CDT has recently acquired and verified a collection of propaganda directives issued by central Party authorities to state media at the beginning of this year. These directives were issued on an almost daily basis in early 2020, and we will be posting them over the coming weeks. The following two directives were released on January 18, 2020.
Without exception, do not raise questions or hype the film title change from “China Women’s Volleyball Team” to “Leap.” Without exception, do not or report on or link to Yuan Weimin, Chen Zhonghe, and former women’s volleyball team members’ questioning of the film. Please promptly clean up extreme and negative comments and harmful information. (January 18, 2020) [Source]
Reports on the film title change from “China Women’s Volleyball Team” to “Leap” and the postponement of its originally scheduled release on January 25 must not question or attack film censorship or the hiring of filmmakers from Hong Kong or Taiwan to direct mainstream films; must not link the film to Yuan Weimin, Chen Zhonghe, former team members, or team assistants; and must not question the inside story behind the title change, the film’s infringement on the team’s likeness and name rights, commercial exploitation involving the film, or internal division within the team. (January 18, 2020) [Source]
“Leap,” directed by Hong Kong-born Peter Chan Ho-sun and starring many current or recent team members, chronicles 35 years in the history of China’s hugely successful women’s national volleyball team. From China.org.cn:
Produced by Alibaba Pictures, the film shines a spotlight on the China women’s national volleyball team. Depicting the struggles of several generations of the Chinese team in their attempts to achieve national glory, the film spans a period of 35 years from 1981 to 2016. It is set to resonate with Chinese people and evoke nostalgic memories.
Known as the “Iron Hammer” for her powerful spikes when she was a player, Lang Ping is now the head coach of the China women’s national volleyball team. Lang is the first person in the sport to win Olympic gold medal as both a player (1984) and as a coach (2016), and also headed the U.S. women’s team from 2005-2008, leading them to a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Lang Ping’s daughter Lydia Lang Bai, plays the younger version of her mother, while celebrated Chinese actress Gong Li takes on the role of Lang during her coaching years. [Source]
The film’s originally scheduled theatrical release, on the profitable Lunar New Year weekend in January, was postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The film finally arrived in China’s reopened theaters last weekend, as their permitted capacity expanded from 50% to 75%.
On January 9, South China Morning Post’s Alice Yan reported on complaints by former coach Chen Zhonghe that the film was “exploitative and defamatory”:
“There’s enough evidence to sue them. They’ve infringed my name, image and reputation.”
In one scene, Chen, while still only a junior member of the coaching squad, is seen grabbing a chicken leg from a food tray after a canteen worker had refused to give it to him as he was not a member of the women’s team and therefore not entitled to have it.
[… The Yangtze Evening News] said that after seeing how he had been portrayed, Chen wrote to the General Administration of Sports of China – one of the film’s financial backers – asking for all the scenes in which he appeared to be deleted.
The filmmakers had “ignored reality” and used his character for comic effect, he said.
[…] “We played not for fame or money, but for our country,” he said. “We definitely won’t allow film companies to make money through the propaganda of the Chinese women’s volleyball team.” [Source]
Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. Some instructions are issued by local authorities or to specific sectors, and may not apply universally across China. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth since 2011.