Quake film triggers calls for shake-up of film approval system

08:14, August 06, 2010      

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As long as movies are officially approved for release in cinemas, they are supposed to be suitable for people of all ages to watch.

Or are they?

The latest domestic blockbuster, "Aftershock," set during the 1976 Tangshan earthquake that left more than 240,000 people dead, has stirred up a debate among parents whose children were scared -- not moved -- to tears during the movie.

They have complained in online forums and blogs, saying the film's releaser should have warned parents of close-up scenes of people being crushed by collapsing houses, limbs littering the ruins, and trucks laden with corpses.

"Sobbing could be heard throughout the cinema. My 5-year-old daughter cried too, but only out of fright," a woman named Zhang Li wrote on Kaixin001.com, a popular Chinese social networking site.

The complaints have renewed calls for reform of China's film approval system, in which all movies to be released must be approved by the State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT).

Many critics want a system like the one in Hong Kong, where movies are classified into three major categories in terms of suitability for children.

In Hong Kong, "Aftershock" was rated II-A, similar to a PG-rating in the United States, which means some material may not be suitable for minors and parents should make inquiries before allowing their children to view it.

"No movie is suitable for everyone to watch, but that doesn't mean we can therefore block the release of some movies," He Weiping, an official with the culture department of Zhejiang provincial government, told Xinhua,

Blocking release amounted to surrendering revenues from cinema screenings to on-line distributors, who were mostly illegal, said Li Hongliang, head of the administrative office of the Hengdian World Studios, China's largest film and television production base with 360 private studios, in Zhejiang Province.

"The film and television industries in China are on a fast track of development. China produces 400 to 500 films a year. The movie approval system needs to be reformed or the increasing number of local movies will push the approval system to its limit," he said.

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