Review: Virtual Cinematic Walk with Popo Fan

Published May 2020
Location Online

In May 2020, queer filmmaker Popo Fan got invited to kick-off the first in the series of CITYMAKERS-Walking interventions in Berlin to share his personal “Berlin walk” collaborating with CITYMAKERS-own Silvan Hagenbrock, urbanist and editor. The kick-off was created in cooperation between the programs CITYMAKERS and the Grenzgängerfestival //open:closed borders//.

© Silvan Hagenbrock
© Silvan Hagenbrock
© Silvan Hagenbrock
© Silvan Hagenbrock
© Silvan Hagenbrock
© Silvan Hagenbrock

In 2017, Popo Fan equipped himself with his script research project “8 hours in Berlin“. With the support of the Robert Bosch Stiftung in the context of the GRENZGÄNGER-program, he moved from his home in Beijing to the city that had sparked his curiosity and entered Berlin’s local scene. He then spent almost a year discovering Berlin’s Asian community, queer culture and nightlife. Through new friendships he got involved into different projects that motivated him to stay in Berlin for longer.

Silvan and Popo originally met in 2017 at Chai.China-Filmfestival in Leipzig, which sparked their ongoing dialogue on the topic of urban queer spaces between Beijing and Berlin. To create Popo’s walk in Berlin, they were equipped with a camera tracing Popo’s neighbourhood Berlin-Neukölln from Kottbusser Damm to Boddinstraße while having the following questions in mind:

  • How does the queer neighborhood of Neukölln appear through a cinematic lense?
  • How does a queer filmmaker influence the way he perceives the city and interacts with it?
  • What makes the city liveable in Popo’s eyes?

Activism, LGBTQ+, food & film culture, sex crusing, gentrification and expats in Berlin all became themes of inquiry along this diverse personal tour, on which Popo Fan took us during this cinematic (virtual) walk, which premiered on Sunday, 31 May 2020. The online premiere was followed by a panel discussion with Popo Fan, Carmen Herold, Mo Sun and Silvan Hagenbrock.

Mo Su
Carmen Herold by Rachel Israela
Silvan Hagenbrock by Aki Lee
Popo Fan by Marvin Girbig

Get to know our panelists:

  • CARMEN HEROLD

Carmen is of Chinese-German descent and currently based between Berlin and Bejing, where she has prior to her graduate studies of Cultural Theory and History at the Humboldt-University Berlin worked in the cultural department of the Goethe-Insitut Beijing. There she was entrusted with the co-curation and organization of the 4th and 5th Festival for German cinema amongst other art and theatre projects in China as well as South Korea. In 2018, she co-founded the nightclub and cultural space Zhao Dai 招待所 in Beijing, where she acts as music director and frequently organizes music and gender-related talks, workshops and photo exhibitions. As a DAAD scholarship holder, Carmen will go on to complete a research year at NYU, which will allow her to further pursue her research in the fields of Chinese popular culture, music and history of ideas. Her incessant engagement with the contemporary Chinese cultural scene have repeatedly led to participations in talks and projects as freelance curator and writer.

  • MO SUN (Momo)

From 2014 to 2016, Momo worked as media manager for the Beijing LGBT center, a nonprofit organization focused on advancing gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender rights in China. He is intimately familiar with China’s systemic use of censorship on queer issues, and with the ways used by Chinese NGOs to continue their queer activism despite the overall societal and political pressure. In 2016, he moved to Germany, where he works for a Berlin art studio doing editing, photography and film production. In 2018 he produced the documentary “Block and Censor” (Chen Awei, China, 2018), a film based on the lawsuit undertaken by the queer filmmaker Fan Popo against the Chinese censors after they blocked one of his queer films online.

  • POPO FAN

Popo is a Berlin-based filmmaker, writer and activist from China. His queer documentaries have made a notable impact on Chinese society. From 2016, he has concentrated on scripted, sex-positive shorts. He has served as an organizer for the Beijing Queer Film Festival for more than a decade, and is also the founder of Queer University Video Training Camp. Additionally, he participated in Berlinale Talents 2017 and was a jury member of the Teddy Award in 2019.

  • SILVAN HAGENBROCK

Silvan stayed several years in China (Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen) and graduated in Urbanistik at Bauhaus-Universität Weimar with his documentary Addis Ababa – Chinese New Flower on China’s investments in Ethiopia. In Weimar, he co-initiated the artistic-urbanistic Kollektiv Raumstation Weimar, Berlin, Vienna in 2013. Silvans Master’s degree video-essay ZEIT ZU GEHEN on the topic of a car-free future was produced within the Social Design – Arts as Urban Innovation at Vienna’s University of Applied Arts. He is an editor of Goethe-Institut China Online Magazine. Since 2016, he is part of Constellations’ CITYMAKERS core-team.

Watch the panel discussion here:

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