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'Django Unchained's China debut cancelled

April 12, 2013

"Django Unchained" official poster.

Chinese cinemas cancelled all screenings of Quentin Tarantino's film "Django Unchained" just as it was released on Thursday, local media said, with one viewer adding a showing stopped after one minute.

China strictly censors films and other media for sexual and political sensitivities, and limits distribution of foreign films to protect the domestic industry.

"Django Unchained", because of technical reasons, has been stopped from being shown nationwide for the time being," the popular web portal Sina reported, citing a notice distributed to cinema companies.

According to a report in TOI: It quoted unnamed industry insiders as saying that nudity prompted the sudden censorship and said it was not clear when the film would return to screens.

A user of China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblog service said he had been watching the film when "after just one minute it stopped!"

Other posters guessed that nude scenes forced the interruption, while another cited the "dangerous" theme of underdogs rising up by force.

The main character "was continually repressed and enslaved by the slaveowner, then suddenly got his hands on a gun and rebelled in the name of love and freedom", the user said.

The censors' "cutting hands are fiercer than that of a slaveowner, insistent on making Django a eunuch", wrote another.

"Django Unchained" was set to be Tarantino's first film to enjoy commercial release in China, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The director's trademark graphic violence survived the official pre-release censorship, with only minor tweaks such as the blood being coloured darker and its spatter slightly lessened, Sony Columbia executive Zhang Miao told Southern Metropolis Daily.

Nonetheless thanks to rampant piracy in China, fans have already been able to watch the original version of Django Unchained on DVD or online – even before the movie hit theatres.

Earlier this year Chinese censors cut out 40 minutes of love scenes and other parts of the Hollywood film Cloud Atlas, triggering complaints that it made an already complicated plot more confusing.

Last year the Global Times said the opening screening of the Beijing Independent Film Festival – where authorities reportedly showed up to discourage a large audience – was interrupted by a power cut.