The feud between Chinese director Bi Zhifei 毕志飞 and the movie review site Douban will not go away soon. After Bi published an open letter to China’s top movie regulator earlier this week, accusing Douban of manipulating the audience score of his movie Pure Hearts: Into Chinese Showbiz 纯洁心灵, the review-aggregating platform fired back on May 31 by filing a complaint with the People’s Court of Chaoyang District in Beijing, asking Bi to take down the letter immediately and deliver a public apology.
According to a court document released by Douban today, Bi’s attacks on the review site, which are demonstrated by the recent letter and a series of articles published by him previously, are downright defamation replete with falsehoods. Douban specifically denied Bi’s accusations of “score manipulation,” “hijacking the Chinese film industry,” and “being a congregation place for online rumors and violence,” as well as its “close connection with foreign capital.” The document also emphasizes that Douban Movie, a core product of the culture website, only displays real reviews submitted by its users, and that it is the site’s neutrality and objectivity that make it reliable among movie lovers.
The document came as Douban’s first response to Bi’s months of persistent and unilateral attacks against it since September last year. But even before it, the entire Chinese internet seemed to be rooting for the site. “Nice job. Two thumbs up for Douban. No need to be nice to a maniac,” one Douban user wrote (in Chinese).
Regarding the ongoing feud, Yang Shiyang 杨时旸, a famous movie critic in China, published an article (in Chinese) today, saying that while he sent a reporter to have some deep conversations with the director before, he still doesn’t know what to make of Bi based on all the feedback he received. “The most likely theory is that he really believes his movie is a masterpiece,” Yang wrote.
But Bi’s mentality aside, Yang argues that the Chinese film industry is largely suffering from persecutory delusions, which cause many filmmakers to have zero tolerance of negative feedback and be inclined to blame Douban for bad reviews. “These people slander unbiased rating platforms and insult average audiences whom they rely on for a living,” Yang wrote. “There is an old Chinese saying: ‘Having a feeling of shame gives rise to courage.’ But for them, having a sense of shame has become a formidable task.”