You are no doubt familiar with activist documentaries made to function as cinematic protests against something or other. Recent Oscar-winner The Cove is a good example. And you surely have read many times about people boycotting films, non-fiction and fiction alike, for any number of reasons. The Catholic Church is regularly involved in such expressive disapproval. And last month there was an enormous political movement in India to disrupt the distribution of the Bollywood drama My Name is Khan over some cricket-based controversy.
But how often do we hear about actual movie-going being a form of protest? I can't think of any marketing ploy directly meant to sell a film as an anti-boycott in a matter of speaking. There is a new documentary, however, for which I think the act of viewing it may alone be considered a form of protest against China's control of Tibet. As well as a protest against censorship. Titled The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet's Struggle for Freedom, the film opens at NYC's Film Forum today in place of the latest work of acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Lu Chuan, City of Life and Death, which was originally booked to play at the theater this week.
Lu's well-reviewed historical drama (along with another film) was recently pulled from this year's Palm Springs International Film Festival by its state-run exporter because of the fest's decision to also screen The Sun Behind the Clouds (first the Chinese Film Group attempted to have the documentary removed instead). A month later, National Geographic, the U.S. distributor of City of Life and Death, claimed that due to ongoing negotiations with the Chinese film board, it would not be able to deliver the film on time to the cinema. Although it's unknown if the delay is related to the Palm Springs controversy, the vacancy has been appropriately filled by the offending documentary.