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Censorship in China - Part 3: One Second

Zhang Yimou's Drama During the Cultural Revolution is Suppressed

Zhang Yimou's latest film One Second is set during Mao's Cultural Revolution and was due to premiere at the Berlinale in early 2019, but was withdrawn four days before the premiere due to alleged post-production problems. There were no further explanations and since then it is also unclear when the film will be shown to the public.

As is so often the case, Chinese censorship can be assumed behind this. “Technical problems” are often used as code words for censorship interventions. Not only the setting of the film, but also the characters themselves might be problematic for censors, because the film is about a vagabond who stole a film role and an escaped criminal who wants to see a second of the shot. What can be seen in that one second is the mystery of the movie.

The usual course of Chinese censorship is as follows: The first step for filmmakers is an acceptance of the script. Only then can the shooting begin. When the film is finished, the censorship is carried out, now in the hands of the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party. If this department approves the film, there is the so-called "Dragon Seal", without which a screening in cinemas is not possible.

Since 2017, an additional export permit is apparently required, without which the film may not be shown abroad. With this additional hurdle, the length of the film or the dialogues may no longer be changed. It is also forbidden for new investors or producers to come on board from this point on. This regulation primarily serves to promote domestic productions.

Whether it is actually censorship that prevented a presentation or the lack of this permission is unclear. However, the fact that there was absolutely no further information on the subject and that there has been no mention of the film for almost half a year speaks in favor of censorship by China's rulers.

Lou Ye, another Chinese director, was able to show his film The Shadow Play at the Berlinale. During the press conference he said that he had to negotiate with the censors for two years and that it was an incredibly difficult process. The film is about murder, corruption and riots - not necessarily the easy stuff either.

The fate of One Second is unknown.

Release: Aug 08, 2019 - Author: sausagemoo81 - Translator: Mike Lowrey

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