Chinese director Zhang Wei is set to helm The Rib, which follows a transgender teen who struggles to confront a displeased Chinese society and his staunchly Christian family.
Zhang, according to Variety, was grateful to China’s communist government for allowing him to make a movie that “tackles subjects that might have been taboo only a few years ago.” Variety added that he’s “determined to tell this important story despite any roadblocks [he] might face.”
The Chinese government’s giving Zhang its blessing to direct The Rib is a sign of its ever-shifting position on transgender issues.
As of 2001, being homosexual is no longer diagnosed as a mental disease. Currently, transgender people in China are classified as suffering from a mental illness. However, sex reassignment surgery is legal in the communist country.
Over the last 30 years, there have been very few Chinese films that feature transgender people. And U.S.-based NGO Asia Catalyst estimates that currently, 9.5 million transgender people are in the Asia-Pacific region.
But The Rib subject matter is squarely in Zhang’s wheelhouse, as he is known to tell stories of people facing tribulation in his home country. He executive-produced the film Destiny, which follows an autistic boy’s struggle to get an education; it will premiere April 30 at the Far East Festival in Udine, Italy.
Zhang is also set to direct the big-budget film Sound of a Dream, which tells the story of four blind children with dreams to be featured on a TV talent show.