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After Ang Lee's Oscar Win, China Imagines Cinema Beyond Censors

Looking to Taiwanese-born director Ang Lee's Oscar win for Best Director with pride and envy, mainland Chinese web users frustrated with the communist regime's tight grip on the film industry are wondering about their own country's cinematic potential.

A search of Lee's name yields [zh] more than 70,886 results and 4,165,630 discussions, making it the second most searched term on popular Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo as of the afternoon of February 25, 2013.

This is the second Academy Award win for Lee, who thanked Taiwan during his acceptance speech for its cooperation in the making of “Life of Pi“. In 2005, when he won the award for Best Director for his movie Brokeback Mountain, the Chinese media censored his acceptance speech, omitting any references to his native Taiwan or homosexuality.

Lee concluded his acceptance speech this time around with a “thank you” in Mandarin, causing some Chinese viewers to swell with pride. But others warned not be get so excited about the cultural nod, emphasizing that Lee's win had nothing to do with China.

Some Weibo users, such as ”Qianzhe Yang Fang Lang“ [zh], put emphasis on the word “hua ren”, a term used to describe ethnic Chinese people living abroad, as opposed to “zhong guo ren”, meaning Chinese citizens:

Ang Lee picked up his second Best Director award at this year's Oscars.(A screen shot from youku)

Ang Lee picked up his second Best Director award at this year's Oscars. A screen shot of the ceremony from youku.

李安是个好的华人导演,但您有听到china吗?别太往自己脸上贴金

Ang Lee is a good “hua ren” director, did you hear the word “China” in it? Don't put feathers in your own cap.

Another user wrote [zh]:

人家谢谢台湾又没感谢中国!

He expressed his gratitude to Taiwan, not China!

Writer “Tianyou” wondered [zh] why some were drawing a connection between mainland China and Lee:

 李安导演获最佳导演,有人狂欢,说这是中国人的骄傲。我很是奇怪。人家李安获奖是人家个人的事儿,即使值得骄傲,那也是台湾教育,美式教育的成功,跟某些人有鸟关系?

Ang Lee's win for Best Director made some people so excited, they said it's China's pride. However, I feel a bit strange, as it's his own business. Even when it comes to pride, it's due to education in Taiwan and the US. How does it have anything to do with us?

However, Jiuzhouzhi magazine editor “Jiangnan Ricardo” disagreed [zh] that Lee's win meant nothing for China:

虽然有朋友觉得李安获奖是个人的事,但我还是觉得究其履历和思维方式李安是个有明显中国文化烙印的中国导演,从「卧虎藏龙」至今他的电影中常有中国式的思辨,包括「派的一生」。他用他的方式让各国的人多一个了解中国文化的渠道, 作为中国人很为他高兴。

Although some friends think Ang Lee's win is his own business, I think his thinking features Chinese culture, which can be seen in his movies such as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Life of Pi“. He used his method to present Chinese culture to the world, being Chinese I'm happy for him.

Many netizens attributed Lee's success to the free entertainment industries in Taiwan and the US. ”Keguan Nvjia Yunchuang” commented [zh]:

他要是生活在大陆就肯定没戏!

If he were to live in mainland, he wouldn't have made it!

User “Shouwangzhe” echoed [zh]:

李安为什么能够如此成功?答案很简单:因为他成长于台湾。

Why is he so successful? The answer is simple: because he grew up in Taiwan.

Famous commentator “Zhu Qi“ wrote [zh]:

中国的文艺复兴还是由台湾人先走一步,恭喜台湾!民国的国共战争失败了,但民国的文化传承和民主制度仍在强劲地发力!!

Taiwanese are ahead of us in terms of culture and arts. Congratulations to Taiwan. Although the they lost to the Communist Party during the Chinese Civil War, their culture and system still prevail!

Ang Lee's win also served as a reminder of China's strict film censorship. User ”Zantan Wuwei” pointed out that China is stifling creativity [zh]:

中国大陆至今无法问鼎奥斯卡,为什么?没有创造的自由,只有宣传的使命,这注定了文化的败落。一个把政治歌颂摆在比奥斯卡更高位置的社会,无法创造人类能够承传的文化。

No one from the mainland has won any Oscars. Why? Because there's no freedom in creativity and film production, only propaganda, which has lead to a decline of culture. In a society where political praise sings louder than Oscars, no one is able to create great art.

The system impedes good directors, user “Hexie De Tianxia” wrote

大师级别,其实中国也有,只是体制决定了你该拍何种电影而已!

There is no lack of good directors in China, but the system decides what movies you make!

Just a few days’ before Ang Lee's win, China's State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) announced that “from now on all televised documentaries in China need to be submitted to SARFT for review first.”

Wang Ran, CEO of China eCapital Corporation, a leading private investment bank in China commented [zh] to his 2.65 million fans on Weibo:

别人都是看看好莱坞的热闹而已,只有他们是在不断以实际行动帮助好莱坞永葆全球影坛的霸主地位。

Most people are just watching Hollywood for entertainment, but they [the Chinese government] are helping Hollywood to ensure its global empire status by doing this.

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