This is the 10th year of the guerilla journey I’ve travelled together with the Beijing Queer Film Festival, but it’s the first time – and maybe even the last time – that I write the preface to the festival.
When I look back on the past 10 years, I realize that the Beijing Queer Film Festival has played a major role in my personal life. The Festival influenced me to adopt a non-mainstream approach in choosing a profession. It also made me leave China for the first time – after the festival was cornered by severe governmental and social pressures, I decided to go abroad to find answers in the Western birth-places of queer film festivals. And when I found out that what I learned and saw abroad couldn’t solve the problems that had urged me to leave Beijing, I came back, carrying a whole new set of thoughts and experiences.
During all these years, I’ve been pondering a question that people ask me at every edition of the Beijing Queer Film Festival: why am I as a heterosexual person, or a “straight queer person”, pouring so much energy into a film festival that originated within the gay community?
From the initial festival stage, when we all were fearlessly ignorant, up until today, I’ve gone through a process of constant self-exploration, self-examination and liberation. Yes, it’s true that I don’t belong to the mainstream of this non-mainstream queer community. I can’t talk for anybody in the queer community but myself and my viewpoint is completely my own. I think that’s a good thing.
I always believed that bio-diversity is a beautiful thing which needs to be respected, that intellectual and mental freedom is paramount and worth striving for, and that discrimination originates in ignorance and misunderstanding. In my opinion, a queer film festival is not an event only open to “marginal people” who come to escape the darkness of mainstream society. A queer film festival is a platform void of prejudice, a place where people can freely express, show, explore themselves and where they can enter in meaningful exchanges. Every film, every director, every audience member, every member of the festival organization committee has their own viewpoint. The only thing the film festival stands for is that it everybody who participates can freely voice their opinion. It has a large significance not only for the queer community, but for the whole of society, because sometimes we all can’t see ourselves clearly, sometimes we all need to explore the influence we have on others to understand ourselves, sometimes we’re all living oppressed lives and we hardly realize that we can free ourselves through freeing others.
Although this is a cultural event which originated within the sexual minority community, it’s hard to overlook the political connotations of the queer film festival. The festival lives in Beijing, the political and cultural center of China – it explores freedom and plurality in human relations and life-styles amidst a red climate drenched in communist ideology. During the past 10 years, governments of all levels have interfered and have forced the festival to move from West Beijing to East Beijing and from the city centre to the countryside. This year, we finally return to the city centre. I once hoped to organize the festival under normal conditions and to take a break from the guerilla-organizing style which has characterized all past 4 festival editions. Yet when one of our screening locations made a sudden decision to stop collaborating with the film festival because of political reasons a little while ago, I had a realization: we always decided to demonize the police and the government, making them our token enemy. Yet our biggest enemy consists of a small number of authoritative organizations that are using the powerful national propaganda machine to subtly construct mainstream ideology. And our biggest worth, our ultimate goal as a queer film festival is to challenge and oppose this mainstream ideology.
No matter how you look at it, the Beijing Queer Film Festival has managed to steer a clear course amidst the rapids of Chinese society, surviving for 10 years. It’s more than reason enough for a proud celebration and a 5th edition which rethinks the rational. I hereby represent the Beijing Queer Film Festival Organization Committee in sincerely thanking all of the people who have paid attention to the festival, who have helped the festival, and even those who have misunderstood and harmed the festival – thanks to you, the festival has matured into its present state.
The revolution hasn’t succeeded yet. Queers, keep up the good work!