'Brokeback Mountain' director surprises Heritage Minister

Oscar-winning director Ang Lee spoke out against proposed Bill C-10 in a talk to Vancouver filmmakers Sunday, urging them to “make a noise, whatever” to stop Bill C-10. “It’s almost like censorship.”

The pending legislation would give the Heritage Minister power to deny tax credits to Canadian productions deemed contrary to public policy, even after government agencies have invested. The bill has been passed by the House of Commons and is currently before the Senate.

The acclaimed director declared, “People should be free to say anything.” He also pointed out he was not censored in making the film about gay cowboys, which was shot in Alberta.

Upon hearing of his comments, Heritage Minister Josée Verner issued a statement Monday: “I’m surprised about the comments of Mr. Ang Lee, director of the world acclaimed movie Brokeback Mountain.”

In addition to pointing out that as a non-Canadian Lee is exempt from being denied the particular tax credit included in the bill, Verner denied Lee’s charges of censorship.

“Our government is determined to ensure freedom of expression and will continue to support the production of entertaining and high quality content,” the statement said. “We are reaching out to industry to work with them on Bill C-10. Together, we will find the best solution for the industry, for Canadian citizens and tax payers.”

Lee’s Oscar-nominated Brokeback Mountain was banned in his homeland of China, while his recent Lust, Caution was cut for Chinese audiences as the sex and nudity was deemed contrary to the country’s puritan values. In addition, Beijing authorities have blacklisted Tang Wei, Lust, Caution’s young protagonist, because her character glorifies unpatriotic behaviour.

Earlier this month, Sarah Polley, Wendy Crewson and other prominent members of the Canadian film industry appeared before the Senate to make clear the difficulties filmmakers would face if the bill was passed, particularly in securing funding for projects.

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