DOC/FEST: A delegation of Chinese broadcasters have withdrawn from Sheffield Doc/Fest at the eleventh hour following a row about documentaries that criticise the country’s government.A delegation of 10 Chinese channel executives, including CCTV9 documentary channel MD Liu Wen, was due in Sheffield this week to meet delegates and present a panel on coproduction opportunities.
However, Doc/Fest organisers announced at the start of the festival that the group would no longer be attending, and the coproduction session due to take place later today has been replaced by a talk from BBC Storyville editor Nick Fraser.
Fraser told delegates at a panel on day one that the Chinese were unhappy at the Doc/Fest decision to air Alison Clayman’s Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, a feature on the Chinese artist and activist who is under house arrest by the country’s authorities.
In a statement festival director Heather Croall said: “Officially we have been told that the reason they cancelled is related to a restriction on the number of travel trips they can make to Europe. Unofficially though, there were a number of difficult conversations regarding films we are screening in our programme that are critical of the Chinese Government.
“We are very disappointed that the Chinese delegation will now not be attending the festival, but we remain very hopeful that they will attend in future. Chinese filmmakers, distributors and commissioners will always be welcome at Doc/Fest. We believe in the power of coproduction and have helped to facilitate hundreds of co-productions over the years.”
Organisers say the Chinese Embassy in London telephoned them directly the day before the festival opened asking them to cancel screenings of the Ai WeiWei film and the delegation then withdrew when that request was refused.
New legislation from the Chinese government on building the country’s television production community and promoting the country abroad has seen television executives travelling the world this year to promote themselves as coproduction partners. Phoenix TV and the Golden Eagle Documentary Channel were among those scheduled to attend Doc/Fest.
Speaking to C21 at the recent MipTV event in Cannes Liu Wen said: “One of the main aims this year is to hold several events to make more people aware of us. Attending international documentary festivals we can be more exposed and within the circle of the documentary world is very important to us.”