The 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival will not happen this year. Authorities confiscated film, arrested organizers, and swiftly shut down a private venue hosting the festival of non-commercial films. Though authorities have threatened the festival in past years, this is the first time they have taken such forceful actions. Authorities left festival organizers with absolutely no explanation for the shutdown.
The film community sees it as another example of China stifling the voice of its independent artists. International film festival heads have put together a letter in support of the Beijing festival’s organizers.
The Chinese government has been under constant criticism, from filmmakers at home and abroad, about shutting out creative freedom. Whether it is independent art or larger commercial ventures, on a whim Chinese authorities may choose to cancel screenings, even after months of negotiation and monetary investment. Beijing has been criticized for film censorship by both filmmakers at home and abroad.
The fact that a small indie film fest has irked officials to such drastic actions illustrates the unpredictability of holding arts events in China. Yet it also shows that there are strong networks of filmmakers who are seeking avenues to give voice to independent artists.