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Mama Rainbow: Interview with Fan Popo


Mama Rainbow: Interview with Fan Popo

Fan Popo is a prolific film director and activist from mainland China. His latest documentary film Mama Rainbow (2012) features six mothers, from all over China, who openly and freely talk about their experiences with their gay and lesbian children. They are helping to redefine the Chinese family dynamics in a period where the LGBT community has little space for expression in China. Fan Popo is a rising star in LGBT China and his work has been recognized by international community. In mid April this year, Fan Popo was awarded “Visual Inspiration of the Year” at the Asia LGBT Milestone Award 2015 (ALMA) held in Bangkok.

This is my interview with the winner.

Patrick Huang (PH): Hi Popo, first of all congratulations for the win and we are truly happy to have you here. I already refer to you a little bit in the introduction. But, I’m pretty sure that you have some more things to say.

Fan Popo (FP): Hi Patrick and everyone. I am now a full-time filmmaker and also organize screenings for the LGBT films in China. I have been filming documentaries on LGBT issues since 2007. I am also a committee of Beijing Queer Film Festival and Beijing LGBT center.

PH: Great!!! What does the overall situation about gay communities in China look like?  Compared to when you were young, is the situation improving?

FP: In my school years, I was keen on looking for books in the library to  really understand my (gay) identity and found that the situation has changed a lot over the years. Since 1997, being a gay person in China is no longer criminalized, and since 2001, being gay is no longer considered a mental illness. The unit of family is important in Chinese culture. Today families are more tolerant to other gay people, but they are still not willing to accept if their own children are gay. There is still very strict censorship on LGBT media too. All of my films are banned for the big theaters. I can only show them in, like, a small café and even for Mama Rainbow. (sigh)

PH: Well, it is not at all unpromising. At least your fans can watch it online, right?  What website can your fans go through?

FP: Yes, you can watch through or if you are outside China, you can do it through YouTube. Just search with “Mama Rainbow”. (grin)

PH: Well, is there any film you are shooting now?

FP: ….Well, now I’m spending most of my time on Papa Rainbow. We have to find several fathers (whose children are gay) throughout the entire China. That is really amazing. Besides that, I am also working on a documentary. It is about the same-sex couples who took wedding pictures on street in 2009. Yes, I follow 2 couples and it will be on screen in 2019 approximately. That is also a good time to celebrate their 10-year anniversary, I think. (grin)

PH: Great!, I’m not sure if you can tell us a little bit of how Papa Rainbow will look like. What is the difference and similarity, compared to Mama Rainbow?

FP: Papa Rainbow will be special and different from Mama Rainbow. I don’t want to duplicate to what we did to Mama Rainbow. However, I would like to keep it secret for now. (giggling) But, I can tell that it will be done within this year.

PH: Oh!, I can’t really wait to see it and I hope your fans are looking forward to seeing it too Great!!! Now what do you want to say to your fans?

FP: To my lovely audiences, without your support, I would have not been able to accomplish to such a great extent. To me, film is the most substantial tool of communication. I hope you will continue to follow LGBT issues in China and support the independent films. (smile) Also thank you very much to Patrick for putting this interview together.

PH: Thanks Popo and please let us know when Papa Rainbow is out. (hug)

Image courtesy of Fan Popo

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Patrick Huang

Patrick Huang is a Thai national who has a passion for cultural studies of Sinophone communities. Professionally he has been and is working as a media analyst, preferably on cinematic medium, and English-language editor. His main research area ascribes to gender and sexuality, as well as its representation, in both social and media dimensions and in both Thai and Chinese contexts. He also published his academic article “Representations of Chinese Masculinities: A Case Study of Jackie Chan” in Asian Journal of Literature, Culture and Society in April 2012. Should you hope for communicating with Patrick Huang, do not hesitate to voice out to


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