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The film “Return to Dust”, which narrates the experiences of a couple in a poor rural environment, has been removed from the video platforms that hosted it, according to Internet users on the country’s social networks.
The film arrived early last August on three major Chinese online video platforms, Youku, Iqiyi, and Tencent Video, where it can no longer be found.
The film shot on a low budget and starring mostly non-professional actors focuses on a couple living in the inland western province of Gansu and their harsh living conditions.
Directed by Li Ruijun, it had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year and hit the Chinese box office in July, where it performed well after a two-month run of 113 million yuan ($15.9 million, 16.2 million euros).
In recent months, the film has been the subject of debate on Chinese social media, with some users accusing the director of “romanticizing poverty” or even deliberately creating a “false and ugly image” of China in order to “win a prize in the West.”
On the contrary, others applauded the author’s “courage” and recalled that there is a rural China far removed from “the prosperity of the coastal cities.”
In February 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping officially declared that the country had completed its “arduous task” of eradicating extreme poverty.
In the absence of an official explanation for its removal from video portals, some commentators blamed it on its portrayal of poverty in China: “If criticism is banned, is there any point in flattery?” questioned a user of the Twitter-like social network Weibo, which is inaccessible in China.
The Chinese authorities or sometimes the platforms and distributors themselves are in the habit of censoring nudity, political content considered sensitive or sexual scenes.
“Does our entertainment industry have any future?” lamented one cybercitizen.