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Sunday, 13 August, 2000, 08:20 GMT 09:20 UK
Award for banned Chinese film
Honoured: Wang receives the top prize at Locarno
A Chinese film screened at the last minute because of political concerns has won the top prize at Switzerland's prime film festival.

The film by director Wang Shuo, Baba, was made four years ago but was banned by the Chinese authorities.

It beat off 17 other films including four from Asia, to take the Golden Leopard award at the Locarno Film Festival.

Baba, or Father, was adapted by Wang from one of his own novels.

It focuses on the difficult relationship between a father and son and it has been intepreted as a thorough deconstruction of authority in China.


"This film is not only a very important film in the context of new cinema, in China and all over the world," said festival jury chairman Naum Klejman.

"It's also a film which gives a very human explanation of developing the societies in the world, it's universal."

Festival director Marco Mueller explained the secrecy surrounding the film's screening.

"No custom and passport officers will ever let the director of a banned film leave China if they know the banned film is going to play in the foreign country where the director is heading," he said.

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Among the other winners was another Asian film. Xilu Xiang by Fruit Chan of Hong Kong took the silver award in the new cinema category.

The film portrays the territory's handover from Britain to China through the eyes of a nine-year old boy.

The Special Jury prize was won by an Italian film called Gostanza Da Libbiano by Paolo Benvenuti, which re-enacts a trial for witchcraft held in 1594.

The Leopard of Honour prize was awarded to the Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, whose latest film, The Hollow Man, made its European debut at the festival.

The 10-day Locarno Film Festival has a reputation for being a leader in discovering fresh talent.

Since it started four years ago, the competition not been restricted to only first or second films but also to films made by directors on the verge of international recognition.

Among the controversial entries this year was the French film Baise-moi. Its graphic depiction of sex and violence has sparked a censorship row in France.

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