Author: Chujing Zhao
20 November 2023
The festival poster at the French Institute
Accompanied by the beautiful singing of Beijing Queer Chorus, November 3, 2023 marked the commencement of the 16th Beijing Queer Film Festival, also known as “Love Queer Cinema Week” at French Institute. The festival lasted ten days, beginning on November 3 and ending on November 12. 2023 was the first year for most Chinese audiences to go back to the cinema without any restriction, and thus passion and joy were floating in the air at this year’s BJQFF. Most of the audience came early to check upon the postcards and merches, getting ready to enjoy the opening ceremony and film. As the first frames flickered on the screen, the festival’s director, Gao Guo, officially inaugurated the 16th BJQFF. The audiences in the room were mesmerized by the cinematic magic of queer love and intimacies.
Volunteers and audience waiting for the opening ceremony
The festival venue at the French Institute
During the screening of the festival, many people were sitting on the stairs to watch the film
This year’s opening film Last Year of Darkness (2023) was the only one Chinese feature-length queer film. It is a coming-of-age film that takes us deep into Chengdu’s alternative youth and its struggles, doubts, working life, self-destruction and redemption. The film was premiered and selected by International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). The audience responded pretty well to it and the protagonist Yihao, the producer and the director Ben Mullinkosson joined the Q & A session, sharing their insights and stories behind the scenes. During the festival, 86 films were screened by directors from Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, UK, Netherlands, Romania, France, Iran, Nigeria, Estonia, Germany, Canada, Greece, New Zealand, USA, Tonga, Israel, Australia, Brazil, Iran, Peru, India and other countries, surpassing the previous years. The categories of this year spanned from new queer voice to queer diaspora, from trans* issues to queer family and kinship. Fiction, documentary, experimental and short films were all presented at BJQFF to represent and explore the contemporary cinematic queer culture, activism and politics. The two forums during the last two days at Goethe Institute attracted more than 120 people to attend and participate in the discussion on the radical ventures of queer radical performance and how queer culture and Sinophone cinema interweave with each other in China’s post-socialist era.
Festival committee Popo Fan was hosting a Q &A with the director of Some Women, Quen Wong at Goethe Institute
Throughout the festival, the staff and volunteers were working closely with the cast and crew members of the selected films to make sure they could communicate smoothly with the audience. The demography of the audience was also very diverse and they proposed plenty of intricate and profound questions during the Q&A sessions. The audiences were keen on the queer representations onscreen and how the filmmakers navigated among the political censorship, artistic expression and financial struggle.
The closing film of the festival is Baby Queen (2023), a documentary by Singaporean director LEI Yuan Bin. The film is an invitation to go on an emotional journey with Opera Tang. It is the coming of age of a baby drag queen. Behind the glamorous make-up and costumes, is a human being trying to make sense of who they are and what they do.
The postcards and programs of this year’s BJQFF
On November 12, after 10 days of the screenings of 86 films at two locations, the 16th BJQFF was consummated perfectly. The volunteers and festival committee members expressed their deep gratitude for the support of the two Embassies and the audience. “See you next year”, the audience said to us.
If you wish to learn more about the festival or if you want to get in touch, please visit the festival’s official website: https://www.bjqff.com/ for more information.
Chujing Zhao is currently working at Columbia University as a research assistant for the Department of Film and Media Studies, School of the Arts. His research interests include: Queer Theory, Sinophone cinema, French Philosophy and critical theory.