Returning for it’s 3rd year, Guangzhou International LGBT Film Festival is a month long event organized and hosted by a cooperative of foreign consulates in the city. We caught up with Kelly McCray, Cultural Affairs Officer for the U.S. Consulate, who heads up the festivals team.
How was Guangzhou International LGBT Film Festival started? Who founded it, what drove its creation and what are its goals?
The first festival was organized by another officer here. He basically put out a call to the Consulates, asking who might be interested in participating. It was very organic. The U.S. Consulate has a large space for screenings, so we volunteered to host screenings. Originally, the goal of the festival was to showcase different LGBT communities to the Chinese audience. Since the first year, I think the goal has evolved. We still want to showcase and discuss the state of LGBTQ persons in our respective countries, but also, and perhaps most significantly, all the participating Consulates want to show unified support for LGBT rights in China.
What sort of message are you hoping to send out when deciding what films to screen?
In order to get maximum participation, we leave it up to each country to decide what film to screen. At the US Consulate, we wanted to choose a film that touched on the LGBT experience for people of color. Intersectionality is still foreign to many members of the LGBTQ community, and something we often address in the U.S., so I thought it might be interesting for the audience here.
How does the festival support Chinese filmmakers and narratives?
The film the U.S. screened last year was Front Cover, directed by Hong Kong filmmaker Ray Yeung. It draws attention to the marginalization of both the overseas Chinese and the gay community. We would love to continue to have participation from Chinese filmmakers in the future –we just have to keep seeking them out!
Is there much difference in the goals and agendas of the various parties involved? How does the festival balance these out, and how actively do you engage with Guangzhou’s queer community?
For the first time this year, we also invited members of the local Pride organizing committee to participate in that meeting. I think that really helped to better define our goals for the festival. We realized we could really enrich the screenings and communicate the messages in the film more effectively by including people who could directly speak to LGBTQ issues here in Guangzhou. Many of the screenings have been followed by presentations by and discussions with representatives from local LGBTQ organizations intended to engage the audience with discussion of LGBTQ issues in China.
Guangzhou International LGBT Film Festival 2016
What do you recognise as being the priorities and needs of the local LGBTQ community?
I really can’t speak for the local community here, or even for the U.S. community. However, from my personal perspective, one of the most pressing needs is still protection and safety, especially of transgender people. Although the news doesn’t always make it to the front pages or the top stories, there are still people who are harmed, abused and even killed for being transgender. I think a little extra focus on this community could yield life-saving changes.
Local partners from LGBTQ organizations have told us that coming out, visibility, stigma and discrimination, transgender issues, and an increase in HIV infection among young gay men are some of the current priority issues for the LGBTQ community in China. These issues are not unique to China, but every country has its own unique cultural and structural issues that can act as barriers to LGBTQ equality.
What does the future hold for the festival?
I hope the festival will continue to grow each year. I also hope with enough lead time, the festival can get more creative in the future - joint screenings, performances, audience interpretation – curated to fit a selected theme or goal. Overall, in the future I hope to see more stimulating films encouraging not only acceptance and awareness, but also driving some thought provoking conversations in the community.
Guangzhou International LGBT Film Festival began on June 1st and runs until June 30th 2017. Tickets are free, but pre-registration and an ID are required for some events. Check online for details.
Words: CINEMQ Editors
Translation: Annabel Lee
CINEMQ is a queer short film screening + party series. It is run by a group of queers with too much on their mind to sit still for long. We’re publishing articles on queer cinema and screen culture every week. Want to contribute? Message our account.