Queer film and its soft power thrives under the censorship in China

Since the Oscar-winning same-sex romance movie Call me by your name has been pulled from the Beijing International Film Festival in April, it is clear that LGBTQ-themed content is not only banned screening at domestic public cinema, but there is no permission for queer film being shown at an international film festival held by Chinese government due to the content considered as “in deviation” of Chinese Policy (Sharf 2018).

However, there is an alternative NGO and more mainstream Shanghai Pride Film Festival (ShPFF) which provides space and forum for LGBTQs to discuss and share ideas in an inclusive way (Chen 2018). Founded in 2015 by volunteers, Shanghai Pride Film Festival takes place in June every year as part of ShanghaiPRIDE, its intention is to raise awareness and promote tolerance for the LGBTQ community through film screening. It is also a good place for Chinese queer filmmakers to narrative and highlight a range of LGBTQ issues in China, also, the international queer films are able to be featured with Chinese subtitles. Moreover, like a regular film festival does, Shanghai Pride Film Festival also hosts Q&A sessions and panel discussions with some of the queer filmmakers and leading figures in Chinese queer cinema.


2018 Shanghai Pride banner

The sexual minority issues are quite complicated in China. Seemingly, the Chinese government shows the inclusiveness and support of the community on its official social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Nevertheless, internally, queer contents are not allowed to be screened on TV and public cinemas, sometimes it is even illegal for web series. Under this circumstances, queer film festivals are increasingly needed by the community. These festivals show the visibility and diversity of LGBTQ people and avoid the control of film censorship by the government. The LGBTQ issues should not be concerned in certain countries, it is the basic human rights for the whole world. Through the film screening, the audiences and filmmakers have the chance to get involved in their own narratives and experience the cultural differences. Furthermore, as a part of the festival, the China Rainbow Media Awards provides awards to media artisans and publication outlets for their contribution and featuring of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in China.


The China Rainbow Media Awards group photo

It is significantly important for a country to hold queer film festivals regularly, especially in conservative countries. With more media coverage and positive exposure, not only the individuals, the whole society will be educated to be kind and inclusive. People who belong to this minority community will no longer feel isolated, and these queer film festivals also allow the western media to know the status quo and the power of sexual minority people in China and promote human culture advancement through those events.



Chen, L 2018, “How queer film collective thrives under the radar in Shanghai, and its soft power”, South China Morning Post, viewed 18 August 2018, https://www.scmp.com/culture/film-tv/article/2143659/how-queer-film-collective-thrives-under-radar-shanghai-and-its-soft

Sharf, Z 2018, “‘Call Me By Your Name’ Pulled From Beijing International Film Festival, Film Considered ‘In Deviation’ of Chinese Policy”, IndieWire, viewed 18 August 2018, https://www.indiewire.com/2018/03/call-me-by-your-name-removed-beijing-international-film-festival-1201943696/

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