The film was reportedly withdrawn from all cinemas and taken off all streaming platforms just weeks after its release. According to local Chinese outlets, mentioning the film on Weibo is also banned.
Return to Dust is a Chinese drama film written and directed by Li Ruijun.
According to the official synopsis, the storyline follows “the lives of Ma Youtie and Cao Guiying in rural Gansu.
“Guiying is disabled, infertile, had been mistreated by her family, and is past the normal age by which women would be married in rural China. Their families arrange a marriage between the two and they fall in love.”
As perSCMP, the film examines the impact of the country’s economic growth and rapid urbanisation through the lives of a subdued couple in a rural village.
One of the film’s producers, Wang Tianye, told the outlet that they “didn’t receive the official document [to block the film]”.
“We do not understand the reason for it,” he said. “So we hope that the movie will be back to the public as soon as possible.”
Return to Dust had its world premiere at Berlinale 2022. It also premiered in the UK at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2022.
The movie received rave reviews from critics and was praised for its honest depiction of rural life in China. However, it also drew plenty of criticism from nationalists accusing it of portraying the country in a bad light.
The disappearance of the film has prompted rumours that it was taken down due to China’s upcoming Congress meeting as authorities are under pressure from Beijing to ensure an atmosphere of stability.
Earlier this week, a hashtag related to the film’s removal was trending on Chinese social media platforms but not many comments were visible.
According to reports, it was later censored with a Weibo error message saying it was unsearchable “due to relevant laws, regulations, and policies”.
One of the comments which was visible said: “Hide the suffering, the suffering will not exist.”
Another said: “Does it have to be a happy, thriving family scene to be real?”