INTERACT fellow Shi-Yan Chao discusses upcoming April 25 event “Documenting Queer Histories in China and the U.S.”


Shi-Yan Chao, 2013 – 2014 INTERACT Postdoctoral Fellow at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, discusses the upcoming Friday, April 25, 2014 event “Documenting Queer Histories in China and the U.S.,” which will feature the screenings of Cui Zi’en’s “Queer China, ‘Comrade’ China” and Barbara Hammer’s “Nitrate Kisses”  followed by a discussion with both filmmakers. The event will take place from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM in Hamilton Hall 602. 

It is a great honor to bring two well-respected queer filmmakers, Cui Zi’en and Barbara Hammer, to Columbia University through the film event, “Documenting Queer Histories in China and the U.S.” This event will showcase two important documentary films, “Queer China, ‘Comrade’ China” (Cui Zi’en, 2008) and “Nitrate Kisses” (Barbara Hammer, 1992), and feature an in-depth discussion with their directors. While “Queer China” presents the oral histories and recent developments concerning the emerging LGBTQ community in modern China, “Nitrate Kisses” retrieves the queer history in the U.S. and Europe, emphasizing the “processes” of history writing. Whereas “Queer China” largely takes a talking-heads approach that, by way of the interviews with numerous queer activists, captures a sense of communal agency and creates a kind of “embodied knowledge” about being queer in contemporary China, “Nitrate Kisses” is characterized by an unorthodox filmmaking method that, through aural and the visual juxtapositions, blurs the boundaries between subjective/objective and past/present, exemplifying the “performative” turn in documentary practice in the U.S. In addition to a conversation about the filmmakers’ differing formal considerations, our post-screening discussion may include questions about the filmmakers’ artistic agendas, their influences from and on experimental film, the challenges to queer filmmaking in the past and present, the significance of queer identity politics, film censorship and the Beijing Queer Film Festival (where Cui has been the chief organizer and Hammer has attended), and the continuing queer movements in both Mainland China and the U.S. Please join us for a wonderful afternoon.

The International Network to Expand Regional and Collaborative Teaching (INTERACT) is a pioneering program at Columbia University that focuses on developing global studies in the undergraduate curriculum through a network of postdoctoral scholars focused on cross-regional, trans-regional and interdisciplinary teaching. Through innovative courses and active involvement in all dimensions of campus intellectual life, the INTERACT scholars seek to improve global literacy among Columbia students and equip them to be leaders in a globalizing world.