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Director Lou Ye faces possible ban

He could be banned from making films in China because his new film was screened at Cannes.
By Associated Press | None, Hong Kong
UPDATED ON MAY 23, 2006 01:15 PM IST

Chinese director Lou Ye could be banned from making movies in his home country for five years because his new film Summer Palace was screened at Cannes last week without government approval, a report said on Monday.

Hong Kong's Apple Daily newspaper said Lou also may face a fine over the movie, a sexually explicit love story set against China's pro-democracy protests of 1989, which led up to the brutal Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Lou attended the premiere of the film at the Cannes Film Festival in southern France last Thursday. Summer Palace had not been approved by Chinese censors as of last week.

Apple Daily also reported that Chinese authorities have ordered local news outlets not to report on Summer Palace at Cannes and that some members of the state media departed early from the film festival.

Lou's film deals with a highly sensitive subject. The students protests ended with the crackdown at Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, which left hundreds if not thousands dead. Chinese authorities still maintain the demonstrations were counterrevolutionary riots.

Lou has said he's willing to cut scenes from the movie to get it shown in China, but he also hasn't shied away from talking about the Tiananmen Square protests.

"It was the first time that China opened up to the outside world, after a long period of containment. Young people soaked up all kinds of new ideas all at once. It was the beginning of a period of reform and students had the feeling they were freer than their predecessors had been and that they could virtually do everything and anything," Lou was quoted as saying on the Cannes official Web site.

"Today, we know that it was merely an illusion," he said. Lou said the film is somewhat autobiographical. "I wanted to tell this story, because in 1989 I was myself a student at Peking University and was involved in a romance," he said, referring to his similarities to the characters in "Summer Palace."

Lou isn't the first Chinese filmmaker to run afoul of Chinese authorities for taking part in Cannes. Beijing is sensitive to the way the country is portrayed to audiences abroad. In 1994, Zhang Yimou, director of "To Live," skipped the festival to protest the film's censorship in China. In 1997, China pulled Zhang's film "Keep Cool" from the festival competition. In 2000, when Jiang Wen's "Devils on the Doorstep" showed at Cannes without government approval, censors kept the movie off the Chinese market, angering investors.

China's Film Bureau didn't immediately respond to a reporter's fax seeking confirmation of the Apple Daily report. A woman who answered a call to one of the producers for "Summer Palace," Nai An, said the producer was out and not immediately available for comment.

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