China's first gay film

Submitted by AWL on 23 February, 2021 - 6:49 Author: John Cunningham
East Palace, West Palace

News of the Chinese Education Ministry’s ludicrous concern over the “feminisation” of Chinese boys brings to mind China’s first explicitly gay film, East Palace, West Palace, directed by Zhang Yuan in 1996. Homosexuality was legalised in the following year, but gays are still regularly harassed for supposed “hooliganism”.

A-Lan, a gay writer, is attracted to a policeman, Xiao Shi, and intentionally gets arrested by him in a public toilet (the title refers to two toilets in Beijing where gay men meet). Xiao Shi interrogates A-Lan overnight in the police station. As he listens to the young writer’s life story his own feelings, previously suppressed, are drawn out. The film was smuggled out of China. Unsurprisingly Zhang Yuan was prevented by the Chinese authorities from attending the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.

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