WORLD> Public Attitude
Crowds throng to gay film festival
By Gan Tian (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-06-23 08:02

More than 50 films with gay themes were shown, and three seminars held, as part of the Fourth Beijing Queer Film Festival (BQFF) at the Songzhuang Art Center and Fanhall Cinema in Beijing.

The event, which ended on Sunday, attracted about 10,000 people. Most films were from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The opening movie Soundless Wind Chime by Hong Kong director Kit Hung, drew more than 500 people.

The other films shown included Spider Lilies on lesbian love by Zero Chou, and Eternal Summer, by Leste Chen, on the secret love between two boys. There were also screenings of independent films by local directors.

Compared with movies on gay themes in other countries and regions, Chinese mainland directors like to tell stories of homosexuals who "come out", that is, admit they are gay to their families.

"In China, family is still an issue for gay people. Should they be themselves or fulfill their family expectations? This is a dilemma facing many Chinese gays and lesbians, which you can see in these movies," Fan Popo, one of the festival's committee members, says.

The committee of the Turin Queer Festival also recommended the inclusion of some gay movies from abroad, giving the event an international flavor. Another addition was clips from TV programs touching on homosexuality, such as an interview with two gay people titled, A Date With Luyu, shown on Phoenix TV.

The festival committee was led by Cui Zi'en and included - besides independent director Fan Popo - painter Shitou, and filmmakers Yang Yang and Zhu Rikun. However, it is still not easy to see Chinese films on gay themes. "The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television does not allow any homosexual movies to be released in the theaters," Fan points out. But such films continue to be made, with most mainland directors working with their own budgets and screening their films at international film festivals. It is only when such films win an award that they can think of making a profit.

In Hong Kong, though, the problem is that while movies on gay themes bring in the profits, in doing so the gay community's message gets lost. "In Hong Kong, the producers want the movies to make money, so you have to put some titillating photos in the posters to draw in the crowds, but the main message is lost," says director Kit Hung.

Fan points out that not all the movies on gay themes are directed by gays or lesbians. "There are a number of heterosexual people making queer movies, too. Some of them are just interested in this subject. Nowadays, people are more open-minded. Straight people also took part in the festival."

BQFF has been held before - in 2001, 2005 and 2007. "Beijing needs a queer film festival. Take a look at all the big cities around the world, there are one or two famous events each year, and now it is time for Beijing and other cities in China," says Fan.

(China Daily 06/23/2009 page20)