PAPA RAINBOW 彩虹伴我行 (2016)

Popo Fan’s insightful, fast-paced documentary is the spiritual sequel to Mama Rainbow (2012), this time interviewing six fathers across China about how they have come to terms with their gay and trans children. Fan makes it clear that he had always intended to make one film from both mothers’ and fathers’ perspectives: but in 2012, no father would step forward to be interviewed. By 2016, some things had begun to change.

In China, most families have difficulties facing their queer children, contending with common social beliefs that homosexuality is a deviant choice. 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.

All six fathers 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. The documentary zooms in on a cathartic drama workshop, where the fathers devise theatre pieces about the daily challenges faced by their LGBT children. The resultant performances, caught on camera, are at times desperately moving.

The documentary (and indeed the theatre workshop) has been produced on something less than a shoe-string budget. All the same, the results are urgent and stylish. These six brave fathers do not represent conservative, patriarchal China; quite the opposite. Yet the film does build to a message of hope: queer visibility and queer rights are on the horizon.

Watch the whole movie on GagaOOLala.

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