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Please log in to bookmark this story. The censor's axe tends to fall swiftly on depictions of modern China sullied by prostitution, corruption, moral depravity, overweight police officers or anything else that might cast the country in a negative light. So it came as a surprise to Chinese filmmakers and watchers when a trio of films depicting exactly those subjects received the country's blessing, and then went on to sweep some of the top awards at the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival last weekend.
Chinese entries picked up three of the Berlinale's top prizes. Their success points to a new opening for filmmakers to do work once considered impossible to bring to mass audiences in Communist China. Story continues below advertisement "We're looking at something a little bit different" from the censors, said Shanghai-based filmmaker Richard Trombly.
Blind Massage, a sex-heavy look into relationship drama at a Chinese massage institute, picked up a Silver Bear for outstanding artistic contribution for cinematography. Another film, No Man's Land, received critical acclaim but no awards. The change is obvious in Blind Massage, which depicts a carnal world far from the glossy contours of the big-budget historical epics and kung fu films that tend to make it to Chinese cinema screens.
Its director, Lou Ye, had made two banned movies before being barred in from making movies for five years. But not only did Blind Massage get made, it received a kind of domestic acclaim, as the state-run press waited with excitement to see if it might get an award in Berlin. When the awards were announced, Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, applauded. In , China became the world's number-two film market, and if it continues on its current course, it will surpass the United States by Still, the loosening for Chinese film extends only so far.
Ghosts remain forbidden in movies, a throwback to Mao Zedong's hatred for superstition, and anything critical of China's political leadership will never be seen on a domestic movie screen.