Celebrated Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou’s latest picture, One Second, has been abruptly pulled from its competition slot at the Berlin Film Festival. A translated post on the movie’s official Weibo account reads, “One Second is not allowed to be shown at the Berlin International Film Festival for technical reasons. Our apologies.” The festival has confirmed the movie will not screen, citing technical issues in post-production, and says it will program another film in its place. This takes the competition down to 16 titles.
There has been speculation that the movie may have run up against censorship issues at home. It is set during the Cultural Revolution, a period that remains a sensitive subject. However, I’m cautioned that while “technical reasons” can indeed be a generic catch-all, One Second was already granted its China release license in early January. It does not have a Middle Kingdom date, but I hear the plan is for it to go out before the second half of the year.
The official description of the movie reads as follows: In the midst of a lonely desert landscape, two people appear like dots on the horizon. The prisoner and the orphan girl do not yet know each other, but their paths will soon cross. He has escaped from a labor camp, risking being handed down an even longer sentence, and is undertaking an exhausting trek in the heat because he absolutely must see a particular newsreel. But of all things, this is exactly the film roll that the girl steals. While the villagers wait impatiently for the screening to begin and the fugitive feverishly awaits the one second in the film that counts for him, the silver film can is passed from hand to hand.
Zhang has explored the Cultural Revolution in many of his films. One Second, produced by Huanxi Media and sold internationally by Edko, is said to pay homage to cinema and celebrate it as a communal experience.
The yanking of One Second follows another hiccup with a Chinese movie in Berlin. Last week, Derek Tsang’s Better Days was scrubbed from the Generation14 Plus program, citing post-production issues. Speculation surrounding that move also centered on censorship.