China’s First Big Gay Movie Passes Censors Again

The producer of China’s first gay-themed commercial movie is remaining tight-lipped about why the film had to be re-approved by censors but says it will finally hit Chinese mainland screens in the second half of 2017.

For the second time ever, China’s movie regulators have approved the release of a film featuring gay central characters — but in this case, that approval is for the same movie.

Seek McCartney (寻找罗麦), dubbed China’s first gay-themed commercial movie, has passed China’s notoriously strict censors for the second time after first being approved in 2015.

The film’s producer Lu Jianmin posted a picture of the approval notice to his Sina Weibo account (link in Chinese, registration required) on Thursday. The notice indicated the film was approved on Tuesday.

Seek McCartney, look at the picture, but don’t speak,” Lu wrote in the post which accompanied a picture of the approval from the film division of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT).

It’s the second time the film has been given the green light for public screenings by the media watchdog. In September 2015, director Wang Chao announced on Weibo that the film had passed the censors.

“This is a small step for the regulator, and a big step for filmmakers,” Wang wrote at the time.

The film, which is also being marketed as Looking for Rohmer, follows the clandestine relationship between a Chinese man (Han Geng) and his French friend (Jérémie Elkaïm) as they travel through Tibet together.

Co-produced by China’s Chunqiu Time, Wuhan Chuanqiren, and France’s Reboot Films, it first premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in the summer of 2014, but approvals for public screenings in the world’s second-largest movie market have been delayed.

It was supposed to make it to Chinese cinema screens shortly after March 2016, but never ultimately was not released then. The film’s official Weibo page had not been updated since then.

It was around that time that Chinese censors said they were banning depictions of gay people on television.

That followed the removal of a popular gay-themed drama Addicted (also known as Heroin) from the country’s major video streaming websites.

It’s unclear at this stage if Seek McCartney has been cut in any way, but given the back-and-forth between the filmmakers and the censors, it’s a possibility. However, a run-time of 83 minutes printed on the approval notice matches the run-time listed on iMDB.

The film’s producer Lu Jianmin was tight-lipped about why the film needed a second approval and if it had undergone any cuts. “All I can say is the film will screen in the second half of the year” Lu told China Film Insider via text message.

Certainly the film’s marketing material has changed significantly since 2013 when a poster featuring the bare backs of the film’s two main characters was released.

More recent promotional materials, including the official trailer for the film, have downplayed the movie’s gay theme.

Potential viewers expressed joy on social media following the news, but also took the opportunity to vent their frustration. “I’ve been waiting to watch this movie since second year of college,” one Weibo user. “Now that I’ve graduated I might actually get a chance to watch it.”