Banned Chinese Director Gets Green Light

Chinese director Yuan Zhang, left, actress Xinyun Li, center, and Jian Zhang, director of photography, promote their movie "Dada's Dance" during a press conference at the 13th Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) in Busan, south of Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Oct. 3, 2008.
AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
Formerly banned Chinese director Zhang Yuan said Friday he's delighted that his new movie has cleared government censors without a single cut, but that he's still struggling to find a domestic audience for his art-house films.

Zhang is part of a group of prominent underground Chinese directors who had their bans lifted in recent years, only to struggle to find box office success in their home country. The director was banned because of movies that tackled controversial social issues such as homosexuality, mental illness and the lifestyle of rock musicians.

Zhang told The Associated Press in an interview on the sidelines of the 13th Pusan International Film Festival that Chinese censors approved "Dada's Dance" without asking for any changes.

"This is something that made me very happy," Zhang said, adding, "I didn't have to make a single cut."

"Dada's Dance," which is holding its world premiere at the Pusan festival, is about a young woman who goes on a search after she is falsely told that her mother isn't her birth mother.

But Zhang said he's still working on making his movies appeal to general Chinese audiences. He said his last movie, "Little Red Flower," made a paltry 3 million Chinese yuan (US$440,000) in China. John Woo's recent historical epic, by comparison, made more than 100 times that amount, raking in more than 300 million yuan (US$44 million).

"Art-house movies are facing a difficult situation in China, but I've always worked on trying to draw Chinese audiences into movie theaters to watch these movies," Zhang said.

Zhang's credits include "Mum," "Beijing Bastards," "The Square" and "East Palace West Palace," whose bold exploration of the power play between a police officer and a gay man set off alarms among Chinese censors.

Authorities confiscated his passport to prevent him from promoting the film overseas, and the movie was never shown on the mainland.

By Min Lee