We're three days into Year of the Dog, three days into being fed full with grandma's cooking as uncles and aunts ask us to spill the T over tea on our jobs, our salaries and why we aren't married yet. Holidays with family can be a lot of pressure, especially for queer people. As we nap in front of the TV this afternoon, watching reruns of the CCTV gala when we would rather be watching this week's episode of Rupaul, CINEMQ is wondering what it would be like to watch our favorite queer films and TV shows with our parents and extended family. Would it help them to better understand who we as LGBTQ people are?
We asked queer community organisers from around China, what would you show your family?
Chosen by Xiaoxin - QAF
QAF (Queer As Folk) is a nationwide collective in China that subtitles queer films into Chinese and makes them available for free online.
I came out to my parents a while ago, and they have, fortunately, been very supportive. If I have to pick something LGBTQ-related to watch with them at home, I would choose Sense 8 (J. Michael Straczynski, The Wachowskis, Netflix, 2015). Even though my parents now generally have a good understanding and an accepting attitude towards the G-ay community, they still are relatively unfamiliar with the Ls, the Bs, the Ts and other sexual minorities. What Sense 8 does best, compared to a lot of other content, is that it never rests upon stereotypes of sexual identities. Instead, it weaves each character's self seamlessly into the bigger picture, which is more reflective of the reality of being a sexual minority in today's world. We all have different stories to tell and we come from many different walks of life. My parents are both college professors, and I think that educating them about the diversity as well as the fluidity of identity will help them better communicate with their young students, some of whom might themselves fall in the LGBTQ+ spectrum.
Chosen by Lilian - Queer Talks, Shanghai
Queer Talks is a Shanghai-based discussion group and support network for LGBTQ people.
I would probably show my parents PFLAG's documentaries on parents of Queer individuals. For my parents, (if i were ever to 'come out') I would just want them to not feel alone, to see the journey of other parents of queer individuals, how they walked from completely disregarding queer-ness to acceptance and a greater understanding of gender & sexuality. When it comes to understanding gender and sexuality, it can be especially traumatising for Chinese parents to deconstruct and completely rebuild their entire worldview because of the sheer lack of reference. One of the commonalities I hear from parents I meet from PFLAG, is this strong desire of queer individuals to protect their parents from being hurt, as much as parents wanting to protect the integrity of their children...the biggest takeaway from these stories is: love really can conquer all, and that is the message I want to convey to my parents.
Our Love Story
Chosen by Fan Popo - Queer Documentary Filmmaker
Fan Popo is the internationally celebrated director of Mama Rainbow and The VaChina Monologues
I'd like to show my family a Korean lesbian film called Our Love Story (Hyun-ju Lee, 2016), which is one of my favourite queer movies from recent years. The film depicted the ups and downs of a same-sex relationship through delicate portrayals of nuanced details of daily life. I think by watching this film, my parents will start to get a sense of what my life is like and what my journey has been. On the other hand, the film features refined performances from both lead actresses, and its visually-led storyline sports little dialogue, which makes it easier for the older generation to take in; the East Asian character appearances also helps with inspiring empathy and resonance.
The Wedding Banquet
Chosen by A Qiang - PFLAG China
PFLAG China is a nationwide network that empowers LGBTQ people and their parents to accept queerness and to be role models for others.
The Wedding Banquet (Ang Lee, 1993) tells a culturally poignant story about how developing ideologies of the self interact with traditional Chinese values—it all started when the main character's parents forced the prospect of marriage onto their son, and a series of unfortunate events, comical yet painfully real, spawned. Even though the film was made 20 years ago, it still ring truth in today's social environment. For a lot of parents, the topic of the film depicts their reality, making them re-evaluate the expectations of marriage and family they all-too-often force onto their children, and how detrimental it could be to pressure their children into a formality against their will. through lighthearted humour, The Wedding Banquet presents a story that both queer children and parents find all too familiar.
Prayers For Bobby
Prayers For Bobby (Russell Mulcahy, 2009) is a tragic story, and when we watch it with LGBT parents, a lot of them couldn't help but tearing up. The film makes parents realise that, if they can't start to accept their queer children, they might risk losing them forever. It urges parents to take first steps towards genuine acceptance. The mother character in the film tries everything she can think of to convert her gay son, to no avail. A lot of parents in China have similar delusions, but the film will inspire them to give up trying to change their children, and start having open and honest dialogues. They will start to grasp that being understanding is the only way for their children to lead a happy life.
Rupaul's Drag Race
Chosen by Fantasia Valentina - DKNSTRKT
Fantasia is one of Shanghai's fiercest drag performers. She is part of DKNSTRKT, a new collective which supports genderfluid expression through performance.
For audiences who don't understand drag culture, Rupaul's Drag Race presents a direct and comprehensive introduction. The shade-filled, drama-packed series also provides the perfect entertainment for after-meal family rendezvouz. A picture is worth a thousand words, let alone moving pictures! The series will offer information to family members who are interested in getting to know me and what I do much better than what I could explain myself. Furthermore, a lot of contestants talk about their relationship with their family, and their family's journey from ignorance to acceptance and respect, which will serve as a positive influence on families who might not be very supportive towards drag.
Boys Don't Cry
Chosen by Evie Wu - ShanghaiPRIDE
ShanghaiPRIDE is among China's most prominent and longest running LGBTQ organisations, celebrating it's 10th year in 2018.
Boys Don't Cry (Kimberley Peirce, 1999) tells the story of queer self acceptance. From awareness, curiosity, confusion, to affirmation, the film illustrates a synthesised journey lived through by many people in the queer community. On the other hand, the film also depicts a social reality where one's self-acceptance is rendered powerless against other people's ignorance and malice, which isn't unlike the world we live in. I'd like to watch this film with my family in hopes of them understanding the purpose of my undertaking. I'd like to tell them that the effort I'm making, is an effort to create a more tolerant environment where people are able to realise their selves, where individual voices can be heard and respected.
Chosen by He Xiaopei - Pink Space
He Xiapoei is an academic, a filmmaker and advocate of polyamory and alternate lifestyles. Pink Space provides help and support for sexual and gender minorities.
Lunar New Year is just around the corner, and my daughter is coming home to Beijing from Shanghai to celebrate with me. I asked her to pick a film that we could watch together during the holiday, and she said she would love to rewatch Cat Dancers(Harris Fishman, HBO, 2008) with me. My daughter is well aware of my polyamorous identity, and she had purchased this film that features a polyamorous relationship a while ago. This transcendent documentary tells the story of three "cat dancers", who formed a relationship around their exotic tiger circus. The film depicts genuine and uninhibited love between the main characters as well as touching compassion between humans and animals. My daughter had always told me that the dialogue in the film struck a chord with her, and it had become one of her favourite films to revisit.
Queer As Folk
Chosen by Xie Xiao - Shanghai Queer Film Festival
SHQFF is Shanghai's first independent queer film season, promoting a focus on Chinese and Asian cinema.
My parents aren't at all strangers to queer cinema. As film lovers, renowned classics such as Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005) and Farewell My Concubine (Kaige Chen, 1993) are top contenders on their best 100 list. In fact, my mom had told me that she wanted to watch Call Me By Your Name with me during the holiday, which I politely declined. In my opinion, it's high time for me to drag my parents off their artistic high horses and so we can get down to the nitty-gritty bits of factual LGBTQ life. Therefore, I chose the original British version of Queer As Folk (Russell T. Davis, 1999) as something to watch with them. The episodes are short and concise, yet they cover a wide range of topics. It's a perfect combination of fun and education. Through watching the show, I could open dialogues about different aspects of LGBTQ life that they aren't familiar with, and be able to talk about diverse community culture and events in Shanghai I'm involved in, since they always think I'm a loner in my gayness!
The Chinese Botanist’s Daughters
Chosen by Will Dai - CINEMQ
You're reading CINEMQ...
When I first came out to my father, his informed response of acceptance blew me away. He mentioned a film, which he said made him realize the hardships the homosexual community endured, and helped him reach the decision that same-sex relationships shouldn’t be discriminated against. It even prompted him to read up more on sexual minorities, long before my personal coming out episode. This very film, which I haven’t seen yet myself, is The Chinese Botanist’s Daughters (Sijie Dai, 2006). From what I had gathered, the film depicted a lesbian love story taking place on a secluded botanical island in southern China in the 70s. Filled with scenic nature and nuanced sensuality, it took a tragic turn when the main character’s father rejected her daughter’s sexuality. It’s a shame that I still haven’t gotten around to sitting down with him to watch the film together, knowing that it had long been an anchor to our now open discussions on my identity and the LGBTQ community at large. Chinese New Year is a rare opportunity that brings us together, and I would love to finally watch the film with him and let it take us back to where we started.
Words: CINEMQ Editors
Translation: Will Dai
Originally written in English and Chinese. Images are from the internet.
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.