An edited version of Quentin Tarantino's latest revenge-murder fest, Django Unchained, was supposed to open in China today, but was yanked from all its theaters—in some cases, even after the opening credits had already started rolling. The Chinese company that was distributing the film said it was a "technical problem," but to a nation accustomed to heavy censorship of the arts that excuse doesn't hold a lot of weight. According to witnesses, a few screenings were already underway when theaters owners got the call to stop the film and send everyone home.
According to reports, Django had already undergone a significant re-working to please strict Chinese censors. Most of the alternations were visual, and made to tone down the hyper-violent imagery of the film, including dialing back the widespread splattering of blood and even changing its color on screen. Tarantino (who won this year's Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Django) had approved the changes himself in order to ensure the film could make into the large and lucrative Chinese market. The fact that the prints actually made it to theaters (which means censors had plenty of chances to see it) makes the reversal that much more surprising,
There is no rating system in Chinese theaters, but censors have complete control to demand the removal of certain scenes from foreign films or ban a movie altogether. Naturally, the decision to pull the film, especially after an unusually agressive marketing campaign will only serve to increase local interest in it. According to The Los Angeles Times, one post on the Chinese social media site Weibo declared, "My understanding is that any interrupted or blocked film is worth seeing."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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