Inside the Chinese Closet is a documentary that examines the rising phenomenon of fake straight marriages between LGBT men and women in China.
Directed by Italian filmmaker Sophia Luvarà, the film follows a lesbian named Cherry and a gay man named Andy on a quest to find, not love, but their ‘other half’ for a sham marriage.
In China, such unions between lesbian women and gay men are often called xinghun, which means cooperative marriage. For many, it’s the only way for them to fulfil their duty of continuing the family’s name, as well as to evade the social stigmas of being gay or being ‘left on the shelf.’
It’s estimated that there are around 20 million men are either gay or bisexual, and 80% of them have married a straight woman.
In the film, shows a ‘wedding fair’ where gay men and women come together to ‘speed date’ and to openly negotiate their terms for marriage e.g. freedom to have their own same-sex partner, possibility of living separately, whether to have baby through IVF, so on and so forth.
Based in Shanghai, the project had taken Luvarà two years of research and a great deal of effort finding the right people to star in the film.
With film, Luvarà and her team hope to reach out to Chinese LGBTs and their families, and to raise awareness about homosexuality in the rural areas as well.
Even though homosexuality was decriminalized in 1997, and in 2001, it was declassified as a mental illness, being gay still carries significant stigma in the mostly conservative Chinese society. In certain parts, there are clinics that offer conversion therapies.
Portrayals of same-sex relationships are also widely prohibited in the mainstream and online media.
The documentary is currently showing at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London, 9-18 March.
Check out the trailer here: