Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chako Paul City (Shakebao)

Two citizens, Chako Paul City
Chako Paul City (Shakebao)

Location: Somewhere in the frozen hinterlands of northern Sweden (or wherever a fertile imagination takes hold)

Founded: The legend holds that Chako Paul City was founded in in 1820 by a wealthy, man-hating widow. In reality, it seems to have been founded in the overheated imagination of an anonymous, sex-starved, heterosexual Chinese man, sometime around 2009.

Closed: Myth was debunked the same year it was given birth. But perhaps, somewhere, somehow, Chako Paul City lives on?

In 2009, inexplicable reports surfaced in the Chinese media about a mythical women-only city in northern Sweden. Needless to say, Swedes only found out about this City when Swedish tourism agencies were besieged by literally millions of Chinese men looking for more information.

Here's how the story was reported in Swedish media that same year:

Chinese media tempted by fantasy of women-only Swedish town
Published: 5 Oct 09 14:57 CET

A mythical Swedish town where men are barred from entering and women turn to homosexuality has piqued the interest of several Chinese media outlets.

The town, supposedly founded in 1820 in the northern Swedish woods by a wealthy widow, boasts 25,000 residents and a medieval castle, according to the Chinese news agency Xinhua.

A pair of blonde female sentries stand guard at the unnamed town, referred to in reports as "Shakebao" or “Chako Paul City”, and men wishing to enter risk being “beaten half to death” by police.

In addition, many of the town’s female residents turn to homosexuality “because they could not suppress their sexual needs”, the Chinese news service Harbin News reports. The story also formed the basis of a Shanghai Media Group television report.

But Claes Bertilson, a spokesperson for Sweden’s Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR), is doubtful about the claims made by the Chinese media about Sweden’s supposed “women-only” town.

“I’ve never heard anything about it,” he told The Local.

“At 25,000 residents, the town would be one of the largest in northern Sweden, and I find it hard to believe that you could keep something like that a secret for more than 150 years.”

Bertilson was also at a loss as to where the fictitious account could have originated.

“I have no idea where something like this could have come from,” he said.

Accuracy aside, the Chinese press reports provide a plethora of titillating details about life in the mythical Swedish town.

Most of the town’s all-female population is employed in the forestry industry, with many sporting a “thick waist belt full of woodworking equipment”, according to Xinhua.

And women who decide to leave the town to fulfill their carnal desires are only allowed to re-enter Chako Paul City if they agree to bathe and undertake several other measures designed to ensure that their out-of-town trysts don’t negatively affect the mental state of other women in the town.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Xinhua adds that “Chako Paul's tourism industry is increasingly prosperous”.

“Hotels and restaurants are everywhere, to receive women from around the world,” the agency reports.

Although Per Wilhelmsson of the tourist office in Umeå in northern Sweden said he had never heard of Chako Paul City, he did confirm that tourism in the area is bustling.

“Our tourism industry is doing quite well, among the best in northern Sweden,” he said.

He was fairly certain no “women-only” city existed in northern Sweden, adding that the story reminded him of a stunt carried out in the 1980s by Pajala, a northern Swedish town suffering from a different problem.

“They arranged for bus loads of women to come up to this town because there weren't enough of them,” he explained.

When asked what else might be drawing tourists to northern Sweden besides the chance to visit an isolated town filled with sexually frustrated females, Wilhelmsson had a theory of his own.

“It’s hard to say for sure, but I think part of it might be increased interest following our designation as Europe’s Cultural Capital for 2014,” he said.

But then, Chako Paul City became...real! At least to a couple of film makers (Lasse Långström, Leo Palmestål), who decided to make a "documentary" about their search for Chako Paul City.

In the winter of 2009 freelance reporter Beata, accompanied by photographer Magda, went out into the northern wilderness to find the mythical lesbian city of Chako Paul.

A meeting at Zappho bar with a person who claimed to be from the city had resulted in a road direction. It proved to lead to one of the city’s guard cabins and an exciting meeting occurred.

Why has the city been hidden? How do they reproduce? Why choose to live without men? What is their social structure like? What did Astrid Lindgren and Valerie Solanas do there?

Join us on Beata and Magdas journey into a hidden world and learn everything you wanted to know about a lesbian utopian society.

Worldpremiere was at the Lesbian festival on the 5 of June 2010 at Kvinnofolkhögskolan, Gothenburg, Sweden. Was also shown at the Punk Illegal festival the 12 of June, on the Queertopia festival the 22 – 25 July, at the Gothenburg Feminist Film Festival on the 3 – 5 of September and at Pogo Cafe in London on the 25 of Oktober.

Info om filmen / Info about the film:
Längd/lenght: 30 min
Genre: Resereportage / Travel reportage
Språk/Language: Svenska / Swedish
Text/Subtitles: Engelska / English

Here's the trailer.

Photo: Mythical inhabitants of the lesbian town of Chako Paul City


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