Fan Popo’s Mama Rainbow (2012) is an informative and heartwarming documentary about six mothers in China who openly support their gay and lesbian children. The film reveals just how difficult it is to come out as a homosexual in China, and shows how many Chinese citizens still see homosexuality as wrong, disgusting, tragic, or just some strange occurrence that only happens in the West. However, these six moms are part of the growing exception; they are the sparks that have begun to light the way for Chinese lesbians and gays and their parents across the country. These six mothers have not only learned to accept and support their own gay and lesbian children, but many of them have become equal rights advocates and joined PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in China.
Because of their traditional cultural teachings most of these mothers really struggled at the beginning and were truly devastated by their children’s coming out. Throughout the film these Chinese mothers speak about their unique, individual journeys to acceptance. A couple of the women were more open-minded from the beginning and were actually very eager to support their child’s sexual lifestyle, whatever that might look like. One mother in particular admits she was very naive and ignorant about homosexuality and she thought it was just a trend in the West that would eventually phase out. However, when her daughter came out to her as a lesbian, she took it as an opportunity to get informed; she read as much as she could so that would be able to understand and support her daughter. Another mother who had a fairly positive reaction to her son’s hypothetical coming out just laughed and made a joke, saying she would be happy to get another son instead of fighting with a daughter-in-law all the time! But, regardless of their initial reactions, all six mothers have reached a point where they believe that their child’s happiness is more important than anything else. If being with a same-sex partner is what will make their child the happiest, these kick-ass rainbow mamas are going to support it!
The film weaves together footage of interviews with the mothers alone and together with their children, as well as clips of them going about their day-to-day lives, cooking, eating, shopping, dancing, taking public transit, and doing activism in their respective cities. Although some of the action footage is very wobbly and hard to watch, the crisp, clear, close-up interview footage does wonders in revealing the intense emotion, struggles, love and pride in every inch of their faces. The tight bond of each parent-child relationship is reflected again and again through conversations, stories, and shared laughter. It is a truly touching and inspiring film that demonstrates how a small group of individuals can make a huge impact on their communities. The only element I found to be missing in Fan Popo’s documentary is any mention of the fathers. However, considering that even here in Vancouver, PFLAG is made up of a disproportionate number of supportive mothers rather than fathers, the omission is not all that surprising. Perhaps one day we will see a companion piece where Daddy Rainbows will stand up for their gay and lesbian children and support them publicly too.
The Vancouver Queer Film Festival continues until August 25th