SHANGHAI PRIDE (上海骄傲节) is an annual LGBT pride event that takes place in Shanghai, China.
It was first held in 2009 and was significant in that it was the first time a mass LGBT event has taken place in mainland China. The festival featured events such as an art exhibition and film screenings. There was also a large party hosted by a privately owned venue. Three thousand people from China and other countries attended the festival. The festival is organized entirely by volunteers with the support of media, businesses, individuals, and foreign consulates.
Interview by Dominique Musorrafiti
This is a selected interview from
Planet China Vol. 05 issue
China-underground: When did you first get the idea for Shanghai LGBTQ film festival? What did inspired you to create the festival?
ShanghaiPRIDE: Since our establishment in 2009, film screening is an important element within ShanghaiPRIDE. Most LGBTQ films are from the west and less Chinese productions. Hence we emphasize in Chinese films, short or feature. And as awareness started to grow, more local productions too. We started our first Chinese short film category in 2014 then in 2015 we rebranded our film nights to ShanghaiPRIDE Film Festival with Chinese Short Film Awards since then. It is important for us to showcase LGBTQ stories via films as it is a medium that suits a lot of people and themes are very diverse. We also work with foreign consulates in Shanghai to do a cultural exchange, bringing in new and cutting-edge international films to ShPFF too.
What were some of the biggest challenges for LGBTQ film festival in China? Do you currently face them?
LGBTQ films are unofficially banned from public cinema and we have never heard international big-name passing censorship, hence we are not able to screen at cinemas. We screen our films at private event spaces with limited seats. But as much as we want more to watch them, our current status is cozy too and creates an intimate environment for discussions and exchanges. All our screenings are free hence we need partners to provide spaces and funding for film rights and guest speakers.
Shanghai PRIDE aims to raise awareness and visibility and to promote self-acceptance and acceptance for the LGBTQ community through sports, cultural, and social activities.
What is the most important message of Shanghai LGBTQ film festival?
It would be experiencing the diversity among us. LGBTQ films are not just gays and lesbians and sad stories, there are many more about gender, exploration, queer, transgender, family, youth, disabilities etc. In general, films are windows to more lives of the LGBTQ community.
How has the festival developed over the years? How much has it changed since you started?
It started in a cafe and since 2012, we collaborated for foreign consulates who have venues, and recent years, we have event spaces who can offer bigger venues too. In terms of film selections, we use to collaborate with Beijing Queer Film Festival as there are more independent filmmakers there then foreign consulates will recommend films from their film library and since 2015, we reached out to more films ourselves and work with LGBTQ film festivals throughout the world to exchange films and get recommendations.
Shanghai PRIDE encourages the community and partners to support LGBTQ related projects and initiatives, celebrating diversity
What is the LGBTQ situation in Shanghai? Is it different from the situation of other Chinese cities?
Shanghai is relatively more open and aware of LGBTQ compared to other cities. It is one of the many metropolitans and often the one showcased as the window of China. Many foreign expats are here too. So the Shanghai LGBTQ community is very diverse and vibrant. While other cities might be more local and in general, shyer to come out and participate in LGBTQ events. Awareness in 1st tier cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen might be higher but the rest are not. ShanghaiPRIDE is constantly collaborating with local organizations to create awareness and promote acceptance.
What did you achieve for LGBTQ community with your festival?
ShanghaiPRIDE has grown from a handful of organizers to now 30+ with more than 30+ events throughout the year. Participants have also grown to near 7000 for week-long events from 3,000. Though the progress is slow compared to the west we are happy with more people, businesses, media willing to come out and support.
How difficult is it for a filmmaker to get funding for movies with LGBTQ themes in China?
Very difficult as they are not guaranteed to go into the public cinema and commercialize. Most Chinese LGBTQ films are independent projects and go to film festivals. Most of the times, filmmakers are passionate about the theme and would like to contribute to and explore.
Some movies reveal the prejudices faced by the LGBTQ community in Asia. Is it still so long the path to overcome the morally conservative wall?
It is. LGBTQ or self-identity is often family matters or personal issues. When it comes to this, it is a taboo to come out and stand up for it. Coming out remains as the main issue faced by LGBTQ community in China or maybe Asia as in general, the society here is more conservative and not as verbal as the west. And also the Asian society, if brought up to follow their parents’ will and going against, is considered disrespectful. But we are quite positive that things are changing and will change for a better future.
Do you have any advice?
ShanghaiPRIDE is only going to celebrating the 10th year and although the LGBTQ movements in China might be slightly longer but still a baby compared to 30 or 40 years in the west. We cannot really compare the progress or push the community here to match the achievements or accomplishments. It requires more education and awareness but we are getting there.
In 2014, the ShanghaiPRIDE team was awarded “Shanghai Hero” by Time Out Shanghai magazine
Photo courtesy of Shanghai PRIDE