University shuts down gay film festival for second time

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 April, 2005, 12:00am

Peking University has banned a gay and lesbian film festival at the campus for the second time. The Second Beijing International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which had been scheduled to screen a dozen mainland-made films and documentaries, was due to run at the university's hall from Friday to yesterday.

However, the plug was pulled on the event before Friday night's opening ceremony, and organisers were forced to move the festival to a smaller venue on the outskirts of the city.

In 2001, the first week-long gay and lesbian film festival came to an abrupt end after only three days, following intense media coverage that prompted the Ministry of State Security to swing into action.

The organisers of the original event, independent movie directors, activists and the Peking University's film club, thought the bitter experience had laid the foundation for the second festival to be a success.

This time they applied to hold the event in the university's huge hall under the banner of 'Aids health and education'.

'We were aware of the difficulties of going through the school's processes, but we didn't want to change venues, so we tried to play down the sensitiveness of the issue and keep a very low profile,' said the organising committee's executive chairwoman, Yang Yang .

As a result, the festival - which was mostly publicised through websites and e-mails - almost went undetected among authorities. Only by accident did the hall's administrators discover the theme of the festival.

'We've previewed the movies and think there is nothing [wrong] with them,' said a deputy director of the hall. 'What is problematic is the theme, which clashes with the current requirements of our country. We cannot afford the responsibility [of hosting the festival].

'What's more, the content does not fit in with campus culture. The goal of our hall is to spread classic culture among students.'

Cui Zien , an independent movie director and producer of the two festivals, said he was shocked to learn of the latest ban.

'It's been four years since the first festival, and I thought society had evolved and become more open-minded about homosexuals since then,' Mr Cui said.

'But it looks like that was just a beautiful dream. I think society, and the school at the very least, is actually going backwards.'

Ultimately, the festival was held at an art gallery in the 798 Factory, on the city's northeastern outskirts, and ended yesterday.