A documentary about the life of a gay coal miner in rural Shanxi province in China will premiere next week in Beijing.
Comrade Yue is ‘an intimate and artistic portrait’ of debut filmmaker Yue Jianbo, who attended a queer film training workshop in March 2012. His idea was one of two chosen to be made into a full-length documentary.
Initially Yue did not plan to be the subject of the movie, but he couldn’t persuade other gay coal miners he knew to appear on camera.
‘There are a lot of gay coal miners around,’ said the filmmaker in an interview with Time Out Shanghai. ‘We should not discriminate against them just because that they are considered lowly.’
The documentary explores how Yue’s hobbies, marathon running and playing rock music, gradually led to him to discover his sexuality. He divorced his wife of six years and came out to her and his family.
‘I would like to show the people who watch my film that being happy has nothing to do with your occupation and sexual orientation,’ said Yue to Time Out Shanghai. ‘Being a gay coal miner can be a very happy life, regardless of the stigma attached.’
The trailer for Comrade Yue is on the Queer Comrades website and the film with be premiered at a screening Beijing on 22 June.
The other film chosen to be made at last year’s queer film training was about trans men. Brothers by Yao Yao was premiered last month at the launch of a campaign to increase trans visibility in China.
Veteran Chinese LGBT filmmaker Fan Popo, who supervised both films, said he is very proud of Yue and Yao Yao.
‘Both of the topics are invisible in China,’ he said. ‘It’s very important for us to see them. They are not easy to do, but Yao Yao and Yue Jianbo are just the right people to make it happen.’
At Queer Comrades film training workshop this year organizers chose two more documentaries to be made.
‘One is about transgender sex workers in Dongbei [northeast China], one is about the "travel queeries" of a lesbian filmmaker – traveling through China, she meets up with local LGBT people, and films a documentary about her encounters,’ said Queer Comrade’s Stijn Deklerck.