friend” to say, “I’ve reminded Jia Zhangke that if he wants to climb high, he must have compassion for others. The words of this “good friend” were too weighty, virtually ripping everything out from under him, and they were directed at an entire generation: for sixth-generation directors, this is a common failing, to “not infuse movies with one’s own feelings, but to depict things too objectively from the standpoint of an observer. This naturalistic description can extremely easily become an absolute realism. They’ve ignored drama; what they shoot looks exceptionally icy, monotonous, and insufficiently saturated with color….” What would the outcome be of following this deputy director’s prescription for warmth, saturation, and drama? Isn’t it clear to everyone that this would be a “main theme” film? He no longer uses “not permitted” in his sentence structure, but rather uses the techniques of artistic criticism to issue orders, the position of a good friend to perform administrative work. This too is egao. Like they say, face heaven and earth without reservation, but fear the official who’s got an education.