A producer of the popular film Mr Six, or Lao Pao'er, on Saturday responded to the Beijing Tobacco Control Association's accusations that the film contains an excessive number of smoking scenes by claiming that the film simply aims to realistically reflect the life of local residents during the period in which it is set.
In an open letter sent to the Global Times on Thursday, the association strongly criticized the film for containing an excess of shots showing smoking, which the association claimed ignores the regulations making all indoor public spaces, workplaces and public transport vehicles in Beijing smoke-free.
"The 138-minute film is full of scenes depicting the lighting and passing of cigarettes and smoking ... It seems that everyone in the film can smoke, which goes against reality and is unnecessary. They smoke unscrupulously and illegally in public places," read the letter.
The association demanded that the film's producer apologize to Beijing residents, add a notice saying smoking is harmful to one's health and smoking is banned in public places before playing the film, and organize a public service activity advocating against tobacco use.
A senior associate of production studio H. Brothers told news site cnr.cn on Saturday that the film did not encourage people to smoke, but aimed to artistically recreate residents' real life.
The anti-tobacco ban had not yet been released in the era in which the film is set, and smoking was very common for local residents during that time, said the employee.
As China has no film classification system to help filmmakers understand what kind of content they can include in their works, the association's appeal is understandable, the employee said, adding that certain tobacco-related restrictions should be imposed on the film industry.
Mr Six, which stars well-known film director Feng Xiaogang, tells the story of a street punk called Lao Pao'er, who reigned over Beijing's streets. The film was released on December 24 and has garnered box office sales of 687 million yuan ($106 million) as of Sunday.
"The association's protest is understandable, and great importance should be attached to it. However, excessive interference by the association would have an adverse effect on the prosperity of cultural creation," Chen Qiuping, head of the scriptwriter branch of the Beijing Film Association, told the Global Times.