A Rare Flower Blooms for the Sixth Time
When going overseas to participate in foreign events, I often talk to people about the Beijing Queer Film Festival. They usually respond by staring at me with big round eyes, which grow even rounder when I go into the details of our festival. Their expressions of utter disbelief tell me that our festival really is a rare flower.
I tell them that the Beijing Queer Film Festival shows all the Mainland Chinese queer movies that are submitted to the festival without making a pre-selection; I tell them that, different from all the other festivals out there, we don’t hand out any awards; that we have a new festival director every year, something that is unseen in other Chinese festivals and organizations; I tell them that we started our festival on a university campus, moved it to the countryside bordering Beijing and subsequently went back to the city to organize it guerrilla-style; that we changed our names several times to stay under the authorities’ radar….
They usually interrupt me somewhere mid-sentence: “Wait a minute, what kind of event are you describing? Are you sure it’s a film festival?”
In truth, it is pretty hard to determine what kind of an event the Beijing Queer Film Festival actually is. It took on its own form during its 13 years of its existence. It was coloured by the blood, sweat and tears of the many volunteers who worked on it, and was influenced by a great number of factors, including China’s varying human rights situation, society’s slow-waxing gender consciousness, the narrow space for independent film production in China, and the growing international attention towards Chinese queer imagery.
I first attended the festival as an audience member in 2005, when it held its second edition, and started working on the festival committee right after. During the following 8 years, I witnessed a lot of emotional committee meetings, I enjoyed the many sparks ignited by and between the audience members, and I learned a lot from the stories told by the directors invited to the festival.
In June 2011, right before the opening of the fifth festival edition, I was suddenly asked to become the director of the sixth festival edition and only had a couple of seconds to decide. Luckily, it only took me that much time to formulate my answer, and I accepted wholeheartedly. In the 2 years leading up to this sixth festival edition, I often had sleepless nights, thinking about how to put together all the pieces of the festival puzzle. Since August 2012, the government has been systematically closing down all independent film festivals, and the screening organizations lucky enough to survive the onslaught have continuously been harassed by the police. At the same time, the fast-changing Chinese LGBT movement hasn’t stopped debating the gender- and sexuality-perspectives it needs to adopt and the tactics it needs to use in order to achieve progress.
Yet in the end, I can only be very happy and proud about the sixth bloom of our rare flower. We’ve prepared a brilliant line-up this year, containing an exciting range of films and talks. The program “Did you see me?” focuses its talks and films on minority communities within the LGBT community, generating attention for those groups whose voices are seldom heard. The panel session “Film Censorship in China” adds a queer voice to the debates that are currently raging about the censorship system in China. This year’s “Queers from Diverse Cultures” program is curated by our special guest Fukunaga Genya from the Kansai Queer Film Festival (Japan), who brings a selection of queer films that give us a whole new look at our Japanese neighbours. And of course, we have a broad selection of films from Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao, showcasing an engaging state-of-the-art on contemporary Chinese queer film.
During our last festival edition, we created a scholarship program, inviting 25 people from all over China to participate as an audience member in the festival. This enthusiast group of scholarship recipients stuck with us through all the difficulties we experienced, eagerly participating in all of our screenings and discussions, and spreading out their new-learned knowledge to their local communities. We’re very happy to continue the scholarship program this year. We received more than 60 scholarship applications, with many applicants coming from villages we never even heard about and with stories that moved us to the core. To all the new scholarship recipients: we are thrilled that you can be here with us!
Finally, I represent the Beijing Queer Film Festival Organizing Committee in thanking all of you for your continued attention and support. I personally also wish to thank all my fellow members of the Organizing Committee. I’m truly proud of our team, its persistence, and its continued and courageous introspection.
Director of the Sixth Beijing Queer Film Festival
2 June 2013