Cui Weiping (崔卫平), a well-known social critic and professor at the Beijing Film Academy, wrote on Sina Weibo today that the Yunnan Multi-Cultural Festival, one of the country’s most important platforms for independent documentary film, has been shuttered by authorities.
The forum, known as “YunFest,” was founded in 2003 by the BAMA Mountain Culture Research Institute, an NGO supervised by the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences. The idea of the forum was to “become a platform of discussion” between visual documentary filmmakers and artists from China and the Mekong region.
The forum — called so because the “film festival” is a much more sensitive matter to plan in China’s controlled media environment — is often attended by at least a handful of international critics and festival representatives. So the forum has also served as a crucial platform for young Chinese indie filmmakers to get their films seen and recognized internationally.
Cui Weiping wrote on Weibo:
“YunFest” Multicultural Visual Festival is an important platform for independent documentary in China. It began in 2003 and has already gone on for 10 years. This year it has been cancelled completely [by the authorities]. Those of us who didn’t have time to cancel our tickets found ourselves in Dali. We are able to sit together and talk about film but unable to watch any films. On the surface the cancellation of a film forum doesn’t seem to mean much, but put all of these situations together and it amounts to the suppression of all space for cultural exploration and the killing of our country’s soft power.
“YunFest has always been a special cultural space,” film director Feng Xiaohua (冯晓华) wrote.
Cui Weiping added: “Making us stay in our hotel rooms so that we can’t screen films together may look for the moment like stability. But who will take responsibility for the longer term impact on cultural creativity and spiritual life that this strangling of individuals has?”