China blocks shoot of Swedish director’s movie

Chinese authorities have barred Mikael Håfström from shooting his film "Shanghai", set to star John Cusack and Gong Li, in China, the Swedish director said in an interview published on Saturday.

“This obviously comes as a shock to all of us. We don’t know exactly why we have been turned down” for a filming permit, Håfström told the Dagens Nyheter daily by phone from Shanghai.

The director said the authorities’ decision to block the shoot came as a complete surprise, pointing out that the movie’s production team had been in China since last September preparing for the filming.

“We wouldn’t have spent millions of kronor (hundreds of thousands of dollars) in this country over the past six months if we hadn’t been completely sure we would receive a permit,” Håfström said.

He said he had heard that 56 other foreign film shoots had also recently been blocked in China, but said he did not know why his film, which is set in Shanghai in 1941 and features scenes of opium-smoking and prostitution, had been targeted.

“This is just speculation, but maybe (the film) was thought to give a distorted image of China and Chinese life,” Håfström said, adding that perhaps discomfort in the country with Ang Lee’s recent film “Lust, caution” also had something to do with the clampdown.

The director said he did not expect Chinese authorities to change their mind and said he would move the film-shoot to Hong Kong in a few days.

“Our situation will scare all reasonable film producers from film-shoots in China. That will be the obvious short term result of this,” Håfström said.