July 8th, 2011
The Asian Queer Film Festival opens today at the Cinemart Roppongi theater in Tokyo and will run for two weekends from Jul 8-10 and 15-17. The biennial festival, which began in 2007, will screen 13 Asian shorts and feature films each weekend.
Kicking off the festival is When Hainan Meets Teochew directed by Han Yew Kwang, a Singapore-made "a romantic comedy between a 'womanly' man and a 'manly' woman." Noting the film's "nonsensical plotline", the Japan Times said of the film: "For more sophisticated viewers, the story may seem a bit too naive; but when you consider that Singapore's film industry had been virtually nonexistent until the new millennium, it's a wonder that such a liberated piece of cinema has been released there at all. "When Hainan Meets Teochew" opens the AQFF on just the right note — preparing the viewer for the conviction that love can happen among men, women and those who fall in neither category."
A big surprise is the flow of gay films coming out of mainland China, which until only 10 to 15 years ago had banned everything that could be called sexually explicit. The festival's closing film is Francois Chang's "Bad Romance." A tale of seven men and women and their migrating sexual relationships (culminating in many intriguing combinations), unfolding against the backdrop of an increasingly glamorous Beijing, "Bad Romance" has been described as an "orgasmic experience" by a Singaporean critic. Twenty-four-year-old director/writer Chang spent his childhood in France, and it shows in his characters' mood swings, excessive ardor offset by periods of near-silent ennui. Yes, it's a must-see!
Director, Francois Chang, discusses the movie below.
AQFF Director Miho Iri says the word "queer" in the festival's title is not a spoof or an indication of defiance but "a celebration of all sexual minorities including gays, lesbians and transgenders, and everyone who wishes to live freely, unhampered by conventions."
Unfortunately, there are no Japanese films shown at AQFF. Iri says that in the festival's search for "queer films" across Asia, Japan finished last in terms of numbers. "There aren't that many Japanese queer films out there," says Iri.
She says also that Japanese films dealing with gay characters have a tendency to dwell on the subject's dark underside, or simply escape to stereotypes.
"We hope that the Japanese media will come to ditch the notion that being gay is condensed to the issue of coming out, and for us to see in-depth stories about everyday living, or loving relationships in a broader sense," says Iri.
In her opinion, the beacon of light in the Japanese gay film industry is Ryosuke Hashiguchi, who has the distinction of being a sexual minority working in a mainstream environment.
"But the burden is too heavy for just one person to bear," says Iri. "We need to see a lot more filmmakers like Mr. Hashiguchi."
The Asian Queer Film Festival runs July 8-10 and 15-17 at Cinemart Roppongi, Tokyo. All films have English and Japanese subtitles, unless the film itself is in English. Visit www.aqff.jp for program detail.
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