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China shuts down Beijing Independent Film Festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities blocked an annual independent film festival from opening Saturday, seizing documents and films from organizers and hauling away two event officials in a sign that Beijing is stepping up its already tight ideological controls.

Li Xianting, a film critic and founder of the Li Xianting Film Fund, the organizer of the Beijing Independent Film Festival, said police searched his office and confiscated materials he had gathered over more than 10 years. Li and the festival’s artistic director, Wang Hongwei, were detained by police Saturday night but later released, according to their supporters.

The festival, which began in 2006, has seen severe police obstruction over the past few years, but this year’s crackdown is far more serious, Wang said.

“In the past few years, when they forced us to cancel the festival, we just moved it to other places, or delayed the screenings,” he said. “But this year, we cannot carry on with the festival. It is completely forbidden.”

Over the past week, Li posted memos saying government security personnel were pressuring him to cancel the festival, and that he had come under police surveillance.

“It’s very clear that the (President) Xi Jinping regime is determined to control the ideological realm, which has not been emphasized so much for a long time,” said Chris Berry, professor of film studies at King’s College London in England.

But Berry said that China is not new to shutting down independent film festivals, and that the ill treatment of the Beijing festival does not mark the end of the country’s independent filmmaking, as filmmakers have found more venues in an increasingly diverse environment.

The boom in the mainstream movie industry, the rise of galleries that curate artwork based on moving images, and the Internet all have provided new opportunities, he said.

“Let’s not be totally pessimistic,” he said.

Police in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, said Saturday that they were unaware the festival had been canceled. But security was tight at the site, with about two dozen men blocking the area and preventing around 30 film directors and members of the public from entering.

The men, claiming to be villagers, tried to stop anyone from photographing or videotaping the scene, and in a scuffle, broke a video camera an Associated Press journalist was operating and took away another AP journalist’s cellphone. The phone was later returned.

Hu Jie, a movie director who traveled from the eastern city of Nanjing to attend the festival, was upset at the cancellation.

“The audience for my films is already quite small, perhaps because I make documentaries that talk about history,” Hu said. “If one of the rare film festivals, like the Beijing Independent Film festival, is shot down, then it will be very difficult for us to survive as filmmakers.”

Started as a film forum, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films, but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organizers still managed to show some new movies. Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were banned.

In the memos that he posted, Li said police put him and the fund’s office under surveillance Aug. 18, when this year’s festival’s poster and schedule were released online.

He said local authorities initially agreed to a compromise that the festival be moved to a town farther out in neighboring Hebei province, but that the management of the hotel where reservations had been made informed the fund on Friday that police were not allowing it to host the festival.

Li said the festival’s executive director, Fan Rong, and Wang were taken away by Songzhuang police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival, before being freed five hours later. He said employees of the film fund were also informed that the electricity to the office would be cut off starting Saturday.

Associated Press videojournalists Isolda Morillo and Helene Franchineau contributed to this report.

China shuts down Beijing Independent Film Festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities blocked an annual independent film festival from opening Saturday, seizing documents and films from organizers and hauling away two event officials in a sign that Beijing is stepping up its already tight ideological controls.

Li Xianting, a film critic and founder of the Li Xianting Film Fund, the organizer of the Beijing Independent Film Festival, said police searched his office and confiscated materials he had gathered over more than 10 years. Li and the festival’s artistic director, Wang Hongwei, were detained by police Saturday night but later released, according to their supporters.

The festival, which began in 2006, has seen severe police obstruction over the past few years, but this year’s crackdown is far more serious, Wang said.

“In the past few years, when they forced us to cancel the festival, we just moved it to other places, or delayed the screenings,” he said. “But this year, we cannot carry on with the festival. It is completely forbidden.”

Over the past week, Li posted memos saying government security personnel were pressuring him to cancel the festival, and that he had come under police surveillance.

“It’s very clear that the (President) Xi Jinping regime is determined to control the ideological realm, which has not been emphasized so much for a long time,” said Chris Berry, professor of film studies at King’s College London in England.

But Berry said that China is not new to shutting down independent film festivals, and that the ill treatment of the Beijing festival does not mark the end of the country’s independent filmmaking, as filmmakers have found more venues in an increasingly diverse environment.

The boom in the mainstream movie industry, the rise of galleries that curate artwork based on moving images, and the Internet all have provided new opportunities, he said.

“Let’s not be totally pessimistic,” he said.

Police in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, said Saturday that they were unaware the festival had been canceled. But security was tight at the site, with about two dozen men blocking the area and preventing around 30 film directors and members of the public from entering.

The men, claiming to be villagers, tried to stop anyone from photographing or videotaping the scene, and in a scuffle, broke a video camera an Associated Press journalist was operating and took away another AP journalist’s cellphone. The phone was later returned.

Hu Jie, a movie director who traveled from the eastern city of Nanjing to attend the festival, was upset at the cancellation.

“The audience for my films is already quite small, perhaps because I make documentaries that talk about history,” Hu said. “If one of the rare film festivals, like the Beijing Independent Film festival, is shot down, then it will be very difficult for us to survive as filmmakers.”

Started as a film forum, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films, but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organizers still managed to show some new movies. Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were banned.

In the memos that he posted, Li said police put him and the fund’s office under surveillance Aug. 18, when this year’s festival’s poster and schedule were released online.

He said local authorities initially agreed to a compromise that the festival be moved to a town farther out in neighboring Hebei province, but that the management of the hotel where reservations had been made informed the fund on Friday that police were not allowing it to host the festival.

Li said the festival’s executive director, Fan Rong, and Wang were taken away by Songzhuang police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival, before being freed five hours later. He said employees of the film fund were also informed that the electricity to the office would be cut off starting Saturday.

Associated Press videojournalists Isolda Morillo and Helene Franchineau contributed to this report.

China shuts down Beijing Independent Film Festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities blocked an annual independent film festival from opening Saturday, seizing documents and films from organizers and hauling away two event officials in a sign that Beijing is stepping up its already tight ideological controls.

Li Xianting, a film critic and founder of the Li Xianting Film Fund, the organizer of the Beijing Independent Film Festival, said police searched his office and confiscated materials he had gathered over more than 10 years. Li and the festival’s artistic director, Wang Hongwei, were later detained by police, according to their supporters.

The festival, which began in 2006, has seen severe police obstruction over the past few years, but this year’s crackdown is far more serious, Wang said.

“In the past few years, when they forced us to cancel the festival, we just moved it to other places, or delayed the screenings,” he said. “But this year, we cannot carry on with the festival. It is completely forbidden.”

Over the past week, Li posted memos saying government security personnel were pressuring him to cancel the festival, and that he had come under police surveillance.

“It’s very clear that the (President) Xi Jinping regime is determined to control the ideological realm, which has not been emphasized so much for a long time,” said Chris Berry, professor of film studies at King’s College London in England.

But Berry said that China is not new to shutting down independent film festivals, and that the ill treatment of the Beijing festival does not mark the end of the country’s independent filmmaking, as filmmakers have found more venues in an increasingly diverse environment.

The boom in the mainstream movie industry, the rise of galleries that curate artwork based on moving images, and the Internet all have provided new opportunities, he said.

“Let’s not be totally pessimistic,” he said.

Police in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, said Saturday that they were unaware the festival had been canceled. But security was tight at the site, with about two dozen men blocking the area and preventing around 30 film directors and members of the public from entering.

The men, claiming to be villagers, tried to stop anyone from photographing or videotaping the scene, and in a scuffle, broke a video camera an Associated Press journalist was operating and took away another AP journalist’s cellphone. The phone was later returned.

Hu Jie, a movie director who traveled from the eastern city of Nanjing to attend the festival, was upset at the cancellation.

“The audience for my films is already quite small, perhaps because I make documentaries that talk about history,” Hu said. “If one of the rare film festivals, like the Beijing Independent Film festival, is shot down, then it will be very difficult for us to survive as filmmakers.”

Started as a film forum, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films, but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organizers still managed to show some new movies. Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were banned.

In the memos that he posted, Li said police put him and the fund’s office under surveillance Aug. 18, when this year’s festival’s poster and schedule were released online.

He said local authorities initially agreed to a compromise that the festival be moved to a town farther out in neighboring Hebei province, but that the management of the hotel where reservations had been made informed the fund on Friday that police were not allowing it to host the festival.

Li said the festival’s executive director, Fan Rong, and Wang were taken away by Songzhuang police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival, before being freed five hours later. He said employees of the film fund were also informed that the electricity to the office would be cut off starting Saturday.

Associated Press videojournalists Isolda Morillo and Helene Franchineau contributed to this report.

China shuts down Beijing Independent Film Festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities on Saturday blocked an annual independent film festival from opening, seized documents and films from its organizers’ office and hauled away two event officials. The move against a rare venue where films critical of the government could be screened is seen as a sign that Beijing is stepping up its already tight ideological controls.

Li Xianting, a film critic and founder of the Li Xianting Film Fund, the organizer of the Beijing Independent Film Festival, said police searched his office and confiscated materials he had gathered over more than 10 years. Li and the festival’s artistic director, Wang Hongwei, were later detained by police, according to their supporters.

The festival, which began in 2006, has seen severe police obstruction over the past few years, but this year’s crackdown is far more serious, Wang said earlier Saturday.

“In the past few years when they forced us to cancel the festival, we just moved it to other places, or delayed the screenings,” he said. “But this year, we cannot carry on with the festival. It is completely forbidden.”

Over the past week, Li posted memos saying government security personnel were pressuring him to cancel the festival, and that he had come under police surveillance.

The shutdown is a sign that Beijing is tightening ideological controls under President Xi Jinping, said Chris Berry, professor of film studies at King’s College London in England.

“It’s very clear that the Xi Jinping regime is determined to control the ideological realm, which has not been emphasized so much for a long time,” he said.

But Berry said that China is not new to shutting down independent film festivals, and that the ill treatment of the Beijing festival does not mark the end of the country’s independent filmmaking, as filmmakers have found more venues in an increasingly diverse environment.

The boom in the mainstream movie industry, the rise of galleries that curate artwork based on moving images, and the Internet all have provided new opportunities, he said.

“Let’s not be totally pessimistic,” Berry said.

Police in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, said Saturday that they were unaware the festival had been canceled. But security was tight at the would-be festival site, with about two dozen men blocking the area and preventing around 30 film directors and members of the public from entering.

The men, claiming to be villagers, tried to stop anyone from photographing or videotaping the scene, and in a scuffle, broke a video camera an Associated Press journalist was operating and took away another AP journalist’s cellphone. The phone was later returned.

Hu Jie, a movie director who traveled from the eastern city of Nanjing to attend the festival, was upset at the cancellation.

“The audience for my films is already quite small, perhaps because I make documentaries that talk about history,” Hu said. “If one of the rare film festivals, like the Beijing Independent Film festival, is shot down, then it will be very difficult for us to survive as filmmakers.”

Started as a film forum in 2006, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films, but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organizers still managed to show some new movies. Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were banned.

In the memos that he posted, Li said police put him and the fund’s office under surveillance Aug. 18, when this year’s festival’s poster and schedule were released online.

He said local authorities initially agreed to a compromise that the festival be moved to a town farther out in neighboring Hebei province, but that the management of the hotel where reservations had been made informed the fund on Friday that police were not allowing it to host the festival.

Li said the festival’s executive director, Fan Rong, and Wang were taken away by Songzhuang police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival, before being freed five hours later. He said employees of the film fund were also informed that the electricity to the office would be cut off starting Saturday.

AP videojournalists Isolda Morillo and Helene Franchineau contributed to this report.

China shuts down Beijing Independent Film Festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities on Saturday blocked an annual independent film festival from opening, seized documents and films from its organizers’ office and hauled away two event officials. The move against a rare venue where films critical of the government could be screened is seen as a sign that Beijing is stepping up its already tight ideological controls.

Li Xianting, a film critic and founder of the Li Xianting Film Fund, the organizer of the Beijing Independent Film Festival, said police searched his office and confiscated materials he had gathered over more than 10 years. Li and the festival’s artistic director, Wang Hongwei, were later detained by police, according to their supporters.

The festival, which began in 2006, has seen severe police obstruction over the past few years, but this year’s crackdown is far more serious, Wang said earlier Saturday.

“In the past few years when they forced us to cancel the festival, we just moved it to other places, or delayed the screenings,” he said. “But this year, we cannot carry on with the festival. It is completely forbidden.”

Over the past week, Li posted memos saying government security personnel were pressuring him to cancel the festival, and that he had come under police surveillance.

The shutdown is a sign that Beijing is tightening ideological controls under President Xi Jinping, said Chris Berry, professor of film studies at King’s College London in England.

“It’s very clear that the Xi Jinping regime is determined to control the ideological realm, which has not been emphasized so much for a long time,” he said.

But Berry said that China is not new to shutting down independent film festivals, and that the ill treatment of the Beijing festival does not mark the end of the country’s independent filmmaking, as filmmakers have found more venues in an increasingly diverse environment.

The boom in the mainstream movie industry, the rise of galleries that curate artwork based on moving images, and the Internet all have provided new opportunities, he said.

“Let’s not be totally pessimistic,” Berry said.

Police in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, said Saturday that they were unaware the festival had been canceled. But security was tight at the would-be festival site, with about two dozen men blocking the area and preventing around 30 film directors and members of the public from entering.

The men, claiming to be villagers, tried to stop anyone from photographing or videotaping the scene, and in a scuffle, broke a video camera an Associated Press journalist was operating and took away another AP journalist’s cellphone. The phone was later returned.

Hu Jie, a movie director who traveled from the eastern city of Nanjing to attend the festival, was upset at the cancellation.

“The audience for my films is already quite small, perhaps because I make documentaries that talk about history,” Hu said. “If one of the rare film festivals, like the Beijing Independent Film festival, is shot down, then it will be very difficult for us to survive as filmmakers.”

Started as a film forum in 2006, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films, but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organizers still managed to show some new movies. Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were banned.

In the memos that he posted, Li said police put him and the fund’s office under surveillance Aug. 18, when this year’s festival’s poster and schedule were released online.

He said local authorities initially agreed to a compromise that the festival be moved to a town farther out in neighboring Hebei province, but that the management of the hotel where reservations had been made informed the fund on Friday that police were not allowing it to host the festival.

Li said the festival’s executive director, Fan Rong, and Wang were taken away by Songzhuang police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival, before being freed five hours later. He said employees of the film fund were also informed that the electricity to the office would be cut off starting Saturday.

AP videojournalists Isolda Morillo and Helene Franchineau contributed to this report.

China shuts down Beijing Independent Film Festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities on Saturday blocked an annual independent film festival from opening, seized documents and films from its organizers’ office and hauled away two event officials. The move against a rare venue where films critical of the government could be screened is seen as a sign that Beijing is stepping up its already tight ideological controls.

Li Xianting, a film critic and founder of the Li Xianting Film Fund, the organizer of the Beijing Independent Film Festival, said police searched his office and confiscated materials he had gathered over more than 10 years. Li and the festival’s artistic director, Wang Hongwei, were later detained by police, according to their supporters.

The festival, which began in 2006, has seen severe police obstruction over the past few years, but this year’s crackdown is far more serious, Wang said earlier Saturday.

“In the past few years when they forced us to cancel the festival, we just moved it to other places, or delayed the screenings,” he said. “But this year, we cannot carry on with the festival. It is completely forbidden.”

Over the past week, Li posted memos saying government security personnel were pressuring him to cancel the festival, and that he had come under police surveillance.

The shutdown is a sign that Beijing is tightening ideological controls under President Xi Jinping, said Chris Berry, professor of film studies at King’s College London in England.

“It’s very clear that the Xi Jinping regime is determined to control the ideological realm, which has not been emphasized so much for a long time,” he said.

But Berry said that China is not new to shutting down independent film festivals, and that the ill treatment of the Beijing festival does not mark the end of the country’s independent filmmaking, as filmmakers have found more venues in an increasingly diverse environment.

The boom in the mainstream movie industry, the rise of galleries that curate artwork based on moving images, and the Internet all have provided new opportunities, he said.

“Let’s not be totally pessimistic,” Berry said.

Police in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, said Saturday that they were unaware the festival had been canceled. But security was tight at the would-be festival site, with about two dozen men blocking the area and preventing around 30 film directors and members of the public from entering.

The men, claiming to be villagers, tried to stop anyone from photographing or videotaping the scene, and in a scuffle, broke a video camera an Associated Press journalist was operating and took away another AP journalist’s cellphone. The phone was later returned.

Hu Jie, a movie director who traveled from the eastern city of Nanjing to attend the festival, was upset at the cancellation.

“The audience for my films is already quite small, perhaps because I make documentaries that talk about history,” Hu said. “If one of the rare film festivals, like the Beijing Independent Film festival, is shot down, then it will be very difficult for us to survive as filmmakers.”

Started as a film forum in 2006, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films, but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organizers still managed to show some new movies. Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were banned.

In the memos that he posted, Li said police put him and the fund’s office under surveillance Aug. 18, when this year’s festival’s poster and schedule were released online.

He said local authorities initially agreed to a compromise that the festival be moved to a town farther out in neighboring Hebei province, but that the management of the hotel where reservations had been made informed the fund on Friday that police were not allowing it to host the festival.

Li said the festival’s executive director, Fan Rong, and Wang were taken away by Songzhuang police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival, before being freed five hours later. He said employees of the film fund were also informed that the electricity to the office would be cut off starting Saturday.

AP videojournalists Isolda Morillo and Helene Franchineau contributed to this report.

China shuts down Beijing Independent Film Festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities on Saturday blocked an annual independent film festival from opening, seized documents and films from its organizers’ office and hauled away two event officials. The move against a rare venue where films critical of the government could be screened is seen as a sign that Beijing is stepping up its already tight ideological controls.

Li Xianting, a film critic and founder of the Li Xianting Film Fund, the organizer of the Beijing Independent Film Festival, said police searched his office and confiscated materials he had gathered over more than 10 years. Li and the festival’s artistic director, Wang Hongwei, were later detained by police, according to their supporters.

The festival, which began in 2006, has seen severe police obstruction over the past few years, but this year’s crackdown is far more serious, Wang said earlier Saturday.

“In the past few years when they forced us to cancel the festival, we just moved it to other places, or delayed the screenings,” he said. “But this year, we cannot carry on with the festival. It is completely forbidden.”

Over the past week, Li posted memos saying government security personnel were pressuring him to cancel the festival, and that he had come under police surveillance.

The shutdown is a sign that Beijing is tightening ideological controls under President Xi Jinping, said Chris Berry, professor of film studies at King’s College London in England.

“It’s very clear that the Xi Jinping regime is determined to control the ideological realm, which has not been emphasized so much for a long time,” he said.

But Berry said that China is not new to shutting down independent film festivals, and that the ill treatment of the Beijing festival does not mark the end of the country’s independent filmmaking, as filmmakers have found more venues in an increasingly diverse environment.

The boom in the mainstream movie industry, the rise of galleries that curate artwork based on moving images, and the Internet all have provided new opportunities, he said.

“Let’s not be totally pessimistic,” Berry said.

Police in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, said Saturday that they were unaware the festival had been canceled. But security was tight at the would-be festival site, with about two dozen men blocking the area and preventing around 30 film directors and members of the public from entering.

The men, claiming to be villagers, tried to stop anyone from photographing or videotaping the scene, and in a scuffle, broke a video camera an Associated Press journalist was operating and took away another AP journalist’s cellphone. The phone was later returned.

Hu Jie, a movie director who traveled from the eastern city of Nanjing to attend the festival, was upset at the cancellation.

“The audience for my films is already quite small, perhaps because I make documentaries that talk about history,” Hu said. “If one of the rare film festivals, like the Beijing Independent Film festival, is shot down, then it will be very difficult for us to survive as filmmakers.”

Started as a film forum in 2006, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films, but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organizers still managed to show some new movies. Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were banned.

In the memos that he posted, Li said police put him and the fund’s office under surveillance Aug. 18, when this year’s festival’s poster and schedule were released online.

He said local authorities initially agreed to a compromise that the festival be moved to a town farther out in neighboring Hebei province, but that the management of the hotel where reservations had been made informed the fund on Friday that police were not allowing it to host the festival.

Li said the festival’s executive director, Fan Rong, and Wang were taken away by Songzhuang police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival, before being freed five hours later. He said employees of the film fund were also informed that the electricity to the office would be cut off starting Saturday.

AP videojournalists Isolda Morillo and Helene Franchineau contributed to this report.

China shuts down Beijing Independent Film Festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities on Saturday blocked an annual independent film festival from opening, seized documents and films from its organizers’ office and hauled away two event officials. The move against a rare venue where films critical of the government could be screened is seen as a sign that Beijing is stepping up its already tight ideological controls.

Li Xianting, a film critic and founder of the Li Xianting Film Fund, the organizer of the Beijing Independent Film Festival, said police searched his office and confiscated materials he had gathered over more than 10 years. Li and the festival’s artistic director, Wang Hongwei, were later detained by police, according to their supporters.

The festival, which began in 2006, has seen severe police obstruction over the past few years, but this year’s crackdown is far more serious, Wang said earlier Saturday.

“In the past few years when they forced us to cancel the festival, we just moved it to other places, or delayed the screenings,” he said. “But this year, we cannot carry on with the festival. It is completely forbidden.”

Over the past week, Li posted memos saying government security personnel were pressuring him to cancel the festival, and that he had come under police surveillance.

The shutdown is a sign that Beijing is tightening ideological controls under President Xi Jinping, said Chris Berry, professor of film studies at King’s College London in England.

“It’s very clear that the Xi Jinping regime is determined to control the ideological realm, which has not been emphasized so much for a long time,” he said.

But Berry said that China is not new to shutting down independent film festivals, and that the ill treatment of the Beijing festival does not mark the end of the country’s independent filmmaking, as filmmakers have found more venues in an increasingly diverse environment.

The boom in the mainstream movie industry, the rise of galleries that curate artwork based on moving images, and the Internet all have provided new opportunities, he said.

“Let’s not be totally pessimistic,” Berry said.

Police in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, said Saturday that they were unaware the festival had been canceled. But security was tight at the would-be festival site, with about two dozen men blocking the area and preventing around 30 film directors and members of the public from entering.

The men, claiming to be villagers, tried to stop anyone from photographing or videotaping the scene, and in a scuffle, broke a video camera an Associated Press journalist was operating and took away another AP journalist’s cellphone. The phone was later returned.

Hu Jie, a movie director who traveled from the eastern city of Nanjing to attend the festival, was upset at the cancellation.

“The audience for my films is already quite small, perhaps because I make documentaries that talk about history,” Hu said. “If one of the rare film festivals, like the Beijing Independent Film festival, is shot down, then it will be very difficult for us to survive as filmmakers.”

Started as a film forum in 2006, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films, but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organizers still managed to show some new movies. Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were banned.

In the memos that he posted, Li said police put him and the fund’s office under surveillance Aug. 18, when this year’s festival’s poster and schedule were released online.

He said local authorities initially agreed to a compromise that the festival be moved to a town farther out in neighboring Hebei province, but that the management of the hotel where reservations had been made informed the fund on Friday that police were not allowing it to host the festival.

Li said the festival’s executive director, Fan Rong, and Wang were taken away by Songzhuang police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival, before being freed five hours later. He said employees of the film fund were also informed that the electricity to the office would be cut off starting Saturday.

AP videojournalists Isolda Morillo and Helene Franchineau contributed to this report.

China shuts down Beijing Independent Film Festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities on Saturday blocked an annual independent film festival from opening, seized documents and films from its organizers’ office and hauled away two event officials. The move against a rare venue where films critical of the government could be screened is seen as a sign that Beijing is stepping up its already tight ideological controls.

Li Xianting, a film critic and founder of the Li Xianting Film Fund, the organizer of the Beijing Independent Film Festival, said police searched his office and confiscated materials he had gathered over more than 10 years. Li and the festival’s artistic director, Wang Hongwei, were later detained by police, according to their supporters.

The festival, which began in 2006, has seen severe police obstruction over the past few years, but this year’s crackdown is far more serious, Wang said earlier Saturday.

“In the past few years when they forced us to cancel the festival, we just moved it to other places, or delayed the screenings,” he said. “But this year, we cannot carry on with the festival. It is completely forbidden.”

Over the past week, Li posted memos saying government security personnel were pressuring him to cancel the festival, and that he had come under police surveillance.

The shutdown is a sign that Beijing is tightening ideological controls under President Xi Jinping, said Chris Berry, professor of film studies at King’s College London in England.

“It’s very clear that the Xi Jinping regime is determined to control the ideological realm, which has not been emphasized so much for a long time,” he said.

But Berry said that China is not new to shutting down independent film festivals, and that the ill treatment of the Beijing festival does not mark the end of the country’s independent filmmaking, as filmmakers have found more venues in an increasingly diverse environment.

The boom in the mainstream movie industry, the rise of galleries that curate artwork based on moving images, and the Internet all have provided new opportunities, he said.

“Let’s not be totally pessimistic,” Berry said.

Police in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, said Saturday that they were unaware the festival had been canceled. But security was tight at the would-be festival site, with about two dozen men blocking the area and preventing around 30 film directors and members of the public from entering.

The men, claiming to be villagers, tried to stop anyone from photographing or videotaping the scene, and in a scuffle, broke a video camera an Associated Press journalist was operating and took away another AP journalist’s cellphone. The phone was later returned.

Hu Jie, a movie director who traveled from the eastern city of Nanjing to attend the festival, was upset at the cancellation.

“The audience for my films is already quite small, perhaps because I make documentaries that talk about history,” Hu said. “If one of the rare film festivals, like the Beijing Independent Film festival, is shot down, then it will be very difficult for us to survive as filmmakers.”

Started as a film forum in 2006, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films, but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organizers still managed to show some new movies. Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were banned.

In the memos that he posted, Li said police put him and the fund’s office under surveillance Aug. 18, when this year’s festival’s poster and schedule were released online.

He said local authorities initially agreed to a compromise that the festival be moved to a town farther out in neighboring Hebei province, but that the management of the hotel where reservations had been made informed the fund on Friday that police were not allowing it to host the festival.

Li said the festival’s executive director, Fan Rong, and Wang were taken away by Songzhuang police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival, before being freed five hours later. He said employees of the film fund were also informed that the electricity to the office would be cut off starting Saturday.

AP videojournalists Isolda Morillo and Helene Franchineau contributed to this report.

China shuts down Beijing Independent Film Festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities on Saturday blocked an annual independent film festival from opening, seized documents and films from its organizers’ office and hauled away two event officials. The move against a rare venue where films critical of the government could be screened is seen as a sign that Beijing is stepping up its already tight ideological controls.

Li Xianting, a film critic and founder of the Li Xianting Film Fund, the organizer of the Beijing Independent Film Festival, said police searched his office and confiscated materials he had gathered over more than 10 years. Li and the festival’s artistic director, Wang Hongwei, were later detained by police, according to their supporters.

The festival, which began in 2006, has seen severe police obstruction over the past few years, but this year’s crackdown is far more serious, Wang said earlier Saturday.

“In the past few years when they forced us to cancel the festival, we just moved it to other places, or delayed the screenings,” he said. “But this year, we cannot carry on with the festival. It is completely forbidden.”

Over the past week, Li posted memos saying government security personnel were pressuring him to cancel the festival, and that he had come under police surveillance.

The shutdown is a sign that Beijing is tightening ideological controls under President Xi Jinping, said Chris Berry, professor of film studies at King’s College London in England.

“It’s very clear that the Xi Jinping regime is determined to control the ideological realm, which has not been emphasized so much for a long time,” he said.

But Berry said that China is not new to shutting down independent film festivals, and that the ill treatment of the Beijing festival does not mark the end of the country’s independent filmmaking, as filmmakers have found more venues in an increasingly diverse environment.

The boom in the mainstream movie industry, the rise of galleries that curate artwork based on moving images, and the Internet all have provided new opportunities, he said.

“Let’s not be totally pessimistic,” Berry said.

Police in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, said Saturday that they were unaware the festival had been canceled. But security was tight at the would-be festival site, with about two dozen men blocking the area and preventing around 30 film directors and members of the public from entering.

The men, claiming to be villagers, tried to stop anyone from photographing or videotaping the scene, and in a scuffle, broke a video camera an Associated Press journalist was operating and took away another AP journalist’s cellphone. The phone was later returned.

Hu Jie, a movie director who traveled from the eastern city of Nanjing to attend the festival, was upset at the cancellation.

“The audience for my films is already quite small, perhaps because I make documentaries that talk about history,” Hu said. “If one of the rare film festivals, like the Beijing Independent Film festival, is shot down, then it will be very difficult for us to survive as filmmakers.”

Started as a film forum in 2006, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films, but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organizers still managed to show some new movies. Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were banned.

In the memos that he posted, Li said police put him and the fund’s office under surveillance Aug. 18, when this year’s festival’s poster and schedule were released online.

He said local authorities initially agreed to a compromise that the festival be moved to a town farther out in neighboring Hebei province, but that the management of the hotel where reservations had been made informed the fund on Friday that police were not allowing it to host the festival.

Li said the festival’s executive director, Fan Rong, and Wang were taken away by Songzhuang police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival, before being freed five hours later. He said employees of the film fund were also informed that the electricity to the office would be cut off starting Saturday.

AP videojournalists Isolda Morillo and Helene Franchineau contributed to this report.

China shuts down Beijing Independent Film Festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities on Saturday blocked an annual independent film festival from opening, seized documents and films from its organizers’ office and hauled away two event officials. The move against a rare venue where films critical of the government could be screened is seen as a sign that Beijing is stepping up its already tight ideological controls.

Li Xianting, a film critic and founder of the Li Xianting Film Fund, the organizer of the Beijing Independent Film Festival, said police searched his office and confiscated materials he had gathered over more than 10 years. Li and the festival’s artistic director, Wang Hongwei, were later detained by police, according to their supporters.

The festival, which began in 2006, has seen severe police obstruction over the past few years, but this year’s crackdown is far more serious, Wang said earlier Saturday.

“In the past few years when they forced us to cancel the festival, we just moved it to other places, or delayed the screenings,” he said. “But this year, we cannot carry on with the festival. It is completely forbidden.”

Over the past week, Li posted memos saying government security personnel were pressuring him to cancel the festival, and that he had come under police surveillance.

The shutdown is a sign that Beijing is tightening ideological controls under President Xi Jinping, said Chris Berry, professor of film studies at King’s College London in England.

“It’s very clear that the Xi Jinping regime is determined to control the ideological realm, which has not been emphasized so much for a long time,” he said.

But Berry said that China is not new to shutting down independent film festivals, and that the ill treatment of the Beijing festival does not mark the end of the country’s independent filmmaking, as filmmakers have found more venues in an increasingly diverse environment.

The boom in the mainstream movie industry, the rise of galleries that curate artwork based on moving images, and the Internet all have provided new opportunities, he said.

“Let’s not be totally pessimistic,” Berry said.

Police in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, said Saturday that they were unaware the festival had been canceled. But security was tight at the would-be festival site, with about two dozen men blocking the area and preventing around 30 film directors and members of the public from entering.

The men, claiming to be villagers, tried to stop anyone from photographing or videotaping the scene, and in a scuffle, broke a video camera an Associated Press journalist was operating and took away another AP journalist’s cellphone. The phone was later returned.

Hu Jie, a movie director who traveled from the eastern city of Nanjing to attend the festival, was upset at the cancellation.

“The audience for my films is already quite small, perhaps because I make documentaries that talk about history,” Hu said. “If one of the rare film festivals, like the Beijing Independent Film festival, is shot down, then it will be very difficult for us to survive as filmmakers.”

Started as a film forum in 2006, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films, but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organizers still managed to show some new movies. Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were banned.

In the memos that he posted, Li said police put him and the fund’s office under surveillance Aug. 18, when this year’s festival’s poster and schedule were released online.

He said local authorities initially agreed to a compromise that the festival be moved to a town farther out in neighboring Hebei province, but that the management of the hotel where reservations had been made informed the fund on Friday that police were not allowing it to host the festival.

Li said the festival’s executive director, Fan Rong, and Wang were taken away by Songzhuang police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival, before being freed five hours later. He said employees of the film fund were also informed that the electricity to the office would be cut off starting Saturday.

AP videojournalists Isolda Morillo and Helene Franchineau contributed to this report.

China shuts down Beijing Independent Film Festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities on Saturday blocked an annual independent film festival from opening, seized documents and films from its organizers’ office and hauled away two event officials. The move against a rare venue where films critical of the government could be screened is seen as a sign that Beijing is stepping up its already tight ideological controls.

Li Xianting, a film critic and founder of the Li Xianting Film Fund, the organizer of the Beijing Independent Film Festival, said police searched his office and confiscated materials he had gathered over more than 10 years. Li and the festival’s artistic director, Wang Hongwei, were later detained by police, according to their supporters.

The festival, which began in 2006, has seen severe police obstruction over the past few years, but this year’s crackdown is far more serious, Wang said earlier Saturday.

“In the past few years when they forced us to cancel the festival, we just moved it to other places, or delayed the screenings,” he said. “But this year, we cannot carry on with the festival. It is completely forbidden.”

Over the past week, Li posted memos saying government security personnel were pressuring him to cancel the festival, and that he had come under police surveillance.

The shutdown is a sign that Beijing is tightening ideological controls under President Xi Jinping, said Chris Berry, professor of film studies at King’s College London in England.

“It’s very clear that the Xi Jinping regime is determined to control the ideological realm, which has not been emphasized so much for a long time,” he said.

But Berry said that China is not new to shutting down independent film festivals, and that the ill treatment of the Beijing festival does not mark the end of the country’s independent filmmaking, as filmmakers have found more venues in an increasingly diverse environment.

The boom in the mainstream movie industry, the rise of galleries that curate artwork based on moving images, and the Internet all have provided new opportunities, he said.

“Let’s not be totally pessimistic,” Berry said.

Police in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, said Saturday that they were unaware the festival had been canceled. But security was tight at the would-be festival site, with about two dozen men blocking the area and preventing around 30 film directors and members of the public from entering.

The men, claiming to be villagers, tried to stop anyone from photographing or videotaping the scene, and in a scuffle, broke a video camera an Associated Press journalist was operating and took away another AP journalist’s cellphone. The phone was later returned.

Hu Jie, a movie director who traveled from the eastern city of Nanjing to attend the festival, was upset at the cancellation.

“The audience for my films is already quite small, perhaps because I make documentaries that talk about history,” Hu said. “If one of the rare film festivals, like the Beijing Independent Film festival, is shot down, then it will be very difficult for us to survive as filmmakers.”

Started as a film forum in 2006, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films, but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organizers still managed to show some new movies. Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were banned.

In the memos that he posted, Li said police put him and the fund’s office under surveillance Aug. 18, when this year’s festival’s poster and schedule were released online.

He said local authorities initially agreed to a compromise that the festival be moved to a town farther out in neighboring Hebei province, but that the management of the hotel where reservations had been made informed the fund on Friday that police were not allowing it to host the festival.

Li said the festival’s executive director, Fan Rong, and Wang were taken away by Songzhuang police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival, before being freed five hours later. He said employees of the film fund were also informed that the electricity to the office would be cut off starting Saturday.

AP videojournalists Isolda Morillo and Helene Franchineau contributed to this report.

China shuts down Beijing Independent Film Festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities on Saturday blocked an annual independent film festival from opening, seized documents and films from its organizers’ office and hauled away two event officials. The move against a rare venue where films critical of the government could be screened is seen as a sign that Beijing is stepping up its already tight ideological controls.

Li Xianting, a film critic and founder of the Li Xianting Film Fund, the organizer of the Beijing Independent Film Festival, said police searched his office and confiscated materials he had gathered over more than 10 years. Li and the festival’s artistic director, Wang Hongwei, were later detained by police, according to their supporters.

The festival, which began in 2006, has seen severe police obstruction over the past few years, but this year’s crackdown is far more serious, Wang said earlier Saturday.

“In the past few years when they forced us to cancel the festival, we just moved it to other places, or delayed the screenings,” he said. “But this year, we cannot carry on with the festival. It is completely forbidden.”

Over the past week, Li posted memos saying government security personnel were pressuring him to cancel the festival, and that he had come under police surveillance.

The shutdown is a sign that Beijing is tightening ideological controls under President Xi Jinping, said Chris Berry, professor of film studies at King’s College London in England.

“It’s very clear that the Xi Jinping regime is determined to control the ideological realm, which has not been emphasized so much for a long time,” he said.

But Berry said that China is not new to shutting down independent film festivals, and that the ill treatment of the Beijing festival does not mark the end of the country’s independent filmmaking, as filmmakers have found more venues in an increasingly diverse environment.

The boom in the mainstream movie industry, the rise of galleries that curate artwork based on moving images, and the Internet all have provided new opportunities, he said.

“Let’s not be totally pessimistic,” Berry said.

Police in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, said Saturday that they were unaware the festival had been canceled. But security was tight at the would-be festival site, with about two dozen men blocking the area and preventing around 30 film directors and members of the public from entering.

The men, claiming to be villagers, tried to stop anyone from photographing or videotaping the scene, and in a scuffle, broke a video camera an Associated Press journalist was operating and took away another AP journalist’s cellphone. The phone was later returned.

Hu Jie, a movie director who traveled from the eastern city of Nanjing to attend the festival, was upset at the cancellation.

“The audience for my films is already quite small, perhaps because I make documentaries that talk about history,” Hu said. “If one of the rare film festivals, like the Beijing Independent Film festival, is shot down, then it will be very difficult for us to survive as filmmakers.”

Started as a film forum in 2006, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films, but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organizers still managed to show some new movies. Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were banned.

In the memos that he posted, Li said police put him and the fund’s office under surveillance Aug. 18, when this year’s festival’s poster and schedule were released online.

He said local authorities initially agreed to a compromise that the festival be moved to a town farther out in neighboring Hebei province, but that the management of the hotel where reservations had been made informed the fund on Friday that police were not allowing it to host the festival.

Li said the festival’s executive director, Fan Rong, and Wang were taken away by Songzhuang police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival, before being freed five hours later. He said employees of the film fund were also informed that the electricity to the office would be cut off starting Saturday.

AP videojournalists Isolda Morillo and Helene Franchineau contributed to this report.

China shuts down Beijing Independent Film Festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities blocked an annual independent film festival from opening on Saturday, said organizers of an event that has become a rare and influential venue for the showing of films that could be critical of the government.

The Beijing Independent Film Festival’s artistic director, Wang Hongwei, and executive director, Fan Rong, said authorities had forced the cancellation of the event, which was scheduled to run through Aug. 31. Wang and Fan are with the Li Xianting Film Fund, the festival’s organizer.

Li Xianting, founder of the film fund and a movie critic, posted memos on social media over the past week saying that state security personnel had been pressuring him to cancel the festival and that he had come under police surveillance. Both Wang and Fan verified the authenticity of Li’s posts.

The festival, which began in 2006, has seen obstruction in past years, but this is the first time it’s been dealt a complete shutdown, a sign that Beijing is tightening ideological controls under President Xi Jinping, said Chris Berry, professor of film studies at King’s College London in England.

“It’s very clear that the Xi Jinping regime is determined to control the ideological realm, which has not been emphasized so much for a long time,” he said.

But Berry said that China is not new to shutting down independent film festivals, and that the ill treatment of the Beijing festival does not mark the end of the country’s independent filmmaking, as filmmakers have found more venues in an increasingly diverse environment.

The boom in the mainstream movie industry, the rise of galleries that curate artwork based on moving images, and the Internet all have provided new opportunities, he said.

“Let’s not be totally pessimistic,” Berry said.

Police in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, said Saturday that they were unaware the festival had been canceled. But security was tight at the would-be festival site, with about two dozen men blocking the area and preventing around 30 film directors and members of the public from entering.

The men, claiming to be villagers, tried to stop anyone from photographing or videotaping the scene, and in a scuffle, broke a video camera an Associated Press journalist was operating and took away another AP journalist’s cellphone. The phone was later returned.

Started as a film forum in 2006, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films, but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organizers still managed to show some new movies. Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were banned.

In his memos that he posted, Li said police put him and the fund’s office under surveillance Aug. 18, when this year’s festival’s poster and schedule were released online.

He said local authorities initially agreed to a compromise that the festival be moved to a town farther out in neighboring Hebei province, but that the management of the hotel where reservations had been made informed the fund on Friday that police were not allowing it to host the festival.

Li said Fan and Wang were taken away by Songzhuang police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival, before being freed five hours later. He said employees of the film fund were also informed that the electricity to the office would be cut off starting Saturday.

AP videojournalists Isolda Morillo and Helene Franchineau contributed to this report.

China shuts down Beijing Independent Film Festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities blocked an annual independent film festival from opening on Saturday, said organizers of an event that has become a rare and influential venue for the showing of films that could be critical of the government.

The Beijing Independent Film Festival’s artistic director, Wang Hongwei, and executive director, Fan Rong, said authorities had forced the cancellation of the event, which was scheduled to run through Aug. 31. Wang and Fan are with the Li Xianting Film Fund, the festival’s organizer.

Li Xianting, founder of the film fund and a movie critic, posted memos on social media over the past week saying that state security personnel had been pressuring him to cancel the festival and that he had come under police surveillance. Both Wang and Fan verified the authenticity of Li’s posts.

The festival, which began in 2006, has seen obstruction in past years, but this is the first time it’s been dealt a complete shutdown, a sign that Beijing is tightening ideological controls under President Xi Jinping, said Chris Berry, professor of film studies at King’s College London in England.

“It’s very clear that the Xi Jinping regime is determined to control the ideological realm, which has not been emphasized so much for a long time,” he said.

But Berry said that China is not new to shutting down independent film festivals, and that the ill treatment of the Beijing festival does not mark the end of the country’s independent filmmaking, as filmmakers have found more venues in an increasingly diverse environment.

The boom in the mainstream movie industry, the rise of galleries that curate artwork based on moving images, and the Internet all have provided new opportunities, he said.

“Let’s not be totally pessimistic,” Berry said.

Police in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, said Saturday that they were unaware the festival had been canceled. But security was tight at the would-be festival site, with about two dozen men blocking the area and preventing around 30 film directors and members of the public from entering.

The men, claiming to be villagers, tried to stop anyone from photographing or videotaping the scene, and in a scuffle, broke a video camera an Associated Press journalist was operating and took away another AP journalist’s cellphone. The phone was later returned.

Started as a film forum in 2006, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films, but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organizers still managed to show some new movies. Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were banned.

In his memos that he posted, Li said police put him and the fund’s office under surveillance Aug. 18, when this year’s festival’s poster and schedule were released online.

He said local authorities initially agreed to a compromise that the festival be moved to a town farther out in neighboring Hebei province, but that the management of the hotel where reservations had been made informed the fund on Friday that police were not allowing it to host the festival.

Li said Fan and Wang were taken away by Songzhuang police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival, before being freed five hours later. He said employees of the film fund were also informed that the electricity to the office would be cut off starting Saturday.

AP videojournalists Isolda Morillo and Helene Franchineau contributed to this report.

China shuts down Beijing Independent Film Festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities blocked an annual independent film festival from opening on Saturday, said organizers of an event that has become a rare and influential venue for the showing of films that could be critical of the government.

The Beijing Independent Film Festival’s artistic director, Wang Hongwei, and executive director, Fan Rong, said authorities had forced the cancellation of the event, which was scheduled to run through Aug. 31. Wang and Fan are with the Li Xianting Film Fund, the festival’s organizer.

Li Xianting, founder of the film fund and a film critic, posted memos in social media over the past week saying that state security personnel had been pressuring him to cancel the festival and that he had come under police surveillance. Both Wang and Fan verified the authenticity of Li’s posts.

The festival, which began in 2006, has seen obstruction in past years, but this is the first time it’s been dealt a complete shutdown, a sign that Beijing is tightening ideological controls under President Xi Jinping, said Chris Berry, professor of film studies at King’s College London in England.

“It’s very clear that the Xi Jinping regime is determined to control the ideological realm, which has not been emphasized so much for a long time,” he said.

But Berry said that China is not new to shutting down independent film festivals, and that the ill treatment of the Beijing festival does not mark the end of the country’s independent filmmaking, as filmmakers have found more venues in an increasingly diverse environment.

The boom in the mainstream movie industry, the rise of galleries that curate artwork based on moving images, and the Internet all have provided new opportunities, he said.

“Let’s not be totally pessimistic,” Berry said.

Police in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, said Saturday that they were unaware that the festival had closed. But security was tight at the would-be festival site, with about two dozen men blocking the area and preventing around 30 film directors and members of the public from entering.

The men, claiming to be villagers, tried to stop anyone from photographing or videotaping the scene, and in a scuffle, broke a video camera an Associated Press journalist was operating and took away the cellphone of another AP journalist. The phone was later returned.

Started as a film forum in 2006, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films, but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organizers still managed to show some new movies. Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were banned.

In his memos, Li said police put him and the fund’s office under surveillance Aug. 18, when this year’s festival’s poster and schedule were released online.

He said local authorities initially agreed to a compromise that the festival be moved to a town farther out in neighboring Hebei province, but that the management of the hotel where reservations were made informed the fund on Friday that police did not allow the hotel to host the festival.

Li said Fan and Wang were taken away by Songzhuang police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival, before being freed five hours later. He said employees of the film fund were also informed that the electricity to the office would be cut off starting Saturday.

AP videojournalists Isolda Morillo and Helene Franchineau contributed to this report.

China shuts down Beijing Independent Film Festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities blocked an annual independent film festival from opening on Saturday, said organizers of an event that has become a rare and influential venue for the showing of films that could be critical of the government.

The Beijing Independent Film Festival’s artistic director, Wang Hongwei, and executive director, Fan Rong, said authorities had forced the cancellation of the event. Wang and Fan are with the Li Xianting Film Fund, the festival’s organizer.

Li Xianting, founder of the film fund and a film critic, posted memos in social media over the past week saying that state security personnel had been pressuring him to cancel the festival and that he had come under police surveillance. Both Wang and Fan verified the authenticity of Li’s posts.

The festival, which began in 2006 and was scheduled to run through Aug. 31, has seen obstruction in past years, but this is the first time it’s been dealt a complete shutdown, a sign that Beijing is tightening ideological controls under President Xi Jinping, said Chris Berry, professor of film studies at King’s College London in England.

“It’s very clear that the Xi Jinping regime is determined to control the ideological realm, which has not been emphasized so much for a long time,” he said.

But Berry said that China is not new to shutting down independent film festivals, and that the ill treatment of the Beijing festival does not mark the end of the country’s independent filmmaking, as filmmakers have found more venues in an increasingly diverse environment.

The boom in the mainstream movie industry, the rise of galleries that curate artwork based on moving images, and the Internet all have provided new opportunities, he said.

“Let’s not be totally pessimistic,” Berry said.

Police in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, said Saturday that they were unaware that the festival had closed. But security was tight at the would-be festival site, with about two dozen men blocking the area and preventing around 30 film directors and members of the public from entering.

The men, claiming to be villagers, tried to stop anyone from photographing or videotaping the scene, and in a scuffle, broke a video camera an Associated Press journalist was operating and took away the cellphone of another AP journalist. The phone was later returned.

Started as a film forum in 2006, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films, but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organizers still managed to show some new movies. Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were banned.

In his memos, Li said police put him and the fund’s office under surveillance Aug. 18, when this year’s festival’s poster and schedule were released online.

He said local authorities initially agreed to a compromise that the festival be moved to a town farther out in neighboring Hebei province, but that the management of the hotel where reservations were made informed the fund on Friday that police did not allow the hotel to host the festival.

Li said Fan and Wang were taken away by Songzhuang police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival, before being freed five hours later. He said employees of the film fund were also informed that the electricity to the office would be cut off starting Saturday.

AP videojournalists Isolda Morillo and Helene Franchineau contributed to this report.

China shuts down Beijing Independent Film Festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities shut down an independent film festival on its opening day Saturday, a rare venue for the showing of films that may be critical of the government in a country with tight controls, organizers said.

Festival artistic director Wang Hongwei and executive director Fan Rong, both of Li Xianting Film Fund that has organized the 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival, said that the event was forced to close.

Li Xianting, founder of the film fund and a film critic, has posted memos in social media over the last week saying that state security personnel have been pressuring him to cancel the festival and that he has come under police surveillance. Both Wang and Fan verified the authenticity of Li’s posts but declined to speak further.

Police in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, said Saturday they were unaware of it.

Started as a film forum in 2006, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organizers still managed to show some new movies. Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were canceled.

In his memos, Li said police put him and the fund’s office under surveillance Aug. 18, when this year’s festival’s poster and schedule were released online.

He said local authorities initially agreed to have the festival moved to a town farther out in neighboring Hebei province, but that the management of the hotel where reservations were made informed the fund on Friday that police did not allow the hotel to host the festival.

Li said both Fan and Wang were taken away by Songzhuang police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival before they were freed five hours later.

Li said employees of the fund were also informed that the electricity to the office would be cut off starting Saturday.

China shuts down Beijing Independent Film Festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities shut down an independent film festival on its opening day Saturday, a rare venue for the showing of films that may be critical of the government in a country with tight controls, organizers said.

Festival artistic director Wang Hongwei and executive director Fan Rong, both of Li Xianting Film Fund that has organized the 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival, said that the event was forced to close.

Li Xianting, founder of the film fund and a film critic, has posted memos in social media over the last week saying that state security personnel have been pressuring him to cancel the festival and that he has come under police surveillance. Both Wang and Fan verified the authenticity of Li’s posts but declined to speak further.

Police in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, said Saturday they were unaware of it.

Started as a film forum in 2006, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organizers still managed to show some new movies. Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were canceled.

In his memos, Li said police put him and the fund’s office under surveillance Aug. 18, when this year’s festival’s poster and schedule were released online.

He said local authorities initially agreed to have the festival moved to a town farther out in neighboring Hebei province, but that the management of the hotel where reservations were made informed the fund on Friday that police did not allow the hotel to host the festival.

Li said both Fan and Wang were taken away by Songzhuang police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival before they were freed five hours later.

Li said employees of the fund were also informed that the electricity to the office would be cut off starting Saturday.

China shuts down Beijing Independent Film Festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities shut down an independent film festival on its opening day Saturday, a rare venue for the showing of films that may be critical of the government in a country with tight controls, organizers said.

Festival artistic director Wang Hongwei and executive director Fan Rong, both of Li Xianting Film Fund that has organized the 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival, said that the event was forced to close.

Li Xianting, founder of the film fund and a film critic, has posted memos in social media over the last week saying that state security personnel have been pressuring him to cancel the festival and that he has come under police surveillance. Both Wang and Fan verified the authenticity of Li’s posts but declined to speak further.

Police in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, said Saturday they were unaware of it.

Started as a film forum in 2006, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organizers still managed to show some new movies. Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were canceled.

In his memos, Li said police put him and the fund’s office under surveillance Aug. 18, when this year’s festival’s poster and schedule were released online.

He said local authorities initially agreed to have the festival moved to a town farther out in neighboring Hebei province, but that the management of the hotel where reservations were made informed the fund on Friday that police did not allow the hotel to host the festival.

Li said both Fan and Wang were taken away by Songzhuang police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival before they were freed five hours later.

Li said employees of the fund were also informed that the electricity to the office would be cut off starting Saturday.

China shuts down Beijing Independent Film Festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities shut down an independent film festival on its opening day Saturday, a rare venue for the showing of films that may be critical of the government in a country with tight controls, organizers said.

Festival artistic director Wang Hongwei and executive director Fan Rong, both of Li Xianting Film Fund that has organized the 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival, said that the event was forced to close.

Li Xianting, founder of the film fund and a film critic, has posted memos in social media over the last week saying that state security personnel have been pressuring him to cancel the festival and that he has come under police surveillance. Both Wang and Fan verified the authenticity of Li’s posts but declined to speak further.

Police in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, said Saturday they were unaware of it.

Started as a film forum in 2006, the festival over the years has grown to be one of the most important events for China’s independent films but also has attracted the attention of authorities eager to regulate free speech.

In 2012, electricity was cut off shortly after the festival opened, but organizers still managed to show some new movies. Last year, the festival went on, although public screenings were canceled.

In his memos, Li said police put him and the fund’s office under surveillance Aug. 18, when this year’s festival’s poster and schedule were released online.

He said local authorities initially agreed to have the festival moved to a town farther out in neighboring Hebei province, but that the management of the hotel where reservations were made informed the fund on Friday that police did not allow the hotel to host the festival.

Li said both Fan and Wang were taken away by Songzhuang police on Friday afternoon and forced to sign a letter of promise to cancel the festival before they were freed five hours later.

Li said employees of the fund were also informed that the electricity to the office would be cut off starting Saturday.

China shuts down Beijing independent film festival

KDWN

BEIJING (AP) — Organizers say Chinese authorities have shut down an independent film festival, a rare venue for the showing of independent films that may be critical of the government in a country with tight controls.

Wang Hongwei of Li Xianting Film Fund, which has organized the 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival, said Saturday that the festival was forced to close on its opening day.

Film critic Li Xianting has posted comments in social media over the last week that state security personnel have been pressuring him to cancel the festival and that he has come under police surveillance. Wang has verified the authenticity of Li’s posts but declined to speak further.

Police in Songzhuang, where the event was supposed to open, say they are unaware of it.