Critical Thinking-Devils on the Door Step

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Devils on the Doorstep

In year 2000[1], famed Chinese director JiangWen finished his second movie, Devils on the Doorstep (鬼子来了). The movie was mainly about a story that a village of famers took care of a Japanese military officer during Anti-Japanese War, but instead of being appreciated, the whole village got slaughtered by Japanese troops later. This movie altogether won six foreign awards and one nomination including the Jury Prize of Cannes International Film Festival in 2000, the Foreign Cineaste of the Year of Cannes International Film Festival in 2001, the Netpac Award of Hawaii International Film Festival in 2001, the Best Foreign Language Film Prize of Mainichi Film Concours in 2003, the Best Foreign Language Film Director and the Best Supporting Actor of Kinema Junpo Awards in 2003 and the nomination of the Best Film Award of Cannes International Film Festival in 2000. [2]However, it never got a chance to be publicly shown on Chinese cinemas because it failed to meet the Regulations on Administration of Films made by The State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) in the first place, and the director further refused to revise his movie according to the amendments proposed by SARFT.

The State Administration of Radio Film and Television is a subordinate department directly under the State Council of China. [3]It is responsible for eight kinds of duties and they are mainly about establishing all kinds of regulations related to radio, television and film; censoring the quality, especial the theme, of all kinds of programs as well as supervising three state-owned enterprises at the national level such as China Central Television, China National Radio and China Radio International. It is also responsible for censoring any sensible materials that offend the Chinese government or Chinese cultural standards. Of all SARFT’s duties, its power to examine and approve all the programs to be broadcasted in China is the one that connected most to ordinary Chinese people’s life. The decision it made so as to the quality of the programs it approved could largely influence the quality of the information people received and the quality of their entertainment time as China nowadays has over 370 million TV households[4], and TV watching has gradually become one of the major entertainments of people in their leisure time. The Regulations on Administration of Films was revised by SARFT on December, 2001[5], and the followings are excerpted from the old version of regulations used by SARFT when the movie Devils on the Doorstep was produced:

“Number twenty-four: Movies are prohibited from containing the following contents: (a) Harm national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. (b) Harm national honor, security and interests.

(c) Incite ethnic hatred, or undermine national unity.
(d) Leak state secrets.
(e) Promote obscenity, superstition or emphasize violence. (f) Insult or slander others.
(g) Contain the contents prohibited by any other national regulations.”[6]

From the above we can see that all of the regulations are quite ambiguous. None of them are followed by any concrete definitions. For instant, to what extent can a movie be called promote obscenity or emphasize violence? Should a single scene of nudity be counted as obscenity or only long and close scene of two people having sex is counted? The concept of violence is even harder to be judged. If all the scenes of killing are considered as violence, then all the movies about the Communist Party members fighting against Japanese invaders should be banned because there would definitely be lots of scenes about party members bravely killing Japanese soldiers. The last piece of regulation is especially ambiguous. Why doesn’t SARFT list all the other national regulations that should be followed? Actually there are only a few numbers of national regulations which are related...
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