Xiao Tie, one of the judges of the Shanghai Queer Film Festival (SHQFF) Short Film Competition Unit, is a co-founder of China Women’s Film Festival and the head of the Beijing LGBT Center. As a woman among sexual and gender minorities, she is concerned with intersectional topics like women’s rights and LGBT’ rights. SHQFF chatted with Xiao Tie (hereafter referred to as T) about her original intentions for founding China Women’s Film Festival and for becoming a judge for SHQFF’s Short Film Competition. We also discussed other topics, such as the development and future of multiculturalism.
You have agreed to be a judge for the SHQFF. What kind of potential and the possibilities do you see in this film festival?
Shanghai is an international metropolis, so a queer film festival could gain support from the community and more resources to promote the development of multiculturalism in Shanghai. With the professionalism and enthusiasm of the organization team, the film festival could not only promote the development of local multiculturalism, but also at the mean time to boost international communication.
How would you suggest SHQFF further develop its presence on the world stage?
I suggest that we first make good efforts for encourage the local study of queer films, cultivate queer filmmakers and provide support from them. We have to strengthen interregional and cross-border exchanges and move forward step by step.
In your opinion, what’s the difference between queer cinema in Asia and that found in the rest of the world?
In the film industry, Asian queer cinema is still relatively marginalized and partial buried underground, while queer films in other areas like Europe and the United States have come into the mainstream and drawn large audiences. Even in mainstream film festivals, they have a certain visibility. Authoritative film festivals have special queer film divisions, such as at Berlin, Cannes, and Venice.
As for Asia, regional differences also exist. In recent years, for example, queer films in Thailand, Japan, and Taiwan have performed very well and entered the public eye (such as works from Apichatpong, Cai Mingliang, Zhou Meilin, Yang Fan). However, China’s queer film scene is suffering from strict censorship. Few well-known queer films in countries like Singapore and Indonesia find mainstream popularity.
In terms of the meaning of “queer film”, although a queer film festival demonstrates diverse themes and content of sexuality, the majority of China’s “queer” film festival’s do not have the political and cultural implications that “queer” represents. Nor do they challenge heteronormative hegemony and the duality of gender.
Currently, China’s “official” attitude towards LGBTQIA people is not very clear. Under these circumstances, in which direction you think queer filmmakers should steer their efforts? What are your expectations for them?
The recently announced regulations in China are a great blow to online video programs. As far as I am concerned, besides waiting for opportunities, cultivating queer filmmakers, as well as reinforcing support and boosting communications, we should also challenge relevant censorship regulations with a strategy.
Are there any Asian queer feature-length or short films you like, especially works by Chinese directors? If so, please give us your recommendations.
I like the films of Li Fan, Xu Anhua, Apichatpong and Ang Lee. For Chinese directors, I recommend Fan Popo’s latest work discussing ardor, as well as He Xiaopei’s films and Zhou Meiling’s newest work.
You co-founded the China Women’s Film Festival. We all know that a film’s image has a certain social function. As for this film festival, what role do you think it has played in society?
First, the existence of a women’s film festival itself is a kind of power that provides a platform for seeing different possibilities. It does stir up the audience to discuss issues on the diversity of sexuality. Meanwhile, it also allows audience to see very human concerns, as well as the meaning and complexity behind such intersectionality. It enhances the audience’s consciousness of gender, diversity, and equality and tightens cross-cultural communication.
As a woman “minority”and a activist promoting equality and rights for LGBTQIA and women, what do you think of the social awareness of this area, which you have been engaged in all these years?
It is clear that social acceptance of pluralism is increasing, and awareness of gender equality has strengthened and expanded among young people. In the past two years, it retrogressed, reflecting the impact of changes from external influences on young people. Take the recent announced regulations as an example; it is against almost all sex beyond “monogamy”, so naturally homosexuals are excluded and oppressed. Nevertheless, after the announcement of this regulation, many people on new media platforms wrote articles to express their opposing opinions, which also reflects the attitudes of the people: they are no longer silent, and they dare to speak for their own voice.
Beijing LGBT Center has been running for many years. As the director of this center, you have persisted in this undertaking. What was your original purpose?
My original purpose was my pursuit of freedom. I believe that as we change, I believe that our society will move towards the direction of diversity, respect and cooperation. This is not only the core value of our institution, but also my own personal value. Some people often tell to me “You are so noble! You can sacrifice yourself to do public service.” In the past I used to reply them with irrelevant answers like this: “It’s not true. I am also a member of a sexual minority.”. Recently, I have finally figured out my own logic. Freedom ranked top in my life. In society, everyone’s freedom is relevant to the freedom of others. We cannot achieve real freedom if someone in society is not free, so I am just striving for my freedom. It has nothing to do with nobility or dedication, but it has everything to do with the people who walk with me, with a more equal and free society that I have been waiting for. I may not achieve it in my lifetime, yet I must strive to get closer to it.