*Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” once bound for China and then abruptly pulled from theaters, could still get a chance to roll out in the world’s second-largest movie market.
The mainland Chinese publicists working on behalf of Sony China, the film’s distributor, have reiterated that work is now underway with government authorities to facilitate its release in the country. In a message posted Friday to the Weibo account (China’s version of Twitter) run by the film’s Chinese publicists, they thank “all our friends and enthusiastic fans,” before saying: “We will try our best to do our job, so as to allow ‘Django Unchained’ to meet all of you as soon as possible.”
Soon after news broke on Thursday morning that China Film Group, the state-backed institution in charge of importing films into the country, had ordered cinemas to cancel all screenings of “Django Unchained,” Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Los Angeles-based spokesman Steve Elzer issued a statement expressing “regret” about the decision and saying that the company is “working with the Chinese authorities to determine whether the film can be rescheduled.”
Since then, Sony has refrained from directly commenting further on the situation. A spokesperson from the company’s Chinese arm declined to respond to The Hollywood Reporter’s questions about the reasons for the ban, and would neither confirm nor deny rumors appearing across Chinese social media on Friday morning claiming that the involved parties are now eyeing an April 30 release in the country.
With neither the authorities nor distributors offering an explanation for the sudden ban, speculation has abounded online in China about what made officials make such a surprising and seemingly belligerent late-game move. With Tarantino himself reportedly having toned down some of the bloodshed for the film’s Chinese release, the dominant opinion among Weibo users has zeroed in on Kerry Washington’s brief nude scene and the uncomfortable sequence that features Jamie Foxx, as “Django,” hanging upside-down while a slave master graphically threatens to separate him from his genitals.
Speaking to THR, a manager of a major mainland Chinese film chain — who declined to be named because of the political sensitivity surrounding the film’s suspension — said the rumored re-release date is “plausible,” as it would allow the distributors ample time to collect all of the digital copies of the film, do the editing as demanded by the censors, and send them back to individual theaters.
Media previews of the movie took place in the run-up to the film’s opening day, and the film unspooled without incident during after-midnight screenings on the eve of opening day. It was only at around 10am on Thursday that an official directive was channeled across the country requesting all cinema operators to immediately cancel all showings of Django – including, among others, a press screening in Guangzhou, one of China’s biggest cities.