“If you really want to make queer films, you should learn to create genuinely.” When it comes to queer arthouse cinema in China, you’d be hard pressed to find a better film from the past 10 years than Lou Ye’s Spring Fever. Wu Wei, the film’s actor and screenwriter, joins Shanghai Queer film Festival this year as a judge on our short film competition panel. We spoke to him about his experiences working on Spring Fever, and invited him to share his thoughts on queer cinema.
2Director Lou Ye’s Spring Fever was nominated for Cannes main competition and won the Best Screenwriter Award. It was the first time that Chinese films won this prize among the three biggest film festivals. As both the actor and live screenwriter, and working closely with director Lou Ye, would you love to talk about your coorportion? For instance, what impressed you most during the shooting process?
My first film experience is to play a gay character. Similarly, this film is also Lou’s first time to touch upon gay topics. It is very meaningful to both of us. Lou was at his period when he was forbidden to shoot films, and thus he consciously did some candid and secret shooting, and didn’t interfere the actors. Therefore, during that period of time, I felt that I was living and getting into a relationship in Nanjing, and sometimes I totally forgot I was acting a film.
As it’s almost been ten years, how do you see the film Spring Fever right now?
It was that kind of documentary way of shooting that made every one of the team kept a genuine and sincere attitude, and made the film present audiences with a strong sense of “on-the-spot record”. I think this is also why the film moved the judges.
Why did you leave Beijing, the city where you have lived for many years, and started your studio in Shanghai recently? What’s your plan and consideration? Especially regarding Chinese film industry, do you have anything to say and share?
Film belongs to cultural industry. I want to quote Mrs. Li Yinhe that, people paid too much attention on the word “industry”, but neglected the “culture”. Culture needs innovative ideas, whose condition is free expression. Chinese film industry’s biggest problem is that too much rules and policities killed people’s passion and talent.
What do you think is the main difference between Asian queer films and those in other regions in the world?
Most of the Asian queer films are from China or southeastern countries. I feel like queer films in these areas focus more on conflicts between one’s sex orientation and his/her family and the mainstream society, and also social dilemmas of distinct gender identities. On the other hand, Western queer films focus more on characters’ own desires, and the confusions on their way to achieve their own values.
You have agreed to be a judge for SHQFF. What kind of potential do you see in this film festival? How would you suggest SHQFF further develop its presence on the world stage?
I participated in some planning meetings of the film festival in early stages. I therefore know that the organizers of the film festival are a group of passionate, profesional and very responsible people. I believe this film festival will become a very iconic festival.
On the other hand, I think that under the condition of the “queer” theme, the film festival should focus more on films themselves when choosing films and awarding prizes. And I feel that the organizers feel the same way as well. Therefore, this is not a suggestion, but a reminder that it’s something you should keep and insist. Only by that, filmmakers will be willing to identify with the film festival, and then the queer community will be able to identify with you as well. This will also make “queer culture” to spread out to more non-queer communities easier. In addition, I also suggest that you can set up a “audience award prize” if possible, to differenciate films that audeinces like and films that judges like.
Do you personally have any favourite Asian queer short films or films, especially films that made by Chinese filmmakers? If so, please recommend us some.
I don’t watch short movies very often. As for longer ones, one of the most impressive ones are Thanatos, Drunk from Taiwan, and a Korean film called Doheeya.
So far, Chinese officials show an unclear attitude towards LGBTQIA communities. Under this circumstance, what do you think Chinese queer films should work on, and what kind of expectations do you have on them?
First, I’m not sure what’s “Chinese queer film”, but I’m sure that it’s not a genre. I think maybe there’s only very few Chinese films which have queer elements. Indeed, it has something to do with the official, but at the same time this indicates traditional public entertainments’ attitude towards “queer”. Nevertheless, this can’t represent young people. On the internet, “queer” has already been a kind of essential element to attract people. For instance, “queer” has already become a literal genre among online literature; “queer” streaming dramas also became a great hit, and queer elements even became an important part when celebrities do self promotions. All these clues show that “queer films” actually have a very large development space. However, the official’s attitude will directly affect fundraising and publication, which leads to the fact that filmmakers have to use a “tricky” or a “smooth” attitude to deal with the “queer” elements in the films. And as for films produced uder this kind of circumstance, I won’t have any expectations.
As for what we should do or try to do, I have no idea, to be honest. But if you really want to make a queer film, you should learn to create genuinely. Don’t use “queer” as an eye-catchy element.