BEIJING: Leading Chinese film directors on Thursday voiced support for the two directors who reportedly quit the 58th Melbourne International Film Festival, which opens Friday.
Australian newspaper The Age reported Wednesday that two Chinese film directors, Jia Zhangke and Zhao Liang, had withdrawn their films from the festival in protest at the inclusion of a documentary about Rebiya Kadeer, leader of the World Uygur Congress (WUC), which the Chinese believed to be behind the deadly July 5 riot in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Jia's cell phone had been turned off and he was not available for comment, while Zhao could not be contacted. However, Richard Moore, head of the film festival, confirmed the withdrawal to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
Feng Xiaogang, a household name film director in China, told Xinhua Thursday that film festivals should be a platform for cultural and artistic exchanges.
"However, the Melbourne film festival organizers have turned it into a political drama by inviting Rebiya Kadeer, a political liar," he said.
Director Yang Yazhou said he was proud of the directors' decision.
"I believe any Chinese director would do the same in a similar position," he said.
Stanley Tong, a well-known Hong Kong director, said he was shocked by the news because it was "extremely inappropriate" for a film festival to play a documentary about a "terrorist."
"If it were me, I would quit too," he said.
Chen Jialin, chairman of the Chinese TV Drama Directors' Working Committee, said Chinese directors should make anti-terrorism documentaries besides expressing pure anger and regret.
"We should take more action to reveal the crime of separatists like Rebiya Kadeer," he said.
On Internet portal 163.com, the news had attracted more than 4,000 comments. Almost all of the postings were in support of the two directors.
A Shanghai comment, whose IP was 116.234, wrote: "The news is really exciting. The directors are real Chinese men. We support your decision."
Only a couple said Jia was trying to earn publicity, but they were immediately criticized by others, defending Jia as a talented director who had always been low-key.
Jia, 39, is generally seen as a leading figure of the "sixth generation" Chinese film directors whose works focus on social reality and marginal characters. His films Cry Me A River and Perfect Life, a cooperative work with director Emily Tang in Hong Kong, were scheduled to screen at the Melbourne film festival.
Jia said in a letter to festival organizers that the Urumqi riot had caused many deaths and many people believed the WUC headed by Rebiya Kadeer had unavoidable responsibility for the violence.
Zhao Liang's film, Petition, also on the festival schedule, is an investigative work on the lives of petitioners. It took him 12 years to complete.