The mainland's biggest gay film festival got off to a smooth start amid concerns it would experience similar setbacks to those in Shanghai last week. The five-day Beijing Queer Film Festival, which started on Wednesday in the out-of-the-way Songzhuang Art Centre, is the fourth on the mainland and will feature more than 50 entries from filmmakers around the world. 'What a relief to see the films finally getting started,' co-organiser Yang Yang said. Ms Yang said organisers had tried to get a licence from the Ministry of Culture for previous festivals but had received no response, so this time they did not bother. Gay-themed films are not allowed to be distributed on the mainland. Organisers of the first two gay film festivals, in 2001 and 2005, were banned from holding screenings at Peking University. The third event was run as a segment of a larger film festival. Ms Yang said there had been virtually no promotion of this festival and organisers had chosen to use the Chinese term kuer (queer) instead of tongzhi (gay) in the festival title to avoid provoking the authorities. She said they chose Songzhuang, an emerging art district far from the heart of the capital, to keep the event as low-profile as possible, particularly amid the fallout from Shanghai Pride Week. Organisers in Shanghai cancelled a play, a film screening and a social function on the order of police - underscoring the delicate line the mainland's homosexual community has to tread to have its voice heard. Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1997, but gay culture is still subjected to official crackdowns. Gay-themed websites are targeted by government-backed internet filter software, Green Dam-Youth Escort. Cui Zien, a veteran gay filmmaker, said his work had never been easy because of censorship and financial constraints. Mainland films accounted for only half of the entries this year. 'There are few conduits for the gay community to have their culture, art and voices heard and seen,' Cui said. 'The film festival is the best way to do so, and we will continue to do so.' Hong Kong-based gay filmmaker Kit Hung said the festival provided the public with a window to learn about the gay community. Hung's first feature-length film, Soundless Wind Chime, about homosexual men coping with the loss of their loved ones, opened the festival. 'Every time homosexuality or queer issues pop up, we Chinese tend to avoid talking about it, and this mentality has in return reinforced some misunderstandings' about homosexuality, he said. 'As a matter of fact, we're no different from anybody else apart from our sexual preference.' Ms Yang said there were entries from France, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, making it more international than previous festivals. However, she said organisers did not intend to turn the event into a sort of gay rights movement, but rather a platform for people to share their cultural diversity. 'All we want to see is that different types of people can live freely,' she said.