China Censors Chloé Zhao’s Oscar Win

Chloé Zhao’s historic Oscar win should have been met with jubilation in China, the country of her birth. On Sunday night, she became the first Chinese and woman of color to be named best director, for “Nomadland,” which also took home the prize for best picture.

Instead, the Chinese government imposed a virtual news blackout, and censors moved to tamp down or scrub out discussion of the award on social media.

Chinese state-run news media outlets — which are typically eager to celebrate recognition of its citizens on the global stage — made nearly no mention of the Oscars, let alone Ms. Zhao. Chinese social media platforms raced to delete or limit the circulation of articles and posts about the ceremony and Ms. Zhao, forcing many internet users and fans to use homonyms and wordplay to evade the censors.

No reason has been given for the suppression, though Ms. Zhao has recently been the target of a nationalist backlash over remarks she had made about China in the past.

recent escalation in tensions between the United States and China.

“People should be celebrating — both Americans for giving her credit as a film director, and Chinese, for the fact that one of their own won a very prestigious international award,” Ms. Hung said. “But the politics of the U.S.-China relationship seem to have filtered down to the cultural and art circles, which is a shame.”

By midafternoon on Monday, The Global Times, a Communist Party-owned newspaper, broke the silence to urge Ms. Zhao to play a “mediating role” between China and the United States and “avoid being a friction point.”

“We hope she can become more and more mature,” the paper wrote in an editorial that was published only in English.

Although some posts about Ms. Zhao’s success made it through the filters, for the most part, the censors made it clear that the topic was off limits. Searches on Weibo, a popular social media platform, for the hashtag “Chloé Zhao wins the Oscar for best director” returned only the message: “According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, the page is not found.”

sensitive portrait of the lives of itinerant Americans, had been scheduled for release in China last week, as of Monday, there were no screenings in theaters.

The Oscars also came under fire last month for the nomination of “Do Not Split,” a film about the antigovernment protests in Hong Kong in 2019, for best short documentary. The Global Times said then that the documentary “lacks artistry and is full of biased political stances.”

Not long after, reports emerged that broadcasters in mainland China and Hong Kong would not be airing the Oscars ceremony for the first time in decades. (One of them, TVB, a Hong Kong broadcaster, said the decision was commercial.)

“Do Not Split,” lost to “Colette,” a film about a French resistance member who visits a concentration camp where her brother died. But its nomination alone had already helped raise awareness about China’s crackdown in Hong Kong, Anders Hammer, the documentary’s director, said in an interview before the awards.

“The ironic thing is that this censorship and the actions taken in Beijing and also Hong Kong have brought much more attention to our documentary and also brought much more attention to the main theme of our documentary, which is how basic democratic rights are disappearing in Hong Kong” Mr. Hammer said.

Chinese reporters working at state-controlled news outlets had been ordered weeks ago to refrain from covering the awards ceremony altogether, said two employees of Beijing-based news outlets, speaking on the condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the issue.

On Monday afternoon, there was no mention of the Oscars in the entertainment section of the flagship People’s Daily website. Instead, the top stories included a report on rural tourism in China and another on a “World Tai Chi Day” event in Malta.

But Ms. Zhao’s fans were undeterred by the censorship. On social media, they resorted to tactics that are by now familiar to many Chinese internet users: blurring out the names of Ms. Zhao and the film, writing backward, turning images on their side or adding slashes or exclamation marks between Chinese characters.

In their posts, many people praised Ms. Zhao’s acceptance speech, in which she said she had been “thinking a lot lately about how I keep going when things get hard.” For inspiration, she said she often looked to a line from a 13th-century classical text that she had memorized as a child growing up in China: “People at birth are inherently good.”

The line resonated with many Chinese who had also grown up memorizing those texts.

“It’s so hard to describe how I felt when I heard her say onstage those six characters in a Beijing accent,” one user wrote. “It may not be my favorite classical phrase — I would say I don’t even really agree with it — but in that moment I cried.”

For many observers, the censorship was something of a lost opportunity for the Chinese government, which has long sought to replicate the success of Hollywood in projecting American soft power around the world.

“The way she drew from her Chinese heritage in tackling difficulties is inspiring,” said Raymond Zhou, an independent film critic based in Beijing. “It’s sad she got massively misunderstood due to a string of cross-cultural events.”

He declined to say more, given the political sensitivity of the issue, adding only that “her body of work speaks for itself.”

Austin Ramzy and Joy Dong contributed reporting from Hong Kong. Claire Fu contributed research.

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Fyre Festival Ticket Holders Win $7,220 Each in Class-Action Settlement

Nearly four years after an infamous festival that was billed as an ultraluxurious musical getaway in the Bahamas left attendees scrounging for makeshift shelter on a dark beach, a court has decided how much the nightmare was worth: approximately $7,220 apiece.

The $2 million class-action settlement, reached Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York between organizers and 277 ticket holders from the 2017 event, is still subject to final approval, and the amount could ultimately be lower depending on the outcome of Fyre’s bankruptcy case with other creditors.

But Ben Meiselas, a partner at Geragos & Geragos and the lead lawyer representing the ticket holders, said on Thursday that he was happy a resolution had at last been reached.

“Billy went to jail, ticket holders can get some money back, and some very entertaining documentaries were made,” Meiselas said in an email mentioning Billy McFarland, the event’s mastermind. “Now that’s justice.”

is serving a six-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to wire fraud charges. In 2018, a court ordered him to pay $5 million to two North Carolina residents who spent about $13,000 apiece on VIP packages for the Fyre Festival.

“I cannot emphasize enough how sorry I am that we fell short of our goal,” McFarland said in a 2017 statement, though he declined to address specific allegations. “I’m committed to, and working actively to, find a way to make this right, not just for investors but for those who planned to attend.”

The festival, billed as “the cultural experience of the decade,” had been scheduled for two weekends beginning in late April 2017. Ticket buyers, who paid between $1,000 and $12,000 to attend, were promised an exotic island adventure with luxury accommodations, gourmet food, the hottest musical acts and celebrity attendees. Influencers including the models Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid promoted it.

Hulu and Netflix.)

Fyre has attributed its cancellation to a combination of factors, including the weather. But some Fyre employees later said that higher-ups had invented extravagant accommodations like a $400,000 Artist’s Palace ticket package, which included four beds, eight V.I.P. tickets and dinner with a festival performer, just to see if people would buy them. (There was no such palace.) Production crew members stopped being paid as the festival date neared.

Mark Geragos, another lawyer at the firm that represented ticket buyers in Tuesday’s settlement, filed the initial $100 million class-action lawsuit days after the event, which stated that Ja Rule and McFarland had known for months that their festival “was dangerously underequipped and posed a serious danger to anyone in attendance.” McFarland faced a second class-action lawsuit two days later.

A hearing to approve Tuesday’s settlement is set for May 13.

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Since the Oscar-Nominated ‘Collective,’ Much and Little Has Changed

BUCHAREST, Romania — On Oct. 30, 2015, a fire ripped through a nightclub in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, leaving 64 people dead. Almost six years later, a documentary about the fire and its tragic aftermath has been nominated for two Oscars.

It would be the first Oscar win for the Eastern European country, but the film’s success is bittersweet for many Romanians, given its painful subject matter — particularly since many believe not enough has changed since 2015.

“Collective,” which has been nominated for best documentary feature and best foreign film, follows a group of investigative journalists from a sports newspaper as they uncover painful truths about the Romanian health care system.

a review for The New York Times late last year, Manohla Dargis described “Collective” as a “staggering documentary” that offered “no moment when you can take an easy breath, assured that the terrible things you’ve been watching onscreen are finally over.”

For people in Romania, however, much of what is shown onscreen is painfully familiar.

Catalin Tolontan, then the editor in chief of the daily newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor, is one of the main protagonists of “Collective.” Before the documentary, “We used to receive 10 or 15 messages per day from the public, with scoops or information,” he said in an interview. “After the movie we received 70 to 80 a day.”

Earlier this year in Mongolia, when a woman with Covid-19 was transferred from the hospital in freezing temperatures just days after giving birth, journalists began asking tough questions of the government, apparently encouraging one another on Facebook by referencing “Collective,” which a local television station had shown days earlier. Protests followed, and the government ultimately resigned.

“If you are a journalist in a small country and saw ‘Spotlight,’ you could say, ‘Well, this is the U.S., they have a lot of resources, they have a strong democracy, they have a bond between the public and government,’” Tolontan, the newspaper editor, said. “But if you are in Mongolia or the Czech Republic, Indonesia, and you saw this movie, you think ‘They’re like us.’”

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” “Beyond the Hills” and “Child’s Pose” have received top awards at international festivals over the years, but none has won an Oscar.

Andrei Gorzo, a Romanian film critic, said that it was harder for Romanian viewers to see “Collective” as a morally clear-cut tale of a few good people fighting to change the rotten system.

Instead, he said, it captures a specific moment in Romania, when urban, middle-class voters believed in a new breed of politician, young and unsullied, who could clean up Romanian politics. “It is impossible for me to watch the film without acknowledging that a lot of that romanticism has turned sour since then,” he said.

Others are more optimistic.

“The generation that will change things here is not the generation that is 35-plus,” Nanau said. “It’s the younger generation, and these are the people that write to us, that we have met in the cinemas.”

Tolontan said he saw “Collective” as “a point of no return” for Romanian society.

Whether the film wins at the Oscars ceremony next month, many Romanians still hope that the film’s biggest impact will be at home, and that they can leave its content in the past.

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