Translating for change: Anglophone queer cinema and the Chinese LGBT+ movement

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Modern Languages

Abstract

This project analyses the use of Anglophone (North American, British, Australasian) queer cinema as a means of developing LGBT+ culture and rights in China. Despite the plethora of research on this cinema (e.g. Aaron 2004, Griffiths 2006, Rich 2013, Juett and Jones 2010) and global queer cinema (e.g. Schoonover and Galt 2016, Pecic 2016), there is little research on the translation of Anglophone queer films and their interactions with regional LGBT+ movements. Little or no research has studied how the consumption of these films in translation has been shaped by changing media ecologies.

Translating for Change fills this gap by investigating the relationship between Anglophone queer cinema and Chinese popular culture in the wider context of the Chinese LGBT+ rights movement. Although homosexuality was removed from the list of mental disorders in 2001 by China's Ministry of Health, LGBT+ people continue to suffer discrimination and harassment. Media portraying homosexual and transgender topics have been strictly censored, limiting public discussion of sexual and gender identity in China (e.g. "General Rules of Internet Audiovisual Program Content Censorship"; China Netcasting Services Association 2017). This censorship has suppressed the development of domestic queer cinema, but stimulates the translation and consumption of international queer cinema (especially Anglophone) in China.

Recent work, mainly in sociology and gender studies, has analysed Chinese LGBT+ activism involving films, from independent queer filmmaking (e.g. Chao 2010) to the emergent queer media culture in China (e.g. Engebretsen, Schroeder and Bao 2015). Rather than focusing on the media representation of Chinese LGBT+ communities, this project explores how the unofficial translation and dissemination of Anglophone queer films participate in and shape the development of the LGBT+ rights movement and culture in China.

Collaborating with Aibai, a non-profit Chinese organization aiming at promoting equal rights for the LGBT+ community, QAFONE and Jihua Network, two of the most influential Chinese LGBT+ subtitling groups, this project will investigate the translation and discussion of Anglophone LGBT+ films in China and the screening of these translated films in important Chinese queer film events (e.g. Shanghai Pride film festival, Shanghai Queer Festival, Beijing Queer Film Festival, China Queer Independent Film Tour) as well as social events organized by Chinese LGBT+ organizations.

Our research will examine the key players involved in the translation and dissemination of Anglophone queer films and broaden existing research on transnational connections between Anglophone and Chinese LGBT+ movements. We will engage local Chinese LGBT+ communities and disseminate research findings through three seminars organized in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou as well as hosting an exhibition and an international conference on queer cinema and international LGBT+ movements, bringing together UK and international academics, translators and representatives from international LGBT+ organizations. A report (in Chinese and English) will also be produced on the Chinese translation of international (especially Anglophone) queer cinema.

This project will deepen our understanding of the continuity and rupture between global and local queer cinematic culture and reveal the trends and complexities in the circulation of queer-related knowledge via film. Our research will provide valuable information about how new digital media technologies enable new possibilities and fora for Chinese queer culture. It will facilitate connections and dialogues among academics, professionals, translators and activists, and intervene in current debates about world queer cinema and global queer politics. Its focus on the intersection between queer cinematic culture and fan translation will offer a unique perspective on studies of digitalized LGBT+ politics.

Planned Impact

Through researching the use of translated Anglophone queer cinema in China, the project offers impact in four areas:

1. The Chinese film market has always been difficult to enter for international film companies due to China's strict quota system for imported film (only 34 foreign films per year). There is no opportunity for foreign queer films to be distributed in Chinese mainstream cinemas due to the government's censorship of LGBT+ content. This research will make Anglophone LGBT+ filmmakers and distributors (e.g. Andrew Haigh, Isaac Julien, Lindsey Dryden, Jessica Devaney and members from Queer Producers Collective) more aware of the wider reception of their work, help them explore Chinese collaborations (e.g. non-profit subtitling) for promoting/screening their previous and future works, and engage multicultural UK audiences and international web-based audiences (e.g. information sites, recorded interviews, posters and other downloadable materials, social media campaigns).

2. Through the analysis of how subtitled Anglophone films have been used in queer film festivals in China to encourage local discussion and connect with international LGBT+ culture, the project will impact activists (e.g. Wu Man, Wei Jiankang, Fan Popo, Cui Zi'en) in China, the UK and around the world (e.g. Jason Barker, Tricia Tuttle and Brian Robinson) by offering examples of practice that can inspire and guide future festival programming and outreach events. LGBT+ organisations in China (e.g. Beijing LGBT Centre, Shanghai NVAI, PFLAG China, and our project partners, Aibai, QAFONE and Jihua), stand to benefit directly from such information in their development of LGBT+ events in China (see our partners' support letters). International LGBT+ organisations, especially UK film festival organisers (e.g. Stonewall, LGBT Consortium UK, BFI Flare, Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest, Shropshire Rainbow Film Festival and Poutfest), will be able to adapt and use our findings in diversifying and internationalizing events through translated foreign-language films.

3.Recently, several Chinese LGBT+ online communities and apps (e.g. Yilutongxing in Tianya.cn, Zank, jihuawang.net), including subtitling groups, have been closed down due to strengthening of censorship in China. A lot of important information regarding these communities and the influence of Anglophone queer films on China's LGBT+ movement is going to be lost. In light of this, our research is urgent and of crucial importance. Although the information that our research provide is China-specific, knowledge of these subtitling practices will also affect the practices of other online subtitling groups elsewhere in the world (in Italy, South Korea and Vietnam, among other nations) through offering examples of good practice for organization of groups, dissemination of materials and engaging audiences in debate.

4. The project's analysis of the way in which imported cinema interacts with local, Chinese queer knowledges and practices will benefit international and Chinese LGBT+ organizations (e.g. Stonewall, Aibai, etc) by demonstrating ways in which transnational activism can be sensitive to local issues and cultures. It will affect their practice by highlighting the negotiation at the heart of any form of activism and the need to respect existing cultural forms, thus enhancing campaigns through the creation of internationally inclusive materials or through the creation of materials that can be targeted to specific communities. Furthermore, the research will bring to light often overlooked practices in China that will influence international LGBT+ communities through offering alternative, non-hegemonic practices that challenge forms of homonormativity.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description It is found that the dissemination of Anglophone queer films in China has taken various channels, from private screening sponsored by commercial entities, and public screening in various pride and queer film festivals, to password-protected digital circulation within queer communities. The translation of these films is often completed by queer subbing groups and the process of translation constitutes an important practice of community-building. Chinese LGBT+ organisations play an interesting role in supporting and shaping the reception of Anglophone queer films. Foreign institutions such as the British Council and British Embassy in China constitute the pulling force connecting the Chinese audience to Anglophone queer media and subtly conditioning the landscape of Chinese queer culture.

Another interesting observation is how Anglophone queer films are received differently among different social groups and demographically. Anglophone queer films are more appealing to Chinese urban youth, especially those who are in first or second-tier cities and have more knowledge of western cultures. At present, a majority of translation are done by Chinese queer fansubbing groups and their translations constitute the main resource of foreign queer media contents for Chinese queer public, especially those who are not in the first-tier cities and are unable to access influential queer film events.
Exploitation Route The findings of this project will help 1) Anglophone professional queer filmmakers to understand better their international audience, especially audience in mainland China;
2) Researchers in queer/gender studies, cultural studies, Chinese studies, who will be able to see how queer media is circulated and received across languages and cultures;
3) LGBT+ organisations and individual activist to see how local identity politics can shape the circulation and interpretation of queer cultural products and how queer cinematic culture is entangled with local LGBT+ communities.
4) governments and policy-makers to explore the political significance of the global queer media culture.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description Our analysis of the Chinese translation of Anghophone Queer Cinema has been presented on various occasions, including the public-facing Shanghai Pride Festival (2019), Five Films for Freedom British Council Beijing Office Screening event, and Guangzhou LGBT Film Festivals. Our audience involved the general Chinese public, Chinese LGBT+organisations' representatives, postgraduate students, fan translators and queer activists. These events encourage the Chinese public's participation in queer related cultural events and foster collaboration among various local and international cultural institutions and LGBT+ organisations. Our findings enhance the audiences' understanding of British queer cinema and the cultural, linguistic and political issues embedded in the Chinese translation of Anglophone queer films.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Organisation of a film screening and a seminar 
Organisation British Council
Department British Council in China
Country China 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The research team selected the films to be screended and invited two experts to give a talk at the seminar. The team also cover the expense of renting the venue and providing refreshment.
Collaborator Contribution British Council Beijing Office kindly provides admin support in preparing, promoting and organisation of the screening and seminar. The films screened are also supplied and translated by Beijing Office
Impact A wide range of audience from Chinese LGBT+ organisations, university students, media and general public was reached. Many of the audience provided very positive feedback and claimed that their perception and understanding of queer cinema had been transformed.
Start Year 2019
 
Description A workshop entitled "Translating Anglophone Queer Cinema into Chinese: Imagination, Identification and Representation" at the Shanghai Pride Film Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Around 60 people from general public attended a workshop entitled "Translating Anglophone Queer Cinema into Chinese: Imagination, Identification and Representation" that the research team organised at the Shanghai Pride Film Festival in 2019. In this workshop, the project researchers and invitated expert, representatives from Chinese fan subtitling group presented their research findings and shared their experience of translating Anglophone queer films. These talks stimulated an active discussion and debate on the role of translator in engaging the general public and the understanding of British queer cinema.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.shpride.com/2019/06/17/recapshpff0615/?lang=en
 
Description Film Screen and seminar at Guangzhou LGBT Film Festival June 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact our research team organised another film screening and seminar jointly with British Council Guangzhou Office at British Consulate-General (Guangzhou). This event was part of the Guangzhou LGBT Film Festival 2019 to advocate the equal rights of LGBT people. Around 50 people from the general Guangzhou public attended the event. There were two brief talks tied in with the five short films screened. The discussion following the talks was very engaging and inspriational. Many audience responded through feedback form about their enhanced understanding of queer films and queer culture.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://translatingforchange.exeter.ac.uk/events/seminar-at-guangzhou-lgbt-film-festival/
 
Description Film screening and seminar "Approaching British Queer Cinema", jointly with British Council Beijing Office at the British Embassy Residence in Beijing. on March 29th, 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact As a part of the annual free worldwide viewing campaign, "Five Films for Freedom", organized by BFI Flare/London LGBTQ+ film festival and the British Council, this project's research team collaborated with British Council China and Beijing office and organized a film screening followed up with a seminar on Anglophone Queer cinema. Two influential researchers from China and UK gave a brief talk in the seminar and answered questions from the audience regarding the film and queer cinema in general. Around 60 people participated in the screening and seminar. Many of the participants are representatives from Chinese LGBT organisations and the audience showed great interest in the topic of queer cinema and LGBT movement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://translatingforchange.exeter.ac.uk/events/ff4freedom-beijing/
 
Description Paper jointly presented by PI and CoI on "Translating queer cultures: new media and the circulation of Anglophone queer cinema in China" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact PI and CoI jointly presented a paper on 'Translating queer cultures: new media and the circulation of Anglophone queer cinema in China' at Asia Pacific Forum for Translation and Intercultural Studies, SOAS, London, 4-5 January 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Paper jointly presented by PI and CoI on 'Imagination and Representation: Anglophone queer cinema in China' at Straight to the Front Row: Investigating Contemporary Western Gay Male Cinema 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Supporters
Results and Impact Project PI and CoI, Dr. Ting Guo and Dr. Jonathan Evans, jointly presented a paper entitled 'Imagination and Representation: Anglophone queer cinema in China' at Straight to the Front Row: Investigating Contemporary Western Gay Male Cinema, University of Northampton, 16-17 February 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Paper presented by CoI, Dr. Jonathan Evans, entitled 'Fan Translation as World Making' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Jonathan Evans (CoI) presented a paper entitled "Fan Translation as World Making', 2019 Performance and Translation Seminar," Nida Institute, San Pellegrino University Foundation, Misano Adriatico, Italy, 8-11 April 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Paper presented on 'Translating Queer Cultures" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Ting Guo and Jonathan Evans jointly presented a paper entitled 'Translating Queer Cultures: Political and social issues in the translation of Anglophone queer cinema' at Translation as a Political Act, Università degli Studi di Perugia, Perugia, Italy, 9-11 May 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019