The Subversive Sirens documentary follows the inner lives of six artists and activists who break out into the world of synchronized swimming as an act of political warfare.
The Subversive Sirens embody the struggles towards liberation. They are a team of committed activists and artists practicing radical self-care and joy in the face of historical and systematic oppression and lack of representation in aquatic sports. We follow their struggles and triumphs after they have won an international championship at the Gay Games. They competed at IGLA 2019 in New York and will create and present an aquatics theater piece in 2020, as well as competing in New York in 2021. In 2022, they will compete internationally at the Gay Games in Hong Kong. The documentary explores the cyclical nature of healing and transformation from personal power to collective power at the intersection of activism, self-care, and community care.
The documentary portrays the Sirens’ lives inside and outside of the pool. Inside the pool, we witness their training and development as synchronized swimmers, we also follow the community events they host to bring more marginalized bodies into the pool. Outside the pool, we film the complexities of their lives as they balance self-care, family, and community organizing. Healing is a never-ending process, and it sometimes works in cyclical ways. We as filmmakers want to show the conditions the Sirens face individually and as a team, what they have to negotiate and navigate in synchronization style, in and out of the pool.
I believe in the power of intimacy and agency through personal storytelling, when we live in a world and repressive systems that intentionally oppress us and don’t want all of us to thrive. Personal storytelling becomes resistance against hegemony, assimilation, and apathy. Being a 1.5-generation immigrant to the United States, a Chinese transplant, someone who struggles to check the boxes of identity, roots, and sexuality, I often feel caught in the liminal space of worlds, just as the Sirens swim between land and water. The big questions I aspire to explore in this particular project are: “How does one swim for liberation?” “How do we learn from the body about freedom, about joy, about healing?” “How does the body save us from our mind?” and “How do we trust and expand from our embodied wisdom?”
Director Xiaolu Wang
Xiaolu was born a few hours before her favorite author, 三毛 (San Mao) died by suicide. She was raised by her grandparents 王玉明和吕凤英 until the biggest transition of her life brought her from northwestern China to the occupied land of the U.S.. She sometimes freezes mid-sentence in front of a crowd. Her yoga master would call it vata imbalance. There’s no explanation to this mystery. She chose filmmaking, or rather, filmmaking chose her to hold remembrance, to witness people through time, to expose hypocrisy and irresolvable conflicts, and allowing her to dance with the mysteries of life on the path of excavating for truthtelling. Along with her grandparents, literature, music, and cinema also raised her through lost times. She likes a good challenge when it comes to making the invisible visible. She believes that examining the interior world brings us closer to collective liberation, it is her aspiration to stay open to the Way. Besides film work, she also practices writing and her mother tongue through translating.
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