Madame Bovary sues the film ‘I am not Madame Bovary’

A blockbuster that chronicled a rural Chinese woman’s struggle against injustice has sparked a legal challenge of its own. Expressing outrage, 60-year-old Pan Jinlian from China’s Guangdong province sued the director of “I Am Not Madame Bovary,” a film known in Chinese as “I Am Not Pan Jinlian.”

In the 2016 satirical film directed by famous filmmaker Feng Xiaogang and megastar Fan Bingbing, the protagonist Li Xuelian confronts himself in the country’s legal system to clear his name after her being falsely accused of infidelity and divorced by her husband. The film’s title is a reference to her argument that she is not “Pan Jinlian,” a character from ancient Chinese literature that has become synonymous with prostitution.

With the authors of those works – “Jin Ping Mei” and “Water Margin” – long gone, Pan, the plaintiff in the new legal case and a resident of the city of Zengcheng, turned to his consider the people and organizations behind it. Last year’s most successful film, with director Feng, producer Huayi Brothers Pictures, and Liu Zhenyun, author of the 2012 novel on which the film is based.

Pan said a statement made by the film caused him a lot of trouble, and the tours and other forms of publicity added to the scandal. “Not only is the plaintiff deeply saddened and angry,” his statement, quoted by the Sohu news portal, read, “but his family and other people with the name Pan have lost a lot of respect. in the eyes of the community.”

During his argument at the court case’s opening hearing, held Tuesday at the Chaoyang People’s Court in Beijing, Pan took a different view of the film’s opening story, the Chengdu News reported. Economic Daily on Wednesday. The story, which director Feng said, said: “Since the Song Dynasty, people have used the name Pan Jinlian to refer to unworthy women.” He also argued that the film does not claim to be anything like the real thing.

In an interview with the Chengdu Economic Daily, Pan’s younger brother said that his sister’s suffering from her fictional name has continued for years, with her two children and her husband also suffering. But with the release of “I’m not Madame Bovary,” things got better, said her brother, who was not identified by name. “He can’t sleep for most of the night, and his health is deteriorating,” he said, adding that he was mocking her.

The case was originally scheduled for the end of December 2016, but the absence of one of the defendants’ judges delayed it until March 21 – the day the film took off. three awards, including best film and best actor, at the 11th Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong. The defendants refused to settle, and an unnamed judge was quoted by the Chengdu Economic Daily as saying, “The historical figure and the person in real life have the same name, but they are two different things. .”

Pan is unlikely to succeed in his case, legal expert Li Junhui told Sixth Tone. “There is no direct connection between the nature of the film and people with the name Pan, and the film does not harm a person’s ‘popularity’,” said Li, a researcher at the University of Political Science. Science and Law’s China. Center for Economic Rights. “It’s an interesting case, but it’s hard to define it as a crime.”

Pan’s struggle to clear his name is not the first time “I am not Madame Bovary”. In November of last year, a judge called the film an insult to his career. Li Xiaomei, a judge in China’s Jiangsu province, criticized the protagonist’s decision to petition the government and sue the authorities instead of seeking legal redress through the courts.

A ruling on the new legal challenge is expected on April 19.

This article has been updated to reflect the views of legal expert Li Junhui.

Additional reports: Wang Lianzhang; contributions: Yin Yijun; editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.

(Caption: A still image shows Fan Bingbing’s character in the movie ‘I Am Not Madame Bovary,’ directed by Feng Xiaogang. IC)


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