The Xinjiang riots has not only affected the political climate, now it looks like it´s also leaking over to the artistic area as well. Last week China made an attempt to stop a film from being screened at Australia´s biggest film festival, Melbourne International Film Festival.
The Reason: The movie, “The 10 conditions of love”, is a highly sympathetic portrayal of the life of Uyghur activist Rebiya Kadeer and her attempts to bring increased autonomy to the ten million Uyghurs living in China. Rebiya Kadeer is currently in exile, and most recently, China has accused her of inciting the ethnic riots in the Xinjiang province last week (a charge she denies).
The Melbourne based film director, Jeff Daniels, (not to be confused with the actor Jeff Daniels) has been working on the documentary for several years, and finished it just in time for the Melbourne International Film Festival, MIFF, where the film is due to premier next month, and also – just in a time when the whole world happens to be tuned in on this particular conflict.
Richard Moore, executive director of MIFF, is quoted on ABC:
On Friday I received a call from Ms Chen, who is based here in Melbourne at the Chinese consulate. She told me that she was ringing to urge me to withdraw the particular film Ten Conditions Of Love from the festival. I said I had no reason to withdraw the film from the festival and she then proceeded to tell me that I had to justify my decision to include the film in the festival. I said ‘Well, I’m very sorry but I didn’t have any reason to justify the inclusion of the film in the festival.’ So she then proceeded to … list Rebiya Kadeer’s crimes. I have to say to you after about five minutes I blanked out.
It was not just the film as such that was made a target for the Chinese consulate. Ms Chen also tried to convince Richard Moore to cancel Rebiya Kadeers planned visit to the festival. As he told the ABC:
She was also very unhappy that Rebiya Kadeer is coming here as a guest. It wasn’t threats … she was just continually insistent that the film should not be included in the festival. She plainly wasn’t happy [the festival will continue as planned] and as I said before, she just went on to list Rebiya Kadeer’s crimes and unfortunately I had to tell her that I could no longer continue the conversation because I’d already expressed my opinion, so I politely hung up.
So why is China so insistent that an art house movie by a director not yet famous enough to have his own Wikipedia page not be shown in a film festival not actually in China? According to Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, Kadeer should not be allowed to spread her “splittist” views:
“Everyone knows what kind of person Rebiya is. We resolutely oppose any foreign country providing a platform for her anti-Chinese, splittist activities,” he told a news conference.
In spite of all the fuss, Melbourne International Film Festival will continue as planned, and “The 10 conditions of love” will be screened on the 8th of August, according to Reuters.