Festival Review: Inside The Chinese Closet (2015)

Inside The Chinese Closet

With fake marriage markets and illegal babies, Sophia Luvara’s intimate documentary Inside The Chinese Closet reveals gay men and women shouldering their parents’ burden.

The Great Chinese Wall

by Mark Wilshin

Inside The Chinese Closet

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Following in the footsteps of Andy and Cherry, two gay residents of Shanghai, Sophia Luvara’s Inside The Chinese Closet isn’t so much an exposé on the trials and tribulations of coming out in the People’s Republic of China, but rather a slow revelation on the different forces at play over the lives of gay people there. For while Chinese parents may be able to accept their sons’ and daughters’ homosexuality, after 35 years of the One Child Policy, they’re still determined to become grandparents. With no siblings to shoulder the burden, it’s a question of heritage and continuity as well as a kind of familial social security, with grandchildren required to look after their children in their old age. But with each generation, there’s progress – as parents adapt from wanting a boy to wanting a healthy child, and maybe at some point even to accepting childlessness. But tradition is strong, and both Cherry and Andy’s parents do all they can to save face within their communities, persuading their offspring into fake marriages and illegal adoption. And so to keep their parents happy, gay Chinese men and women end up pushing their parents deeper and deeper inside the closet. Beautifully lensed by Ton Peters, Sophia Luvara creates an intimate documentary of gentle honesty, Inside The Chinese Closet revealing a hidden community in Chinese society brought delicately to light.

Inside The Chinese Closet is now showing at the 66th Berlin Film Festival

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