In China, most families have difficulties facing their lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT) children. They have to contend with common social beliefs that homosexuality is shameful, abnormal, a perverted condition caused by deviant family relationships. Many parents see their kids as their property, and fathers often rule their family kingdom with an iron hand to ensure that no harm comes to the family reputation. Chinese fathers are commonly seen as conservative, despotic figures, epitomes of the age-old patriarchy governing all levels of Chinese society.
4 years ago, the documentary "Mama Rainbow" showed a pioneer generation of Chinese mothers stepping up to speak out on their love for their LGBT children. The documentary conquered the heart of many viewers, yet it also gave rise to an urgent question: where are the rainbow fathers in China?
The documentary "Papa Rainbow" sets out on a quest to answer this question, and crosses the country to find six fathers able and willing to open up about their relationship with their LGBT children. They lead very different lives, have very different educational and cultural backgrounds, yet they all experienced a cascade of intense emotions when their children came out to them.
"Papa Rainbow" follows the Chinese fathers on their journey towards acceptance of their LGBT children. Struggling with societal pressure and with their own emotions, the fathers embark on an emotional quest to ensure a better living environment for their children.
The documentary zooms in on a cathartic drama workshop, where the fathers create and perform a theater play about the daily challenges faced by their LGBT children. The experience leads them to reflect on their paternal roles, on their past attitudes towards LGBT, and on traditional Chinese ideas favouring hyper-masculinity and heterosexuality.
Switching between theater play and reality, "Papa Rainbow" creates intimate portraits of the six fathers, and shows how they become pioneer leaders in an ever-growing movement for LGBT equality in China.
Papa Rose Papa Weifeng Papa Jiao'ao Papa Tao Quanr
Director: Popo Fan
Producers: Ah Qiang, Xiaogang Wei, Stijn Deklerck, Rui Jin
Cinematography: Popo Fan, Laodong Zhang, Ge Li, Shuo Li, Matthew Baren, Daisy Yafei Zheng
Editing: Popo Fan, Dong Lu
In 2012, I made the documentary "Mama Rainbow", featuring six Chinese mothers who talk openly about their experiences with their gay children. I wanted to include fathers in the documentary, but I didn't find anyone willing to participate in the film. At the same time, I enjoyed working together with women: I felt free and relaxed throughout the whole filming process.
"Mama Rainbow" touched the heart of many. It travelled to numerous film festivals and was viewed hundreds of thousands of times online.
In 2014, my producers asked me to make a documentary about fathers of LGBT children. I resisted at first. I didn't want to repeat myself, and I also had to overcome my own phobia for straight men. We then came up with the idea to use drama workshops to challenge the LGBT ideas of the dads. These drama workshops led to cathartic performances, and I discovered a whole new side to father figures in Chinese society.
Filming this documentary cured me of my fear of straight men. Moreover, "Papa Rainbow" unites the variety of new filmic and other perspectives that appeared to me throughout the filming process, and forms a new chapter in my filmmaker's journey.
Popo Fan is a leading filmmaker and activist based in Beijing who is outspoken for LGBT rights in the field of media production and distribution. Popo graduated from the prestigious Beijing Film Academy and he is the author of the book Happy Together: Complete Record of a Hundred Queer Films, the first book published in mainland China on queer films. His films have been shown widely in international film festivals and have been circulated domestically via the Internet as well as community screenings. His films featured topics such as same sex marriage (New Beijing, New Marriage), transgender (Be A Woman), feminism (The VaChina Monologues). His trilogy Chinese Closet, Mama Rainbow, Papa Rainbow, focusing on LGBT families in China, had made a strong impact on the Chinese society. Moreover, after the authorities took down Mama Rainbow from the Internet after the film received one million viewership, Popo filed a lawsuit against the government and won the case, which was a landmark event in fighting against state censorship. His tireless working on LGBT visibility also includes serving as organizer for the Beijing Queer Film Festival for more than a decade, as well as co-founding the Queer University Video Capacity Building Training.
2008 | 台北：彩虹之城 Taipei, City of Rainbow | 10 min.
2009 | 新前门大街 New Beijing, New Marriage | 18 min.
2009 | 纸房子 Paper House | 20 min.
2010 | 柜族 Chinese Closet | 88 min.
2011 | 舞娘 Be a Woman | 84 min.
2012 | 彩虹伴我心 Mama Rainbow | 80 min.
2013 | 来自阴道 The VaChina Monologues | 30 min.