Outcry spurs call for film ratings

By Shen Shushu Source:Global Times Published: 2013-2-25 22:28:01

A boy passes a poster for the film Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons at a cinema in Shanghai Monday. Photo: Yang Hui/GT
A boy passes a poster for the film Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons at a cinema in Shanghai Monday. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

A Shanghai People's Congress (SPC) delegate called on the local government to institute a film ratings system after complaints arose about a popular Chinese movie released earlier this month, local media reported Monday.

The Hong Kong-directed film Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, which has earned about 1 billion yuan ($161 million) at the box office since its release on February 10, has drawn the ire of parents and media critics due to several graphic scenes, including one in which humans were roasted alive in a cooking pot, local media reported.

Some children complained about feeling sick to the stomach after watching the scenes, according to a news report on Shanghai Television Station.

SPC delegate Li Ming, who is also a director of the law firm Sloma & Co, submitted a proposal last year suggesting that the local government create a ratings system that could serve as a model for the rest of the country. However, authorities did not directly reply to his proposal.

There is no ratings system for films or television shows on the Chinese mainland. Instead, State censors are in charge of removing offensive content. Li said the current system of censorship developed by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) doesn't always work well because censors might have different reactions to certain content than a woman or child might have.

Audiences of different ages, genders and health conditions could make better choices if there was a system that warned them about questionable material in films or television shows, Li told the Global Times.

It remains unclear what kind of ratings system is best suited for China, but local authorities could create one based on those in Hong Kong or the US, said Shi Chuan, a professor of film studies at Shanghai University. "Along with ratings for violent and pornographic content, the system should also define other issues such as ethnic jokes, which might spark disputes over ethnic discrimination in China," Shi told the Global Times.

SARFT officials said in 2010 that a film ratings system would not suit China due to a lack of effective oversight, according to the Shanghai Television Station report.

One of the major obstacles to a local ratings system is that SARFT shares oversight over the film industry with other government bodies, which might confuse city officials if the different regulators disagreed on a rating, Shi said.

Film producers and distributors are unlikely to help. Their priority is box office revenue, so they remain focused on how to draw more people into theaters, said Zhang Xuejing, the co-CEO of gewara.com, a Shanghai-based website that sells about 30 percent of the city's movie tickets, according to a report on china.com.

Gewara added a warning about Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons to its site a week ago after it received complaints from parents who regretted taking their children to see it, said Liu Shengjie, a company press officer.

Posted in: Society, Metro Shanghai

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