The British horror movie Winnie The Pooh: Blood and Honey was pulled from Hong Kong and Macau cinemas two days before its scheduled premiere, and has sparked concerns regarding self-censorship in the Chinese territories.
The film was scheduled to make its appearance on March 23rd in theatres across Hong Kong and Macau. However, one of the original distributors, VII Pillars Entertainment, announced in an Instagram post on Tuesday night that the release would be canceled. “We are incredibly sorry for the disappointment and inconvenience,” the post said with no further explanation.
The Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration (OFNAA) told Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) that it had approved the movie for screening in Hong Kong, with an original Category III rating. Rhys Frake-Waterfield, the director of the movie, told Reuters that the cinemas had originally agreed to screen it, yet began to claim that they were facing unforeseen ‘technical problems’, which led to the axing of the film in theatres across the city.
Films starring the cartoon character Winnie the Pooh have previously been censored several times because it allegedly resembles Chinese President Xi Jinping. The similarity and mockerys began in 2013 when Xi met Barack Obama in the US and netizens compared them to Winnie The Pooh and Tigger. Some netizens have used Pooh as a symbol to express discontent towards the Chinese government in recent years, especially in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Most moviegoers in Hong Kong were skeptical of the film’s release in the city, citing concerns of the character being “taboo”, as mentioned by a 19-year-old student from HKU who refused to reveal his name for privacy reasons.
“Be it a form of self-censorship or official censorship, there will only be more and more similar events in Hong Kong in the future. Maybe by then, everything will be filtered, you won’t even know what you’ve lost,” said Mark, a 24-year-old Hongkonger who has now immigrated to Canada.
The Hong Kong Film Censorship Ordinance passed in 2021 aims to censor films ‘contrary’ to China’s national security. Since then, several movies have been censored in Hong Kong or removed from film festivals for refusing to comply with censorship requirements, such as short film, Losing Sight of a Longed Place, The Dancing Voice of Youth, Revolution of Our Times, to name a few.
Featured image credit: VII PILLARS ENTERTAINMENT LTD HK via Instagram