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Coming out of The Box, Marching as Dykes Chao Shi-Yan* 5 In the 1980s and early 1990s the People’s Republic of China saw the blossoming of independent documentary filmmaking. Wu Wenguang, Duan Jinchuan, Zhang Yuan, and Jiang Yue launched a wave of documentary filmmaking commonly referred to as the Chinese New Documentary Movement.1 Until the mid-1990s, this movement was monopolized by men. Starting with Li Hong’s Out of Phoenix Bridge (1997), a number of women filmmakers emerged. Female documentarists like Liu Xiaojin, Yang Lina, and Tang Danhong have focused their cameras on the turmoil and uncertain destiny faced by individuals in post-socialist China. What connects these contemporary women filmmakers, in film scholar Zhang Zhen’s view, is their focus on issues of social change particularly from the perspective of their effects on women. This approach diverges from that of their male peers in general and, in particular, the epic and idealistic perspective advocated by Dziga Vertov through his concept of “kino-eye,” and film classic The Man with a Movie Camera (1929). For these reasons, Zhang labels these women documentarists “women with video cameras.”2 This chapter focuses on two independent documentaries made by women: The Box (2001) and Dyke March (2004). While The Box was produced, directed, shot, and edited single-handedly by a woman, Echo Y. Windy (Ying Weiwei), Dyke March was a collaborative work by a lesbian couple, Shi Tou and Ming Ming. Echo Y. Windy graduated from the Department of Chinese Literature at Liaoning University. She had worked as an editor for several newspapers and magazines before she started her television career as a writer-director in 1999. In August 2001, Windy completed her first independent documentary, The Box, which is also known as the first documentary from the People’s Republic that features lesbian subjects. The Box depicts the past experiences and current life of a lesbian couple in China. * I would like to thank the editors of this anthology, as well as Zhang Zhen, Charles Leary, Shi Tou, Cui Zi’en, Kiang Mai, and my partner, Bennett Marcus, for their generous comments and assistance. 78 Chao Shi-Yan Whereas The Box is the first lesbian documentary from China, Fish and Elephant (2001), directed by Li Yu, is considered China’s first lesbian feature film. Premiered in the Venice International Film Festival in 2001 and winner of their Elivra Notari Prize, Fish and Elephant was thereafter invited to show in several other international film festivals, including the 2002 lesbian and gay film festivals in New York and San Francisco.3 As one of the lead actresses in Fish and Elephant, Shi Tou also accompanied the film and toured both cities. It was during her stop in San Francisco that Shi Tou seized the opportunity to shoot the raw footage of Dyke March. Co-edited by her girlfriend Ming Ming, Dyke March chronicles the lesbian parade that took place in San Francisco on June 28, 2002. It is noteworthy that before Shi Tou made this documentary, she had been known as a talented female artist from Yuanmingyuan in Beijing, the first artists’ village in China. Her multimedia creations include paintings, photographs, and videos, and have been shown in various art exhibitions at home and abroad.4 As the first self-identified lesbian who came out to discuss same-sex relationships on national television, Shi Tou is arguably also the most noted lesbian activist in China. She has been deeply engaged in various LGBT/Q-related activities for a decade or so.5 Dyke March illustrates Shi Tou’s status as both an artist and a lesbian activist. Although The Box and Dyke March both choose lesbians as their subjects, they differ in their approaches to production and their political concerns. In comparing these two works, this chapter examines the imbrication of technique with content (particularly the use of digital video), and the issue of “objectivity” in documentary filmmaking. It further raises the question of producing knowledge about social others. What are the links between knowledge and politics? Arguing that a tension exists between the knowledge/power scheme associated with The Box and a LGBT/Q-oriented politics, I then turn to Dyke March to contrast its sensitivity to the socio-political specificities of its subjects, as well as its political activist responsibility for its subjects. I conclude this chapter by introducing two more recent lesbian documentaries from China, tentatively pointing to a trend currently developing in Chinese lesbian documentary filmmaking...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9789882206175
Related ISBN
9789888028511
MARC Record
OCLC
707092561
Pages
320
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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