Is China planning to ban the broadcast of Oscars this year? 

WION Web Team
New Delhi Published: Mar 18, 2021, 12:43 PM(IST)

Honorary Oscars gala Photograph:( Reuters )

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The broadcast of the Oscars 2021 may be jeopardised in China due to the nomination of 'Do Not Split' in the best documentary shorts category. 

The best documentary shorts at the Oscars often go unnoticed among the prominent feature film categories but the same category seems to have irked the authorities in China. 

A report in The Hollywood Reporter states that Beijing's media regulators have told the local press outlets not to broadcast live coverage of the Oscars. They have also reportedly been asked to tone down the coverage of the event overall. Reason: The orders come as a response to the nomination of the short documentary 'Do Not Split', which explores the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong as well as some previous statements made by Best Director nominee Chloe Zhao who is of Chinese descent. Zhao is a front runner in the category for her film 'Nomadland'. 

The Oscars has a wide following among Chinese movie buffs and the decision may lead to absolute no coverage of the event. 

Sources close to television network CCTV  though state that a decision hasn't yet been made about whether to carry the awards show as usual this year. The channel broadcasts the ceremony in the country every year. 

The Oscar ceremony is typically aired live in China by M1905, the streaming video service of the state broadcaster’s movie channel, CCTV6. 

Several media reports state that Beijing's Propaganda Department has instructed media outlets to focus on 'non-controversial' awards categories. Here is the full list of Oscars 2021 nominees

China, in fact, has regulated and edited the award ceremony in the past. In 2019, the ceremony was streamed on Mango TV which cut the phrase "gay man" from Best Actor winner Rami Malek's winning speech and replaced it with the phrase "special group" in Chinese subtitles. 

Lady Gaga, who is persona non grata over her past statements supporting the independence of Tibet, was also omitted from the ceremony. 

'Do Not Split' which has been helmed by Norwegian filmmaker Anders hammer, documents the 2019 protests in Hong Kong over the proposal of a law that would have made it possible for Hong Kong residents to be extradited to mainland China to face Beijing's legal system. The student-led protests drew the attention of the world, and the documentary shows the brutal backlash the activists faced by the Hong Kong police. The protest evolved into a broader call for democracy and human rights. 

The film also highlights Hong Kong's draconian national security law, which effectively quashed the protest movement in 2020 and resulted in the arrest of scores of activists.

Meanwhile, Chloe Zhao has been facing backlash in the country over her past comments on China. Zhao's 'Nomadland' has earned six nominations overall, including for best picture. When Zhao won the best director award at the Golden Globes in February earlier this year, the moment was widely celebrated in China, with local news outlets and social media users celebrating and calling her a national pride. However, the situation changed dramatically a day later when old interviews of the filmmaker resurfaced where Zhao could be heard being critical of her country. 

Chloe Zhao to Emerald Funnel, Oscars 2021 Best Director Nominees

Beijing's internet censors eventually blocked most of the publicity for 'Nomadland' on social media and deleted many references to the film's April 23 China release date.

Sources state that regulators seem to have adopted a wait and watch policy before making a final judgment on the fate of Zhao's movie in China. 

Zhao's win at the Oscars and the reception of her upcoming film 'The Eternals' can be detrimental in how they deal with the filmmaker and her other projects in the future. 

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