The Chinese official who “politely requested” that Melbourne International Film Festival executive director Richard Moore “reconsider” screening a controversial documentary about exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer has obviously never heard the adage about there being no such thing as bad publicity.
Her demands, and Moore's steadfast refusal to be swayed by them, have made Jeff Daniel's The 10 Conditions of Love the hottest ticket in town – all sessions are sold out and Moore is openly considering scheduling additional screenings to meet the intense demand.
Frankly, it's not as if there's no room in the program to schedule additional screenings, given the vacancies created by the raft of boycotts that have taken hold in the last week. At last count, six films have been pulled because of the Kadeer issue (the latest scratching is Hong Kong/Taiwanese production Miao Miao, which was pulled yesterday).
Two of the films that withdrew from the festival last week were produced by XStream Pictures, which issued a statement (translated from here) that the decision to withdraw was an exercise in "self-discipline":
"We have no intention to interfere with the film festival's freedom to facilitate artistic communication. It is our way of self-discipline to withdraw from the Melbourne Film Festival. I'm not an expert at Xinjiang history, but since it is only two weeks after the Urumqi riots, I think we should at least be cautious not to offend the victims.
"We think attending the same event with Rebiya Kadeer contains political meanings. It is emotionally intolerable and practically inappropriate. So the staff of Xstream Pictures agreed to withdraw from the festival to show our attitude and stance."
The filmmakers have denied that they were 'encouraged' to pull out from the festival (...but they would say that, wouldn't they?).
Just as Moore is rightly refusing to cave into the demands to cancel the film, the retaliation shows no sign of letting up; the MIFF website was hacked over the weekend, and the festival office is being inundated with a barrage of abuse, daily, from people who have no such qualms about interfering in the film festival's freedom to facilitate artistic communication...