Earlier this week, Deadline reported the release of respected Chinese filmmaker Feng Xiaogang’s Youth, a coming-of-age drama about young people making peace with the past, was kiboshed in China. U.S. distributor China Lion has now followed suit. The period epic was due for release tomorrow in North American cinemas, but China Lion says, “Unfortunately, due to a last minute change of the release date of Youth in China, we have had to pull the North American release of the film” (see full statement below).
The moves are thought to be temporary with a future release expected, but the decision to pull the film from theaters in China this weekend — the beginning of the lucrative National Day holiday — is thought to be politically motivated. We have been told that the story Deadline published this week outlining potential reasons had appeared on social media in China, and was subsequently scrubbed.
Youth recently screened at the Toronto Film Festival, but on Sunday it emerged that its China theatrical run had been nixed as a result of “discussions with the film administration bureau and other relevant parties,” according to a statement from Feng’s production house.
Chinese authorities have yet to publicly address the cancellation of the movie that’s a tribute to veterans of the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese war, but it’s thought Youth fell victim to the timing of the upcoming National Congress of the Communist Party which begins October 18 and will usher in changes in the top ranks.
USC Professor Stanley Rosen, who specializes in China, told Deadline, “The fear of protest before the Congress may well be the biggest concern.”
The 1979 border war was Deng Xiaoping’s response to Vietnam’s invasion and occupation of Cambodia in 1978 which overthrew the Chinese-backed Khmer Rouge. Vietnamese troops, however, remained in Cambodia until 1989 and the incursion has not been seen as a Chinese victory by outside observers. Some veterans have staged protests in Beijing in past years, demanding compensation and unhappy with the way they have been treated in the years since the conflict. (See Deadline’s original story, here)
Here is today’s full statement from China Lion:
“Unfortunately, due to a last minute change of the release date of Youth in China, we have had to pull the North American release of the film, which was set for Friday, September 29th, 2017. As soon as we are able to reschedule the film, we will announce it. To anyone who purchased any advance tickets, please contact the box office of the respective theater where the performance was set and a refund will be issued. Again, we apologize for the last minute nature of this change and look forward to bringing you Feng Xiaogang’s Youth in the future. Thank you for your understanding.”