A prominent mainland Chinese director banned by Beijing from making movies brought his new gay romance film to Hong Kong on Friday for what is likely the last of a handful of screenings on his home soil.
In 2006, China banned Lou Ye from shooting movies for five years after he screened Summer Palace at the Cannes Film Festival without government approval. In the film Lou tackled the Chinese military’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy student protesters at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in June 1989.
But he defied the ban, secretly shooting the love story Spring Fever with small, digital cameras in Nanjing last year. He also entered it at Cannes this year, where it won best screenplay in May.
In Spring Fever, he takes on homosexuality — another taboo in China — with graphic gay sex scenes. The 115-minute movie is about a private investigator hired to spy on a married man having a gay affair. But the investigator falls into a love triangle with his own girlfriend and the boyfriend of the husband he is investigating.
Commercial distributors have bought Spring Fever for release in Russia, South Korea, France, and the US, but not so in China. It was only screened in four showings at an independent film festival in Nanjing last month.
On Friday it screened as one of the two opening movies at this year’s Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. But a Chinese distribution deal is unlikely, given Lou’s status.
Lou said, however, that Chinese film officials have turned a blind eye to his supposedly illegal activities, including for shooting Spring Fever and showing it at the independent film festival in Nanjing.
He has also been allowed to travel freely in and out of China, but he wants the ban lifted so his films can be screened more widely in China.
“It’s regrettable that this film won’t be released in the Chinese market,” Lou told The Associated Press in an interview before the Hong Kong screening.
Lou, whose credits also include Suzhou River and Purple Butterfly, urged the Chinese government to shorten his ban.
“Everyone should be able to make movies. I hope this ban will be canceled earlier and I hope the government won’t impose any more bans on other directors,” the 45-year-old director said.
Lou arrived in Hong Kong on Friday from Paris, where he was preparing for his next project, his foreign-language debut — a French film about a Chinese student’s romance in Paris.