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China Censors Academy Award Nominations

A parent protesting the shoddy construction of school buildings that collapsed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, killing thousands of children (file photo)

China has censored coverage in the lead up to the 82nd annual Academy Awards ceremony, omitting any mention of a documentary film about the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

The 39-minute film, China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province, received an Oscar nomination for best documentary short. It did not win, however, with the award going to Music by Prudence, a film about disabled Zimbabwean singer/songwriter Prudence Mabhena.

China's Unnatural Disaster
was blocked from being aired in China and official Chinese media have either removed it from their reports on the Academy Awards or omitted the entire award category. The words "unnatural disaster" have been removed from translations of the film's title appearing on the Chinese Internet.

The movie shows the aftermath of the 7.9 magnitude quake that hit Sichuan Province in May 2008, leaving at least 87,000 people -- including 5,335 children -- dead or missing. It follows several groups of grieving Chinese parents protesting the heavy damage to local schools.

The film documents how the parents are stonewalled by government officials who ignore accusations that corruption led to what many Chinese have termed the "tofu," or flimsy, construction of the schools, resulting in the children's deaths.

Filmmakers Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill say China still refuses to grant them visas to return to the country.

Alpert told U.S. public radio the film continues to be posted on YouTube and other Internet sites and that he and O'Neill are in contact with many of the parents interviewed in the Home Box Office documentary.