SpeakOUT Series — Lecture 3: Gender, Documentary and Activism

SPEAK OUT – Gender takes center stage

What’s different scares us, but also makes us curious. Like ignorance generates fear, so does understanding lead to acceptance. And creates the possibility for beauty.

In the SpeakOUT series, performing artists and academics from China and abroad turn the spotlight on gender. What does it mean to “perform gender” in our daily life? How does the body “talk” on stage? How are gender norms changing around the world? And what role can performing arts play in this change?


Like actors in a play, it is not our physical body that creates our “character” within society. Through costumes, make-up, the tone of voice and quality of the movements, each of us perform a role (man, woman) that changes in different scenes (single, married, wife, son, etc). If we follow the script we get to play the Goody (a Real Man, a Respectable Woman etc). If we don’t, we are left with the Villain or the Misfit (the Pervert, the Spinster etc).

But what if we wanted a different plot? What if we threw away stock characters and create a multifaceted role for ourselves? Like Nora says in “Doll’s House”, before all else, before all roles and labels, we are human beings. We have the power to change the script, and make our life an unforgettable show.

LECTURE 3: Gender, Documentary Film-making and Activism

The performance/performativity of gender may sound like an obscure, abstract concept, but its impact is very concrete. How do art and activism can be combined to tackle societal issues in practice? Leading documentary film maker Fan Popo shares excerpts from his films, his perspective on gender performance, and his experience as LGBTQ+ “artivist”. Follows Q&A session with the participants.

Curator: Fabrizio Massini
Produced by: Ibsen International


19th May, 14:00
Location:Bookworm, Beijing
Screening + Talk with Fan Popo


About the Lecturer: FAN POPO

Popo Fan is a leading filmmaker and activist based in Beijing who is outspoken for LGBT rights in the field of media production and distribution. Popo graduated from Beijing Film Academy and is the author of the book “Happy Together: Complete Record of a Hundred Queer Films”, the first book on the topic published in mainland China. His films have been shown widely in international film festivals and circulated domestically via the Internet as well as community screenings. His films featured topics such as same-sex marriage (“New Beijing, New Marriage”), transgender (“Be A Woman”), feminism (“The VaChina Monologues”). His trilogy on LGBT families in China (“Chinese Closet”, “Mama Rainbow”, “Papa Rainbow”) had made strong impact in Chinese society.