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Be a Woman premieres in Amsterdam this week

A documentary about drag queens in southwest China has its European premiere this week in Amsterdam
Still from Be a Woman Fan Popo's documentary about drag queens in Nanning, southwest China

CinemAsia Film Festival in Amsterdam starts tomorrow with a Queer & Asian section screening seven films from Indonesia, China, Singapore, The Philippines and Japan.

Gay Star News talk to Chinese director Fan Popo who is presenting the European premiere of his film, Be a Woman, about drag queens in Nanning in southwest China.

What was the most challenging aspect about making Be a Woman?

The biggest challenge was the funding issue. As queer films are banned in China, I can't get income from film screenings in China. Finally I did the filming with my own money and got grant from an USA foundation to do the editing.

The second challenge was to get my interviewees to trust me. I went to Nanning tree times in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Now they are all very good friends of mine. We are like a family. I'm going there again at the end of April.

What's life like for drag queens in China?

There are different styles in different cities. In the city of Nanning, where my documentary was filmed, they learnt a lot from Thailand (since it's only a one hour flight from Bangkok). You feel the Southeast Asia influence in their performance. The performers do enjoy their work and life, though they don't have very high income.

What other queer Asian films at the festival are you looking forward to seeing?

I really look forward to see Speechless by Simon Chung, a Hong Kong gay director's newest work. It was story of great suspense. And actually I helped with the translation of the script, but I still haven't seen it yet.

You recently spoke at a conference about Queer China in Manchester, UK, do you think there are misconceptions in the west about gay life in China?

For the scholars and activist in the conference, most of them already did a lot of research about this topic, so basically it's not a challenge. But for the audience in the public events, you have to explain a lot to them. Even for some Chinese students who study abroad. But it was very meaningful to make idea exchange.

What was your most interesting experience at the conference?

We had a film screening in the Chinese Art Center of Manchester. They asked a lot of difficult questions, which made me think a lot about myself and the movement.

What film are you working on next?

My next documentary in production was about mothers who support their gay and lesbian children, it was in cooperation with PFLAG China, and Queer Comrades webcast, it will release in June.

Watch the trailer to Be a Woman here: 

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