'Moonlight' May Be Too Controversial For China

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins’ achingly vulnerable film about queer, black existence in drug-torn Miami, swept at the 2016 Oscars. But even with all its accolades — which include Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Screenplay Adaptation, among others — it may not be enough to screen the film in China under the country’s strict censorship laws.

"They think Moonlight is unsuitable for the China market and not politically correct,” reports Variety, speaking to a source close to the state-sponsored distributor China Film Group. Depicting homosexual relationships on TV is banned in China, but feature films don't have explicit rules against its portrayals. With queer themes more prevalent than ever in today’s cinema, it’s become harder for China to weed out titles without out-right banning popular prospects.

Take Disney’s Beauty and the Beast for example; the film, which features a “controversial” three-second gay moment, was allowed to screen in full. Although it skews promising for China’s LGBT community, Beauty and the Beast is also a major studio blockbuster which is a guaranteed revenue hit for both local cinemas and distributors.

“Each of these decisions in a calculation,” says a Beijing-based executive. “Money outweighed the political sensitivities.” China recently broke past the U.S. with the number of movie screens in the country, boasting 40,917 across its mainland.

Moonlight has also experienced complications with the Beijing International Film Festival where it’s slated to screen in April, but organizers have yet to confirm the selection. In the meantime, A24, which produced and financed the film, is pushing for a theatrical release in China.