‘Django’ Chained By Chinese Censors

Mark Deming
Movie Talk

The release of Quentin Tarantino’s "Django Unchained" in China ended only hours after it began.

"Django Unchained" was going to be the first Tarantino film approved for screening in Chinese theaters after the director toned down the redness of the blood and the spray of the gore in the movie's many violent scenes. But the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, China's censorship board, has flip-flopped on their previous OK for the movie.

Shortly after the first showings of "Django Unchained" began Thursday, the film was abruptly shut down on orders from SARFT. Patrons were told the screenings had been halted due to "technology problems" and given refunds.

Xue Yi Dao, a movie fan who was in attendance for one scuttled screening, posted about it on Sina Weibo, a Chinese social media site similar to Twitter. "After watching it for about a minute, it stopped!" Xue wrote. "Staff then came in and said (film censors) … had called to say it had to be delayed!! Can someone tell me what's happening!!"

There's been no official word, but sources in the Chinese film industry have told reporters the censors changed their mind after realizing "Django Unchained" featured a short scene in which Jamie Foxx as the title character appears nude. China doesn't have a film rating system like the United States and most other countries; instead, movies must be deemed suitable for all audiences, while not offending the notoriously sensitive Chinese government. "Cloud Atlas" lost forty minutes of footage, most involving sex or nudity, before it was cleared for Chinese release, and a scene in which James Bond kills a Shanghai security guard has to be clipped from "Skyfall." Only a limited number of American and European films are even considered for release in China.

The opening of "Django Unchained" had received plenty of publicity in China, suggesting a more open-minded outlook from SARFT. Now that the film is back under wraps, Chinese film bloggers are up in arms about the actions of the local censors. (Some of them may have already seen the film; bootleg DVDs of the uncut American release have been spotted for sale in China.) A writer for Dinyingpiaofang, one of China's most popular film sites, posted, "It doesn't matter whether this is a 'technical problem', as this is going to become a joke. It doesn't matter whether they cut 'Django' or not, (officials) have already cut themselves."

See the trailer for 'Django Unchained':