Themes and Key Words:
Gay & Lesbian, Society, China, Human Rights
Running Time:
58′ | 70′
Sophia Luvarà


Inside the Chinese Closet is the intricate tale of Andy and Cherry looking for love and happiness in vibrant Shanghai. They are both homosexual but their families demand a (heterosexual) marriage and a baby from them. Because being single and childless would mean an unacceptable loss of face for their rural families, particularly in the remote countryside where they live. Will Andy and Cherry deny their happiness and sexual orientation to satisfy their parents’ wishes? The stories of Andy and Cherry mirror the legal and cultural progress that is happening in China against the backdrop of a nation coming to terms with new moral values.


The film follows a humorous and compassionate story that offers a fresh perspective on modern China, where only recently it became legal to be gay, but morally and practically it is still unacceptable.

Being gay in China today brings complicating issues. As a single gay child, there is no escaping the pressure to behave in the ‘normal way’: you just have to produce a grandchild. Such responsibilities are weighing heavily on a generation of gay men and lesbian women, exploring newfound freedoms in modern China.

Thirty years of the one-child policy have created a generation of ‘only-children’ and a huge gender imbalance, which magnifies the already strong cultural pressure for young Chinese to procreate. It is nothing less than their duty, as citizens and good sons and daughters.

Love and happiness are meaningless words to grandparents who survived the great famine and parents who joined the Cultural Revolution, let alone gay love. What counts for them is the security of an offspring, someone who will take care of them in their old age, someone who will provide what the state will not provide for them: a pension and a future.

With this film we witness the unbearable pressure mounting on young people in China today, as they find themselves in what seems like a no-win situation.

In modern China there are cities like Shanghai, with a strong western influence where the modern meets the traditional head-on. The intensity of this clash means that dialogue between parents brought up in communist China and their cosmopolitan children has become virtually impossible.

This film will explore how China is coping with change in its society, culture and beliefs. Until fifteen years ago you could be thrown into jail for being gay. Ten years ago the punishment could be a long stay in a psychiatric treatment center. Now, China is learning how to live with something it ignored for decades.

On a more personal level, this film is about a universal theme: the difficult relationship between parents and children. Andy and Cherry are facing the dilemma of being truthful to themselves while not disappointing their parents’ expectations.


Sophia Luvarà received her MSc with merit in Medical Biotechnology from the University of Turin, where she also studied for a PhD in Cancer Research, but in 2007 she discontinued her studies and moved to London to follow her passion for documentary filmmaking.

In 2008 she attended the Documentary Filmmaking course at the London Film Academy and subsequently directed a number of independent documentaries, including:
The Great Mafia Orange Squeeze (2011, UK/Italy), about African immigrants who rioted against ‘Ndrangheta mafia oppression in a small town in the South of Italy.

The Road to Fureidis (2011, UK), about Arab Israeli women, who receive training to increase their self-confidence and employability.

In 2013 Sophia spent two weeks embedded with soldiers on duty in Afghanistan for the MTV documentary Soldati – Missione Afganistan. She is currently co-directing and producing the feature length documentary ‘Ishmael’s forgotten children of Israel’ about Arab citizens of Israel, for the Foundation Media EdProject, where she is also a board member.

Inside The Chinese Closet is Sophia’s first feature length documentary, which she developed at the Documentary Campus Masterschool in 2011 and at the Crossing Borders in 2012 – Eurasia-Pacific documentary training scheme.


2016 Docs Against Gravity Festival, Poland

2016 TLV Fest, Israel

2016 Docs Barcelona, Spain

2016 DOK.Fest, Germany

2016 Ambulante Film Festival, Mexico

2016 Documentary Edge Film Festival, New Zealand

2016 Human Rights Watch Film Festival, UK

2016 London LGBT Film Festival, UK

2016 One World Film Festival, Czech Republic

2016 Thessaloniki Film Festival, Greece

2016 Berlin International Film Festival, Germany
In competition for Teddy Award

2015 International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, Netherlands
In competition for Best Dutch Documentary


“It offers an up-close and personal view of how the LGBT community is coping in a country which still holds traditional values very much at its hearts.”