Movie lovers rejoice as this season’s ceremony for the Academy Awards will be a live event. With movies up for nomination like “Judas and the Black Messiah” and “Promising Young Woman,” it’s sure to be an interesting night. Unfortunately for those in China, it appears that they will have to go through extra lengths to watch the show this year. A spokesperson from the network that’d aired the Oscars in China for the past 50 years, Television Broadcasts Ltd (TVB), told various media outlets that, “It was a purely commercial decision that we decided not to pursue the Oscars this year.” This announcement, however, came just after the academy’s nomination of “Do Not Split” for Best Short Documentary, an in-depth look at the 2019 protests against Chinese administration.
The 30-minute short documents the sheer violence met by demonstrators from Hong Kong law enforcement. The uproar from citizens was brought on by “a proposed bill allowing the Chinese government to extradite criminal suspects to mainland China escalated protests throughout Hong Kong,” according to the production company, Field of Vision. Gruesome scenes of egregious force stand as unprecedented examples of the regime’s corruption. The dangerous scenes, which played out on the big screen, are backed by Chinese mainland’s National Security Law, a construct that promotes punishment to those who organize protests against the government.
While critics like Cao Siqi and Chi Jingyi of the Global Times tout the film as having a lack of creativity and relied heavily on political bias, “Do Not Split” has received an out cry of support and acclaim along with its nomination.
“The riot footage is heart-stopping,” said Robert Abele in an Oscar short film breakdown for the Los Angeles Times, “but there’s also a thoughtful snapshot of pro-democracy activist Joey Siu, whose fortitude is as inspiring as her voiced fear for her city’s future is worrisome.”
Siu and other activists are spearheading a revolution in Hong Kong that the higher ups of the country apparently do not want the world to see. After the film’s Academy nomination in March, TVB dropped the award show from its lineup. This is the first time the Oscars will not be aired on TVB since 1969, almost 50 years ago.
It can also be inferred that the removal of the awards show was also attributed to negative comments about Chinese authority from Bejing-native screenwriter, Chloe Zhao. Zhao made history as the first Asian female to snag a Golden Globe for Best Direction of a Motion Picture. “Nomadland,” the picture in question, also received a nomination for an Oscar in the same category.
Though, Chinese audiences’ initial appraisal for the trailblazer quickly depleted after two public statements. One was quite minor, the director told the Australian publication news.com.au that, “The U.S. is now my country.” While this may seem like a miniscule comment, promotion of her film’s April 23rd Chinese release was soon censored from social media.
Another statement made by the director was said in an interview with Filmmaker Magazine in which she elaborates on the inspiration for “Nomadland,” “It goes back to when I was a teenager in China, being in a place where there are lies everywhere.”
It’s clear from their actions that Chinese media has reservations of promoting media that goes directly against its authority. With no clear prospective broadcaster willing to air the award show, it’s unlikely that they will see Oscars playing in the country this year.
The 93rd Academy Awards will air April 25th at 8pm on ABC. “Do Not Split” can be streamed on the Field of Vision website.
By Omar Letson