Sex slavery film dodges Chinese censors to land in Cannes

21st May 2007, Comments 0 comments

CANNES, France, May 21, 2007 (AFP) - After dodging censors at home, a harrowing film about a woman sold into marriage in 1990s China is playing to packed audiences in Cannes.

CANNES, France, May 21, 2007 (AFP) - After dodging censors at home, a harrowing film about a woman sold into marriage in 1990s China is playing to packed audiences in Cannes.

"Blind Mountain" (Mang Shan) by director Li Yang depicts a callous society in which residents of a poor remote village where young student Bai is held as a slave are fully aware of her ordeal but refuse to help.

The climactic ending in which long-delayed justice is finally meted out drew cheers from a full-house crowd in Cannes.

*sidebar1*The 48-year-old Li, who scored a festival hit in 2003 with "Blind Shaft," said his film was cut in at least 20 places by the Film Bureau in Beijing before winning permission to screen at the Cannes festival, where it was showing in the Un Certain Regard sidebar section.

"Every time it was submitted, new suggestions came back," Li told the Hollywod Reporter trade magazine.

In the movie, Bai (Hunag Lu), aiming to bail out her indebted family, is lured by the promise of a lucrative job selling herbal medicine, telling her would-be employers: "If the money's good I don't care how hard I work."

But the friendly men in suits turn out to be human traffickers and wrenching scenes ensue of a panicked Bai, robbed of her money and identity card, struggling to escape and realising there is no way out.

Raped and beaten into submission by her new "husband," Bai is kept locked in and chained on the dirt floor of her room by his parents.

The mother and other women in the village, many of them victims of similar schemes, advise her to resign herself to her plight.

But Bai refuses, appealing to a kindly teacher, the corrupt chief of the village council, and powerless policemen, who acknowledge that sexual slavery is legally banned in China but a fact of life in many regions.

She eventually becomes pregnant and attempts to induce a miscarriage by punching herself repeatedly in the abdomen. Nine months later a boy is born.

Finally, a schoolboy from the village helps Bai get an appeal for help to her father but even he is unable to free her.

Speaking of the censorship, Li said: "It was very difficult to get permission to come here."

He was eventually able to leave in a scene of a baby girl drowned in a pond due to the preference for male children in agricultural regions, as well as dialogue that targeted the corruption of the health care system.

But he said the domestic version of "Mang Shan" might have to scrap such scenes and have a different ending.

The director, who lived in Germany for 14 years, raised the 600,000 euros (811,000 dollars) with the help of independent overseas Chinese investors, who opted to remain anonymous.

Li interviewed kidnapped brides and gave one a small role in the film, saying he aimed to hold up a mirror to shameful sides of Chinese society that emerged as free market reforms were implemented in the early 1990s.

"It is a critique of both the 'money reigns supreme' attitude prevalent in Chinese society and also a relentless expose of the ugliness, greed, brutality and treachery in human nature," he said in a statement released at the Cannes festival, which ends next Sunday.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, Cannes Film Festival

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