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Rebel Chinese Director Shows Film

January 19, 2000

BEIJING (AP) _ China’s rebel director Zhang Yuan, acclaimed abroad for his edgy films, finally escaped the censors’ long ban on his works at home Wednesday to show his award-winning new movie, ``Seventeen Years.″

The story tells of a 16-year-old who kills her stepsister in a moment of rage, spends 17 years in prison and finally is allowed a brief Lunar New Year visit home, where she confronts the churning but suppressed emotions of her mother and stepfather. Zhang said it is based on a true case.

Zhang, 36, all of whose previous works were effectively banned in China, had to pass more than one hurdle: Not only did government film censors have to approve the script and final version, but the prison scenes needed Justice Ministry approval as well.

Following the afternoon premiere at Beijing’s Youth Palace, Zhang matter-of-factly described the difficulties in making ``Seventeen Years.″ But he refused to elaborate about other run-ins with the censors and said he was happy that Chinese audiences could finally see one of his films.

``It’s rather hard to see my films in Beijing. I mean, you can’t do it,″ Zhang said. ``They didn’t pass, so you can only see this one.″

Zhang’s banned works included ``Beijing Bastards,″ about apolitical punk rockers, ``East Palace, West Palace,″ whose title referred to a public restroom in Beijing that was a meeting place for gays, and ``Sons,″ about an alcoholic and mentally ill man and his wife and sons, filmed partly in a psychiatric hospital.

When ``East Palace, West Palace″ was presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997, Chinese authorities refused to allow Zhang to go.

``Seventeen Years,″ while still realistic and full of tension, is about the politically correct theme of a model prisoner on the edge of a new life, helped by a selfless prison guard. Its prison scenes offer a rare glimpse into the Spartan conditions of the Chinese penal system.

``Seventeen Years″ won the directors’ award at the Venice Film Festival.

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