Paperwork problem cuts villager’s decade-long free movie program

By Liu Caiyu Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/11 19:18:39

A farmer and a girl from Bancheng village wait in front of the screen that Luo has hung up to watch movie. Photo: CFP

A farmer and a girl from Bancheng village wait in front of the screen that Luo has hung up to watch movie. Photo: CFP

 When Luo Yanzong was told to stop showing movies to his fellow villagers for free, after 10 years of projecting shows for them, he was crushed and kept asking himself the same question over and over, "Why would anyone stop me when I am doing a good thing?"

Luo, a middle-aged man in Bancheng village, South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is beloved in his and nearby villages as he has shown movies more than 2,000 times since 2007 with his self-purchased projection equipment.

But on December 26, the authorities yelled 'cut' when they told Luo that he couldn't continue as he lacks the proper certification.

The Bureau of Culture, Media and Sport in Qinbei, Guangxi, told him to stop screening movies until he gets the licenses required under the Media & Entertainment Law. The law says that public film projection needs official permission to avoid intellectual property theft, pornography and violent content. Luo's actions are also "a waste of resources," according to the bureau, as the local authorities have already provided film services.

"I'm voluntarily projecting free movies for villagers, not running a business. Why do I need permission?" Luo was quoted as saying by the Beijing News on Monday.

Killing enthusiasm

Free movie projection in rural areas is not a new concept. It started in 1979 when China's reform and opening-up began. More than 24 million movies were screened from 1979 to 1982 and at that time nearly 50 million villagers were watching movies every day, according to the article Rural Movies Research by Tian Yigui and Li Guangrong, professors from Chongqing-based Southwest University. The article was published in the Film Literature journal in 2011.

But some counties have cut or disbanded their projection teams as audiences have shrunk since mass migration to cities began.

Two forms of movie projection now exist in villages, qualified projection teams funded by the government and villagers' own projectors, Li Guoxiang, a researcher at the Rural Development Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Some villages pay the projectionist 100 yuan ($14) per movie but Luo works for free, Li noted.

Government officials should help to legalize and standardize Luo's actions, which are driven by his desire to benefit the public and are applauded by villagers, a commentary piece on news portal said on January 4.

"The cancellation will stamp out enthusiasm for public welfare. Public social welfare is a supplement to official welfare," the commentary read.

"Luo's voluntary projection is a supplement to governmental services, which has enriched the lives of the villagers; it also functions as science popularization," said Li.

Li added that cinemas are luxury for villagers, adding that they are unlikely to be set up in these areas as they are market-driven businesses.

Administrative discretion

"Uncle Luo" has become a public figure in his village, and the 60-something has been helping the local government publicize national policies as well as helping villagers solve problems, which earned him the title of "most beautiful local advocate."

"The reason why Luo's projections have been stopped is due to official regulations. But local officials should make their decisions based on their own judgment other than imposing regulations blindly on all individual cases and ignoring humanity," He Xuefeng, an expert on rural governance at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"Grass-roots governance in rural areas is complicated, as irregular and personal cases always happen, so local officials cannot treat all circumstances strictly in accordance with the regulations," said He.

"When contradictions happen between their judgment and the regulations, I suggest local officials carefully make decisions case by case, in case you damage the good and indulge the bad," He explained.

After a public outcry, Li Rongliang, the head of the local culture bureau, visited Luo and offered his support for processing Luo's certification application. But Luo will not be allowed to move from village to village, as a fixed venue has to be chosen.

Luo is still haunted by the decision. "If they only allow me to project movies in one place, I will give up," he said.

Newspaper headline: Lights, camera, no action

Posted in: SOCIETY

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