With the movie Seek McCartney China for the first time approves cinematic release of a film about gay relationships. But while homosexuality was only decriminalized in China in 1997 and removed from a list of mental illnesses in 2001, same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships have not been legalized yet. Many families, institutions and also educational books treat gay relationships as a problem that needs to be fixed. Here’s a look into gay China through the eyes of LGBT film-maker and rights activist Fan Popo.
What is it like being a gay man in China these days?
I think for personal life, the society is quite tolerant in big cities. China has removed the hooligan law in 1997, so being gay is not a crime. But there are still challenges, like family issue, because traditional Chinese family values are still very strong. And there is no law to protect same sex partnership in China, so being gay means you won’t get married or have children legally. Then there is still very strong censorship on the media and films. The freedom of speech is still far away from us. Being a small town gay is still very different from being in a big city, as it’s more difficult for them to network with one another.
The gay themed movie „Seek McCartney“ is scheduled to screen at national theatre this year. How do you feel about it?
I haven’t seen the film so I don’t know how gay the story really is. There were incidents of film having already passed the censorship, but premieres were killed only minutes before the screening, as happened with Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin. So we still need to wait and see. On the other hand, China’s film censorship standards remain extremely vague, and the approval of one gay-themed film does not mean the same approval for other LGBT-themed work. In order to improve this situation, I call for the abolishment of censorship and the established of a classification system instead and more standardized processes and regulations.
Tell us a bit more about your work as a filmmaker and publicist. What are you currently working on?
I started filmmaking since 2007. So far I’ve made three feature and three short documentaries. Most of them are about LGBT/Gender issues in China. So topics my topics would be LGBT people and their families, transgender folks, same sex marriage and feminism. I don’t just make films, but also participate in the LGBT movement, through organizing film festivals, and joining a lot of activities. I identify myself as an activist filmmaker. Through making and displaying these films we make more people aware of the existence of LGBT people. Besides this we also hope that in the future these films will act as historical records of this period in time. I’m currently working on Papa Rainbow, the sequel to Mama Rainbow which was made in 2012. Both focus on family issues as the traditional family values are such a great challenge for the LGBT community here in China.
How do you feel about the censoring laws for the internet in your country affect your work?
It really sucks. I hate censorship itself, but I hate even more that a lot of us had get used to this system in order to survive. So I want to take some action to challenge it. Recently I filed a lawsuit with the authorities for banning my film online. This case has already been registered and I look forward to meeting them in court.
How strong is homophobia in Chinese society? Has it always been like this?
This is a long story. In Chinese history some periods were really tolerant towards homosexuality, while others were not. Basically it’s safe to walk on the street in China with your same sex partners. As I mentioned before, most of the homophobic behavior happens actually within the family. This is also according to Confucius‘ thought about family values, to take on the family blood.
European screening @ 拆 chai. China-Filmfestival Leipzig, 26. – 28. November, Leipzig (Germany)