Cut! No place for the Oscars

Top News | Maisy Mok and Amy Nip 29 Mar 2021

This year's Academy Awards - the Oscars - will not be broadcast on Hong Kong television next month for the first time in 52 years.

Controversial comments by Chloe Zhao, the Beijing-born director of Nomadland, nominated for six awards, and the nomination of Do Not Split about Hong Kong's 2019 unrest a best short documentary are believed to be behind the blanking.

The 93rd Academy Awards show is set to air from Los Angeles on April 26 starting at 8am, Hong Kong time.

TVB has every year since 1969 been broadcasting the Oscars on its English channel, Pearl.

But a TVB spokesman told The Standard it will not air the Oscars next month as it does not have broadcasting rights.

"It was purely a commercial decision that we decided not to pursue the Oscars this year," he said.

Nor did NowTV, ViuTV, Cable TV or Open TV get the rights, the broadcasters confirmed.

Last year, the livestreaming of the Oscars show was broadcast on Pearl from 5.30am on February 10, with the awards ceremony at 9am. The show was then replayed at 9pm on the channel.

Rumors the Oscars would not be on Pearl started with a post on forum LIHKG last week.

Someone online found Pearl would be airing the movie Black Hawk Down at 9.30pm on the night when the Oscars takes place instead of following the usual practice of an Oscars replay.

Others were quick to point out controversies.

Do Not Split, a 35-minute documentary, is directed by Norwegian Anders Hammer and covers the 2019 anti-fugitive bill protests in Hong Kong and their aftermath.

Hammer has said he hopes the film can bring attention to "how basic human rights are suppressed by Beijing."

Nomadland's six award nominations include best motion picture of the year.

Hashtags for the film were reportedly removed from Weibo after a comment that US-based director Zhao made in an interview with Filmmaker Magazine in 2013 resurfaced. In it she referred to China as a "place where there are lies everywhere."

Bloomberg reported this month that after the two films appeared on the list of finalists Beijing's propaganda department ordered all mainland media outlets not to broadcast the ceremony live and to play down coverage.

The Oscars have in the last two years been available live on the mainland and live-streamed on websites including 1905.com - run by a subsidiary of the state' s China Central Television.

The party's Global Times said Do Not Split should not win as it "lacks artistry and is full of biased political stances."

It cited Chinese film critics warning that the Oscars should not be reduced to being a political tool.

And there was a warning of about hurting the feeling of audiences "that could lead to a heavy loss in the Chinese film market, which overtook North America as the largest box office market for the first time last year."

It chose to praise Hong Kong movie Better Days instead, which is nominated for best international feature film.

That film is directed by Derek Tsang Kwok-cheung, the son of Eric Tsang Chi-wai -TVB's newly appointed deputy general manager.

The media and entertainment industry have been increasingly uneasy about works on the unrest and those critical of Beijing since the national security law came into effect in June.

And local documentary Inside the Red Brick Wall about the siege of the Polytechnic University in 2019 was pulled hours before its first commercial screening this month.

It came after state mouthpiece Wen Wei Po ran articles condemning the screening and accusing organizers of breaching the security law.



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