Gender is in the Zeitgeist. Driven especially by Millennials and the younger Generation Z, a whole new lexicon of vocabulary is used to define how we identify ourselves. While the “LGB” parts of the “LGBT” family have had a steady progression of acceptance and rights in the West, many on the left regard trans, or non cis, identified people as the final frontier for civil rights. Many believe that trans people face more social stigma, alienation, poorer job prospects and increased rates of suicide in comparison to the general population.
In China, queer visibility, in general, is an issue, and with new rules in place to ban online videos representing these groups, it’s not likely to improve. Simple acknowledgment, much less acceptance, is challenging. Thankfully, a group of high school students in Beijing are working to defy the problem of queer erasure through representation in film.
According to the South China Morning Post, 37 students from the international division of the High School Affiliated to Remin University in Beijing have produced, starred in, and directed a film entitled Flee. Flee is a feature length drama that took a year to make about a high school student who identifies as a transwoman. Director Hu Ranran said she wanted to make a film about an issue she considered to be widely ignored by society, and she carefully studied many LGBT themed documentaries and films before starting the ambitious project.
The plot follows lead actor Zhang Yuge, who plays a female identified high school student coming to terms with her gender identity. About two-thirds of the film was shot on school grounds with teacher permission. With no real budget, the expenses for sets, wardrobe, and equipment came out of student’s pockets, so this was a true “labor of love.”
Unsurprisingly, since the topic might upset censors or delicate sensibilities, the film will not be shown at the school film festival and is challenging to find clips online. According to Hu “It’s still a topic that parents are embarrassed to talk about.”