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Banned Chinese Film (?) Wins Top Tribeca Film Festival Prize

Banned Chinese film Stolen Life Zhou Xun Wu JunStolen Life with Zhou Xun and Wu Jun. Is the Tribeca Film Festival winner truly a “banned Chinese film”? Referred to in the international media as a victim of China’s censors, Li Shaohong’s social/psychological drama may not have been banned after all.
  • Li Shaohong’s “banned Chinese film” Stolen Life has won the Tribeca Film Festival’s top prize. But has the female-centered social/psychological drama been truly banned in China?
  • Elsewhere, Alexei Uchitel’s Dreaming of Space was the top pick in Moscow, while Luis Mandoki’s Innocent Voices was the Audience Award winner in Seattle.

(Allegedly) banned Chinese film wins Tribeca Film Festival’s top prize

Li Shaohong’s Chinese social/psychological drama Stolen Life, which, according to reports quoting the filmmaker, has been banned in its country of origin*, was voted Best Film at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

Director Li expressed hope that the ensuing publicity will help to get her movie “green-lighted so my people in China can watch [it] soon.”

Stolen Life follows a young woman (Zhou Xun) whose college dreams are dashed after she begins a relationship with an untrustworthy delivery boy (Wu Jun).

Curiously, Li’s effort is the third consecutive Chinese production to nab the four-year-old Tribeca Film Festival’s top prize. It’s predecessors were Liu Fendou’s Green Hat and Li Yang’s Blind Shaft.

‘Banned Chinese film’ or translation mishap?

* Update: Stolen Life cannot be labeled a “banned Chinese film” as yet because it may still be shown in its native country.

According to the state-run China Daily, Stolen Life hasn’t been screened in China not because of censorship issues but because filmmaker Li Shaohong has failed to apply for a domestic release permit.

China Daily adds that Li has blamed the (apparent) misunderstanding on something having been lost in translation.

Lastly, China Daily states that Stolen Life is expected to be shown both at Chinese theaters and on television – in the latter medium, as part of a 10-episode series based on An Dun’s book Absolute Privacy – An Oral Account of Contemporary Chinese Love Life.

Felicity Huffman & Cees Geel top Tribeca’s acting categories

The Tribeca Film Festival’s Best Actress was Felicity Huffman, one of the stars of the American television hit series Desperate Housewives.

In Duncan Tucker’s Transamerica, Huffman portrays a born-again Christian who also happens to be a pre-operative (male-to-female) transsexual and the father of a son (Kevin Zegers) she didn’t know existed.

William H. Macy, Huffman’s real-life husband and the film’s executive producer, accepted the award in her place.

Cees Geel was named Best Actor for his performance as a former drug dealer who, facing imminent death, must start making plans for the future – or lack thereof – in Eddy Terstall’s Dutch drama Simon, The Netherlands’ submission for this year’s Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. (Simon failed to make the cut.)

Spanish Civil War

Also at Tribeca, Péter Forgács’ El Perro Negro: Stories from the Spanish Civil War was chosen as Best Documentary Feature. The Dutch-Hungarian production chronicles the travails of a Catalan family of industrialists during Spain’s bloody 1930s.

Director Forgács has explained that his film attempts to show that there were villainous murderers on all sides of that conflict, which left in its wake between 600,000–1 million dead.

More than 250 films from 45 countries were shown at Tribeca. Judges included actress Whoopi Goldberg, author Tom Wolfe, and pop personality Sheryl Crow.

The festival ran April 19–May 1.

Moscow & Seattle festival winners

There were no “banned Chinese film” controversies at either the Moscow or the Seattle Film Festival.

In Moscow, the Best Film was Alexei Uchitel’s Russian drama Dreaming of Space, set during the late 1950s’ space race.

Also of note, French New Wave icon Jeanne Moreau, whose credits range from François Truffaut’s Jules and Jim to Andy Tennant’s Ever After, received Moscow’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

In Seattle, the festival’s top prize – the Audience Award for Best Film (the Golden Space Needle) – went to Luis Mandoki’s Mexican coming-of-age drama Innocent Voices / Voces inocentes, a semiautobiographical tale set in civil-war-ravaged El Salvador. Mexico’s submission for this year’s Oscars, Innocent Voices failed to make the cut.

Below is a partial list of winners in Moscow (jury awards) and Seattle (audience awards).

Moscow Film Festival

Film: Dreaming of Space.

Jury Prize: Frozen Land/ Paha maa (Finland), dir.: Aku Louhimies.

Director: Thomas Vinterberg, Dear Wendy (Denmark | Germany | France | U.K.).

Actor: Hamid Farahnejad, Left Foot Forward on the Beat (Iran).

Actress: Vesela Kazakova, Stolen Eyes / Otkradnati ochi (Bulgaria | Turkey).

Lifetime Achievement Award: Jeanne Moreau.


Seattle Film Festival

Film: Innocent Voices.

Actress: Joan Allen, Yes (U.S. | U.K.).

Actor: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mysterious Skin (U.S.).

Director: Gregg Araki, Mysterious Skin.

Documentary: Murderball, dir.: Henry-Alex Rubin & Dana Adam Shapiro (U.S.).


“Banned Chinese Film (?)” endnotes

Tribeca Film Festival website.

Image of Zhou Xun and Wu Jun in the allegedly “banned Chinese film” Stolen Life: Arc Light Films.

“Banned Chinese Film (?) Wins Top Tribeca Film Festival Prize” last updated in July 2021.

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