French 'Wolf Totem' director says China censors gave him 'carte blanche'

Sun Feb 1, 2015 9:20am EST
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By Michael Martina

BEIJING (Reuters) - The French director of the film Wolf Totem said on Sunday he had complete freedom from Chinese censors in his adaptation of the Chinese novel, which touches on divisive themes including the degradation of grasslands in the Inner Mongolia region.

In China, all broadcast media and films are pre-screened for approval and anything deemed politically sensitive is banned.

After Wolf Totem, written by Lu Jiamin under the pseudonym Jiang Rong, was published, some foreign critics pointed out elements that seemed to have escaped the country's censors.

An environmental cautionary tale that pits a pack of wolves against an influx of settlers to the grasslands during the late 1960's Cultural Revolution, the 2004 bestselling novel also includes critiques of Chinese culture and governance, and favorable allusions to democracy.

Director Jean-Jacques Annaud said while he understood he "may have been an exception", Chinese censors made no modifications to his screenplay.

"What I can say is that I had carte blanche at every level until this day. The movie you see is the same movie I cut," Annaud told Reuters in an interview in Beijing ahead of the film's release in China later this month.

The book won the first Man Asian Literary Prize in 2007. The author, Lu, a retired professor, has since affirmed he had been jailed for his involvement in the 1989 democracy protests around Tiananmen Square.

Chinese officials hope to expand the global imprint of the country's culture and arts and government pronouncements and state media often discuss plans for "cultural reform" to this end.   Continued...

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (C) and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (L) speak with French film director Jean-Jacques Annaud during a visit at the China's National Museum in Beijing January 30, 2015.  REUTERS/Fred Dufour/Pool