‘Impossible’ to organize independent film festival in today’s China

The South China Morning Post reports that the China Independent Film Festival (CIFF), held annually since 2003, has been shut down indefinitely. The organizers posted yesterday (in Chinese) on their official WeChat, “We believe it is impossible to locally organize a film festival with a purely independent spirit, and even film festivals as a mechanism need to be reflected on.”

More from the SCMP:

The CIFF was seen as one of the largest platforms for Chinese independent works. It was founded by film commentator and curator Zhāng Yàxuán 张亚璇

and artist Cáo Kǎi 曹凱 in the eastern city of Nanjing in 2003. It has been staged 14 times since then, showing around 1,000 films including features and documentaries.

Most films focused on sensitive issues not seen in mainstream events, including bloody land reforms in the 1950s, the 1959-61 Great Famine, the Cultural Revolution, HIV patients, LGBT people, migrants from the Three Gorges area and profiles of local Communist Party cadres.

Zhāng Xiànmín 张献民, a professor from Beijing Film Academy, has been its core organizer for 16 years.

“The closure is normal. We are just back to the usual rule under the party. We just went back to 20 years ago, when there was no room and opportunity for independent films.” Zhang told the South China Morning Post.

—Lucas Niewenhuis