Rebiya Kadeer & Melbourne International Film Festival

8th August’s protest before Melbourne Town hall against the screening of the Film “Ten Conditions of Love” brought the whole Rebiya Kadeer movie controversy to another climax. For me, witnessing this kind of conflict actually evokes more complex feelings and thoughts than if I heard or read about them in China.

The MIFF’s attitude is clear that they do not want to threaten the independency of the film festival, and especially when it comes to a film made by an Australian director.

According to Richard Moore, the executive of the MIFF,

“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………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.”

It is easy for me to image how Ms Chen, as a representative of Chinese governemnt, used the authoritative tones (just like these TV propaganda shown on major Chinese TVs) to list Rebiya’s crimes such as the terrorist riots she incited in Western China (which Rebiya denied ). This might be a persuasive discourse in China where the dominant ideology of the society is constantly produced and constructed by the Chinese Communist Party. But within the context of Australia, the executive of MIFF obvious sounds “confused” or a little “annoyed”…… Obviously, there is nothing wrong with showing a documentary regarding the spiritual leader of an ethnic group in the Film Festival, and it is also supposed to be a natural thing for giving her the freedom of expressing issues about her ethnicity.

 

I had once thought that the controversy would over after three Chinese filmmakers withdrew their films from Film Festival in protest against the screening of “Ten Conditions of Love”, but, things gotten more ridiculous…..

It is said that

“The hackers broke into the festival’s website, just hours after Premier John Brumby officially opened the 2009 festival at the Arts Centre.

The hackers replaced festival information with the Chinese flag and anti-Kadeer slogans and were last night continuing to disrupt the site by spamming.

“We like film but we hate Rebiya Kadeer,” one message says and calls for an apology to the Chinese people.”

However, the hacking definitely didn’t change the minds of the MIFF organizers, who told ABC:

How could we change our mind now?” said Richard Moore.

“It just makes our position even, even stronger and we may even consider programming more sessions of 10 Conditions of Love.”

Apparently, Chinese netizens were quite furious about MIFF’s disrespect to Chinese government’s suggestion, and it seemed that MIFF’s insistence did  hurt Chinese people’s feelings. So, after the decision of more session of “Ten Conditions of Love” to be shown, four more Chinese-language films were withdrawn, and a long-term Hong Kong-based sponsor  pulled out of the event.

The situation is complex, and I guess each side would always provide their own version of the justification. I’m just thinking of what such not-so-pleasant consequences might imply….. It is obviously a very poor strategy for Chinese government to try to make the rest of the world to see the events through the same lens they use. As is shown here, this would probably only result in more confusion and misunderstanding between China and other countries. On the other hand, MIFF also seems to be facing a dilemma of choosing between its independency and its credibility of “an International Film Festival”.

4 thoughts on “Rebiya Kadeer & Melbourne International Film Festival”

  1. This is a complex and sensitive issue. While I don’t feel well informed enough to provide any great insight, I followed what happened with interest.

    I agree with your comment that “each side would always provide their own version of the justification”.

    MIFF would have compromised its artistic control of the program had it pulled the film. This would have struck a blow to professional credibility for a film festival of its standing. Similarly, the Chinese Government was obviously not in a position to let the issue go. Such action would have undermined its stance on the issue and, it would seem, the wishes of a number of Chinese people.

    I wonder whether there will be any follow up action taken by either side.

    Like

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