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June 2011

William Yung, My Chinese Canadian Boyfriend.jpg
My Chinese Canadian Boyfriend, directed William Yung

On Friday night I attended the opening of the Beijing Queer Film Festival in a gay bar in Beijing’s Gulou bar district. Held biannually, the festival is now in its tenth year, and still thrums with all the intensity of an underground, emergent community. The bar on Friday night was packed, and filmmakers invited from around the world spoke of a time when their own country’s queer community had the same sense of adversity and purpose.

The next day I spoke with the festival’s executive director, Yang Yang, a clear-thinking woman who has been the backbone of the festival since its inception. Yang is neither gay, nor a filmmaker, and so her commitment to Beijing’s queer community is intriguing.

Yang Yang’s preface to the festival program is a beautiful piece of writing that suggests some of the ongoing complexities behind identity – sexual or otherwise. Below is my discussion with Yang about her ten years running the festival, and the potential of film to communicate difference.

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Picture a film made as if looking through slats in a wall, peering into a dimly lit, traditional Beijing home. Cramped, intimate, and soaked in the sea-green of cheap lighting, Liu Jiayin’s feature films Oxhide and Oxhide II (牛皮,牛皮二) are concerned primarily with this sense of perception. Tight shots of hands, waists, objects, and only the occasional face – we wonder if someone has forgotten their camera and left the room.

But nobody has forgotten anything, and Liu Jiayin is clear in what she's trying to achieve. Shot in her parents’ home, with she and her parents playing the roles of mother, father and daughter, Oxhide and Oxhide II are highly stylised, cinema depictions of Liu's own particular view on the world.

Born in 1981, Liu Jiayin belongs to the most recent generation of Chinese filmmakers, and has already been credited as one of the most important of her time. I met her in a Beijing cafe last week, where I was treated to her plucky, Beijing wit and a self-possession that belies her age. Read on ...

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