Being of the Queer Chinese Diaspora myself, I was excited and honored when I was invited to curate a section about it at the Beijing Queer Film Festival this year, My hope is to be able to bring a small piece of what being Queer and Chinese means in the rest of the world to our fellow brothers and sisters in our ancestral land. My film Motherland will be showing at the festival as well as a retrospective of the work of pioneering Chinese-Canadian video artist Wayne Yung.
The Chinese Diaspora sometimes called “Overseas Chinese” is diverse with over 50 million people of Chinese descent being born in almost every country in the world, from Sierra Leone ( Chinese population. 20) to the U.S with 3.3 million people, to Indonesia, the most populous overseas Chinese country with over 8 million inhabitants of Chinese descent. Whether they came by boat like the sailors of Admiral Zheng He’s fleets, or from the 20th century waves of immigration from the Pearl River Delta region or from modern day immigration, as a result, the Chinese culture is one of the most well known cultures of the world. The Overseas Chinese were the first ambassadors of Chinese culture to the outside world bringing Chinese food, traditions and customs into the lives of everyday people around the world. They were also the first to bring foreign culture and ideas back to their ancestral villages in China when they went home for visits. They were a bridge between the Chinese on the mainland and the outside world facilitating exchange through trade, marriage, science and art.
The Overseas Chinese have done the same with Queer cinema. Queer cinema evolved as a part of the Gay rights movement in the West as LGBT people wanted to see the stories of their lives and love on the screen. The only way to do that was to make and show these films themselves. Thus started the first LGBT film festivals in places like San Francisco and New York after the New York Stonewall riots of 1969. At these festivals, Queer filmmakers finally had a forum to voice their opinions, ideas and artistic visions.
Amongst these queer pioneering filmmakers were those of Chinese descent like Chinese-Canadian Richard Fung (with his groundbreaking 1986 work “Chinese Characters” shown here at BQFF) who paved the way for a generation of Queer and Chinese film and video makers first in the U.S and Canada, then Australia, Europe and Southeast Asia to explore their identities through film and video.
China is just starting this tradition of LGBT storytelling starting to overcome cultural, historical and political traditions and hopefully the film and video works of the Queer Overseas Chinese can become another bridge from the past to the present.
Also read the Huffington Post’s article on the event.