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Film Threat Reviews <i>Queer China, ‘Comrade China’</i>

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.

Much like the way Cui deals with various gay rights movements in the film, Hall writes about these progressive movements in a didactic yet sympathetic manner. He notes that “progress has been sincere,” “[y]et problems persist and resistance can still be found.” Hall’s review delineates the major structural shifts behind the history being recounted, from liberal-minded television programs that openly discuss gay culture, to promising grassroots activities that unfortunately get suppressed.

Hall also comments briefly about the editing of the film, using the word “erratic” to describe its “constantly switching between full-, split- and partial-screens plus a surplus of Chinese and English subtitling.” However, he justifies this style according to the evolving nature of China’s LGBT culture.

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