French animated film festival Annecy has been forced to remove a Chinese film from its programme, citing “official pressures.”

“We must remove one of the feature films selected in [the] competition at Annecy 2017, Liu Jian’s Have a Nice Day, from our programme following a decision that has been imposed upon us,” the organisers said in a statement on the Annecy website on May 30.

“We’re disappointed about the official pressures that have prevented us from presenting this remarkable film this year and we hope that international audiences will soon have the possibility to see it.”

Still from Have a Nice Day. Photo: Berlinale.

Have a Nice Day, the second feature film from Chinese director Liu Jian, follows a set of characters in interlocking storylines that revolve around a bag of money stolen by a chauffeur in a small Chinese town. The dark comedy of gangster capers is described by critics as painting a “bleak” and “dreary” picture of contemporary China.

The Annecy International Animated Film Festival, founded in 1960 in Annecy, France, is the world’s biggest animation festival. This year’s festival runs from June 12 to 17 and aims to highlight work from China.

Patrick Eveno, director of Citia, the festival’s organiser, told French Catholic newspaper La Croix on Tuesday that the festival was put under pressure from Chinese authorities.

Still from Have a Nice Day. Photo: Berlinale.

“Even before we announced its selection, the Chinese authorities were worried about whether we intended to [include it in the] program,” Eveno said.

Another unnamed official from the festival told the paper that Chinese authorities told them they did not grant an exit visa for the film and asked them to remove it, “which we refused, even though the request was repeated several times and in an increasingly firm tone.”

The organisers finally decided to remove the film when its producer asked them to do so last week, Eveno said.

“From then on, we had no choice. We did not have the right to endanger the film’s team,” he added.

Liu’s film was previously screened at the Berlinale, Berlin’s international film festival, in February. It was billed as the first Chinese animated feature to play at the Berlinale. Chinese state-backed media including China Radio International and The Paper reported at the time that the film was the first Chinese film to be shortlisted by one of three major international film festivals.

“The film’s inscrutable, laconic humour holds up a magnifying glass to attitudes to life and social conditions,” the film’s synopsis on the programme of Berlin’s international film festival says. “Humankind’s constant greed meets a deeply insecure country in transition…  The signs and symbols of capitalism impose themselves everywhere, but most people are excluded from the life these signs promise.”

Liu is an assistant professor at the China Academy of Art, a state-run school in east China. His first film Piercing I won the Best Animated Feature Film at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards in 2010.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.