Sunday, March 27, 2016

HRWFF Film Review - Inside The Chinese Closet

TIFF® and Human Rights Watch co-present the 13th annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival in Toronto, running from March 30 to April 7, 2016 at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

INSIDE THE CHINESE CLOSET -  Screens Wednesday, April 6 at 6:30 p.m.

Andy is a gay man that lives in Shanghai. He's come out to his dad but it is unsure how much his mother knows. His parents do not to live in Shanghai so he gives his dad updates on his current situation by phone. Andy tells director Sophia Luvara in an early confessional that he is well liked in some circles of the gay community. He is known as a bear because he is stocky. His dad's reaction to his announcement was that Andy still has to provide a grandchild. His family cannot lose face in the community. In order to do this Andy will try to find a lesbian to form a fake marriage.

Zhouying / Cherry Blossom (Cherry) lives in Shanghai as well. She is a lesbian but has only hinted at her feelings for other women to her mother. She did however have an incident in grade school where she was expelled for a time for having a girlfriend. Cherry's parents want a grandchild as well and have looked into pricing for buying abandoned babies illegally at the local hospital. Cherry's parents are already the subject of ridicule in their village because their daughter Cherry was married and did not produce a grandchild.

Director Luvara follows these two Shanghai residents as they try to take steps to please their parents. Andy has dates or meetings with lesbians where they discuss a potential fake marriage. They talk about adoption or artificial insemination. There is no consideration to have a child the natural way. The dates are a question and answer sessions mainly about each others parents. How they would have to act around the parents, are they expected to take care of a potential in-law if they become sick?Andy's dad demands that Andy sends photos of the women, he asked about ages, education and whether or not the girls are fat like his son.

Both protagonist attend the same fake marriage meet and greet where they each get a chance to tell the group a bit about themselves. Each attendee has a number for identification. Some attendees The criticized the event because they believe that the participants should be truthful to their parents. Others feel that they are protecting their family reputation by seeking out a fake marriage.

Director Sophia includes one scene shot with a hidden camera where a gay person visits a psychologist who believes that he can cure the patient of their affliction. She also tends to shoot hand held especially during the confessionals with Andy who can converse with her in English. At one point due to his frustration with finding a wife and arranging for a child he asks the director if she wants to get married. She responds positively then the discussion turns to the logistics of living in Rome.

Inside the Chinese Closet is a study of an intriguing subject and hidden Chinese sub culture. The films two protagonists both appear flat lacking a spark to carry the production. The film does capture the intense need of Chinese youth to please their parents. As one subject remarks we come out of the closet to our parents then they go in. The feature also suffers with pacing in the final third nor does not resolve either of the main subjects situation. The viewer is left with Andy and Cherry in transit to separate destinations ahead of the final credits that don't provide any post production update of the fates.

** Out of 4.

Inside The Chinese Closet | Sophia Luvara | Netherlands / China | 2015 |  72 Minutes.

Tags; Gay, Lesbian, Bear, Fake Marriage, Shanghai, Adoption, Baby Market, Saving Face.

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