Posts Tagged ‘queer china’

Interview with Beijing Queer Film Festival’s Yang Yang

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011


By Ariella Tai

Beijing Queer Film Festival, a biennial celebration of gay, lesbian and queer films held biannually, recently enjoyed its tenth year running. On Artspace China, Christen Cornell conducts an interview with the festival’s executive director, Yang Yang. Yang has been with the festival since the beginning, providing an essential space for the queer and allied communities of Beijing despite the fear of government pressure. She observes, “…we always have an audience. It’s funny, other film festivals spend all their time and energy on promotion, while our biggest concern is keeping the festival quiet so as not to inform the police. But then once the festival begins, the people come. The people just come naturally.” The overall curator of the 2011 program, Chinese-American filmmaker Doris Yeung, however, held the underground nature of the Chinese LGBT scene in comparison to America 25 years ago. Cornell muses, “this was an exciting thing, as if the underground nature of China’s queer community gives it extra energy.”

This year’s festival was able to profile prestigious filmmakers such as Barbara Hammer and Mickey Chen. The international section of the program was guest-curated by the Mumbai International Queer Film Festival and this year premiered a new section focusing on the work of overseas Chinese filmmakers. Many of these films do not only focus on queer issues, but on other questions of identity. This open environment and encouragement to learn and reflect seems to be what draws many young people to the screenings.

CC: I wonder if your festival provides an opportunity for all kinds of young Chinese people to express their ideas about sexuality. I met a number of young, straight people at the opening last night and they seemed very curious to learn and think about sexuality generally, without feeling the need to ‘fit in’.

YY: That’s one of the aims of the festival. If only I could have attended a festival like this when I was a teenager – something that showed me there were so many different possibilities, so many different choices and ways of being – I would have been so much happier.


This Week’s Events: Betelnut in Glasgow, Queer China in Claremont, and Ghost Town in Ithaca

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Betelnut (dir. Yang Heng)


Betelnut at the Centre for Contemporary Arts

Tuesday, March 8 at 7:00 PM

350 Sauchiehall Street
Glasgow, United Kingdom

“Pure cinema” – Susanna Harutyunyan, FIPRESCI – The International Federation of Film Critics

Exquisite!” – Tony Rayns, Film Comment

Along a sleepy Hunan riverside, two delinquent boys experience a summer of love and violence in Yang Heng’s visually stunning debut.

Tickets are free, they will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. Call the CCA Box Office on 0141 352 4900 to reserve your ticket.

Queer China at Pomona College

Thursday, March 10

Pomona College
333 North College Way
Claremont, CA


Best Documentary at the Lisbon Gay and Lesbian Film Festival

Directed by Cui Zi’en, China’s leading queer theorist, activist and scholar, the documentary includes rarely seen footage of the first ever appearance of gays and lesbians on State television, including Cui Zi’en himself.

Ghost Town at Cornell Cinema

Friday, March 11 at 7:00 PM

Screening as part of the “China Now” Film Series

Cornell Cinema
104 Willard Straight Hall
Ithaca, Illinois


A quiet marvel” – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

Tucked away in a rugged corner of Yunnan Province, Lisu and Nu minority villagers squat in the abandoned halls of this remote former Community county seat. Divided into three parts, Ghost Town takes an intimate look at its varied cast of characters, bringing audiences face to face with people left behind by China’s new economy.

Tickets are $7 for the general public, $5.50 for seniors, and $4 for students and kids 12 and under. Advance Sale Tickets can be purchased at the Willard Straight Hall Ticket Desk, or at the box office, which opens 20 minutes before the scheduled showtime.

For a full list of upcoming events, visit our Events Page.

“Genuinely Fascinating:” Queer China, ‘Comrade’ China reviewed at Video Librarian

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Queer China, 'Comrade' China (dir. Cui Zi'en)

The current issue of Video Librarian includes a review of one of our hottest titles, Cui Zi’en’s Queer China, ‘Comrade China’. Here’s an excerpt from the review:

Openly gay filmmaker Cui Zi’en helmed this chronicle of the changes and developments in the LGBT community in China from the 1930s through the early years of the 21st century. China was relatively late in openly acknowledging basic civil rights for its homosexual population; in fact, the Communist goverment didn’t decriminalize “hooliganism,” as it was officially known, until 1997, and the acceptance of non-heterosexuals into mainstream Chinese society has been awkward… Queer China, ‘Comrade’ China includes frank interviews with more than three dozen scholars, activists, filmmakers, and writers, combined with rarely seen footage of the first-ever appearance of gays and lesbians on state television… This is a genuinely fascinating look at a continually evolving segment of Chinese society. Recommended.
The full review can be accessed at the Video Librarian website (registration required)

Changing Times for Queer Lives in China

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Lesbian wedding in China (Photo from

by Isabella Tianzi Cai

In a “Letter from China” column for the New York Times on September 1, 2010, Howard W. French elaborates on China’s changing attitude towards queer culture based on his personal observations in Shanghai. Having worked and lived in Shanghai for just under a decade, French is well aware of Chinese people’s increasing psychological tolerance towards homosexuals in their midst.

French says that it is most evident in “public intimacy between women,” which he supports in the letter by recounting a few of his personal experiences, most memorably, witnessing two teenage girls kissing passionately in a Shanghai subway car, without regard for the older passengers watching them with consternation. It should be noted that this incident is without precedent; a similar event in 2008 was captured on video and created a stir when posted on the internet.

French offers his understanding of this social phenomenon:

As this society rapidly grows richer, its social fabric and mores have been changing in ways far more dramatic than even the physical landscape, and sexual choice and expression are arguably in the leading edge of this upheaval.

Although this trend, as articulated by French, is more or less inevitable, the transition from a conservative society to a liberal one is neither as easy or as fast as he makes it out to be.


Film Threat Reviews Queer China, ‘Comrade China’

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Queer China, 'Comrade China' (dir. Cui Zi'en)

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

In the online film journal Film Threat, Phil Hall recently reviewed Cui Zi’en’s ‘Queer China, Comrade China’, calling it “a genuinely fascinating look at Chinese sociology in a state of continual evolution.”

Hall’s review reiterates the issues raised in Cui’s work, which examines China’s LGBT culture and history through a number of insightful interviews from various political, historical, cultural, legal, as well as psychological viewpoints. He condenses the first half of the documentary as follows:

China was relatively late in openly acknowledging the basic civil rights of its homosexual population – it wasn’t until 1997 that the Communist government decriminalized “hooliganism,” as it was officially known. However, the acceptance of non-heterosexuals into a mainstream societal position has been complicated, although the resistance bears no resemblance to the religious-fueled homophobia that has become commonplace in the United States. Indeed, the film explains that same-sex unions are seen by many as a disruption of the yin-yang harmony within the Chinese mindframe and the disruption of the cohesive family unit that was stressed since Mao Zedong’s rise to power.


Video: Queer China, ‘Comrade China’ Panel Discussion at Cinemasie Festival

Monday, June 28th, 2010

By Isabella Tianzi Cai

At CinemAsia Film Festival in Amsterdam this year, Chinese queer activist, writer, and filmmaker Cui Zi’en’s Queer China, ‘Comrade’ China was selected for an official screening followed by a panel discussion titled “Queer Asian Imagination.” The film was grouped with eight other LGBT films in the Queer and Asia program, a key component of CinemAsia. Cui met with the program attendees after the film and answered their inquiries about LGBT culture in China. Below are some YouTube videos documenting the Q&A session with Cui. Also present at the discussion were Michiel Baas from the International Institute for Asian Studies, Hong Kong filmmaker Kit Hung, CinemAsia board member Jeroen de Kloet, as well as Yang Jin, who appears in the film. In the videos below, Cui’s answers in Chinese are omitted, but were spoken in English by a translator (seen in the orange shirt).

Cui points out one major difference distinguishing Chinese gay population from that elsewhere in the world. “Many young Chinese gay and lesbians, they also go to gay bars,” he says. “But one difference is in China, they also aspire to get married as heterosexuals. I think that’s one of the biggest difference.”

Cui also notes the tension between the state and gay cinema in China today. He says, “The law environment in China is very different in terms of filmmaking. There are thirteen prohibitions in China in terms of movie-making. One of them is that you are not allowed to make a gay-themed film. That’s why you can’t see gay-related films in mainstream cinemas or film festivals. Even a Hollywood movie like Brokeback Mountain, when they tried to enter the Chinese market, it was impossible.”

Part One:

More after the break.

Berenice Reynaud Reviews Four New Chinese Films

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Queer China, 'Comrade China' (dir. Cui Zi'en)

The newest issue of the online film journal Senses of Cinema features lengthy reviews by film scholar and Cal Arts professor Berenice Reynaud on new films from Mainland China. Titled “Men Won’t Cry – Traces of a Repressive Past,” Reynaud covers a dozen international titles that screened at last fall’s Vancouver International Film Festival, giving special attention to four new films from the Mainland, as well as the Hong Kong feature Night and Fog by Ann Hui. Her analysis is particularly astute at discerning issues of identity, gender, power and nationhood in the formal approaches taken by each film. The following are some choice excerpts, though readers are advised to read Reynaud’s appreciations in full:


The Potential (and Perils) of Online Video for the d-Generation

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Super, Girls! (dir. Jian Yi)

This recent article on CNN caught our eye, as it deals with what may be an emerging next wave of the digital filmmaking in China we at dGenerate heartily support. The article cites the explosion of user generated content on Chinese video sites like Youku and Tudou, which one analyst describes as “An unleashing of creativity like the world has never seen.”

Here’s the skinny from the article:

While the bulk of the content on popular Chinese video sites consists of domestic and foreign movies and television programs, a growing share of material is coming from Chinese who are picking up cameras, filming the world around them and sharing it with others for the very first time.

This may not seem extraordinary elsewhere, yet the growth of user-generated content represents a major shift in the way China watches itself and the way the world watches China.

That last line resonates a lot with the mission of China’s dGeneration of filmmakers; thanks to the accessibility of digital video and their own mission to document issues that couldn’t pass through state censorship, these filmmakers brought a radical new element to China’s art and media landscape. However, the ongoing challenge for these filmmakers has been to break out of a small, relatively confined circuit of underground festivals and other distribution channels in China, so that a greater audience can access these films and the important stories they uncover.


Mr. Gay China Wins Prize in Worldwide Pageant

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Xiaodai Muyi (photo courtesy of Worldwide Mr. Gay)

Following up on the saga that unfolded last month over the Mr. Gay China pageant, it turns out that after the pageant had been shut down by the Beijing police, the organizers of the event went ahead and sent a delegate to the Worldwide Mr. Gay competition in Oslo, Norway. The delegate went on to finish third runner up in the competition, which concluded February 14.

In an added twist, the delegate, Xiaodai Muyi, is a 25 year old Chinese Muslim from Xinjiang province. Xinjiang has long experienced social turmoil between ethnic Han and Muslim Chinese, that exploded into deadly riots last summer.


Police Shut Down “Mr. Gay China”

Friday, January 15th, 2010

The Associated Press reports that police shut down China’s first ever gay pageant, “Mr. Gay China” an hour before it was set to begin.

Event organizer Ben Zhang relayed the cause given by the police: “”They said the content, meaning homosexuality, there’s nothing wrong with that, but you did not do things according to procedures.” But the AP report states that “Chinese police frequently cite procedural reasons for closing down gatherings deemed politically sensitive, and authorities have harassed gays in the past.”

Eight men were due to compete with each one hoping to be picked to go forward the Worldwide Mr Gay pageant in Norway next month. The event was to include a fashion show, swimwear and talent competition, and a host in drag.

The organizers are considering having the judges select one contestant to send to the world competition.