It is not a secret that the Chinese government remains uncomfortable on the subject of homosexuality. True, the world’s most populous nation decriminalized gay sex in 1997 and homosexuality was removed from the official list of mental disorders four years later. But the treatment of LGBT communities varies widely across the country, gay people remained discriminated against in myriad ways, and reform has stalled. In fact, it could even backslide under the draconian social tone being set by strongman President Xi Jinping. In a worrying throwback, the language of a recent moral crackdown on Chinese TV included gay sex in its definition of “abnormal” sexual behavior and declared it a topic unfit for broadcast.
Enter Seek McCartney, also being marketed as Looking for Rohmer, which first premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in the summer of 2014. It’s a film that explores a clandestine relationship between two men — one Chinese, one from France — as they travel through Tibet. In September, China’s notoriously strict film censors gave the movie the green light for public screenings, offering a refreshing change of pace for the country’s moviegoers, who subsist on a diet of sanitized action blockbusters and dour historical dramas.
The filmmakers released a teaser trailer for the movie last week. The minute-long montage is subtle in its treatment of the film’s homosexual themes — perhaps, as Quartz suggests, because its filmmakers are reticent to do anything that might change the censors’ minds.
If this is the case, their concern is not unfounded. Until last month, one of the most-watched programs on iQiyi, China’s Netflix analog, was Addiction, which explored the lives of four gay Chinese teenagers. Then it was suddenly taken off the air.