This is the kind of news item that burns through my guts: according to Variety, producer Fang Li and co-production company Beijing Laurel Films have been banned from any involvement in the film business for two years by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT, AKA Film Bureau) in China. The Film Bureau is responsible for censoring materials that might be objectionable to the Mainland Chinese government or cultural standards.

The reasons for the ban are related to director Li Yu's Lost in Beijing. (That's her in the photo with Fang Li.) Monika Bartyzel first wrote about the story nearly a year ago when the Film Bureau banned the film from screening at the Berlin film festival. As Monika noted, Lost in Beijing "involves a relationship between the boss of a Beijing massage parlor (Tony Leung) and his female worker (Fan Bingbing)." The filmmakers refused to edit the film and screened it anyway; in his review, Erik Davis said the picture includes scenes "that shed a negative light on China," but overall the material was "far from risky," at least from the perspective of an American audience member. He thought Lost in Beijing was "good but not great."

The controversy appeared to have died down by the time the film hit Chinese theaters on November 30, but the ban has just now been handed down. Variety says that the crux of the ban is the charge that the filmmakers illegally distributed "unapproved and pornographic clips online," according to the Film Bureau. Producer Fang told Variety that one of their "unprocessed, unedited images was stolen and distributed on the Internet." He said that he was shocked by the ban and will meet with the Film Bureau next week to discuss the whole mess. Fang also produced Lou Ye's Summer Palace; that film screened at Cannes without permission, resulting in Ye being banned from the industry for five years.