Viva! Queer Film & Activism in Taipei
CINEMQ's Xie Xiao heads to Taipei for a week of red carpets and cultural activism at Taiwan International Queer Film Festival, one of the region's most fabulous celebrations of queer cinema. He reports back on screen queens, fierce filmmakers and the outlook of LGBTQ culture in Asia-Pacifica.
As fingers slip between gummed folds, even the excited breath that filled the air moments ago has abated. It's the quietest this dark room of queers has been all night. A few seconds later, thunderous applause will fill the auditorium of the Taipei Huashan Spot Theater. “And the winner is...”
It’s August 26th, four days since I arrived in Taipei. Rolling clouds texture the skies, sending crisp summer showers around the city. The 5th Taiwan International Queer Film Festival (TIQFF) is in full swing, and on this very night, the much anticipated Asia-Pacific Queer Film Festival Alliance (APQFFA) award ceremony arrives with glitzy pride.
APQFFA was launched in Taipei in 2015 as a pan-regional cooperative promoting queer film and activism in Asia and Pacific territories. From its original few founding members, the organization has expanded to twenty-seven today. The awards ceremony sees member festivals vote for the best LGBTQ short film, drawing on a pool of work from places like Vietnam, Pakistan and China.This year's shortlist featured Blossom, the adventures of two drag queens and a baby from Taiwan; Lady Eva, a documentary capturing a trans woman’s journey through a beauty pageant in Tonga; Spring Like Lovers, an intimate yet intricate love triangle in Japan; and Pink Pill, a realist small-town high school drama exploring secrets and violence in Sichuan, which represented Mainland China (check out CINEMQ's interview with director Xie Xiaoshan for a fascinating peak behind the scenes.)
The shortlist represented not only works of brilliant filmmaking, but offered diverse perspectives into the characteristic lives of different queer communities. As a representative from Mainland China, I was obviously rooting for Pink Pill to win. But when Lady Eva scoped the prize, a burst of joy and warmth filled my heart. As one of very few films exploring queer lives in the Pacific islands, Lady Eva offers a rare and important insight, contributing to the visibility of a deeply marginalized group.
The Queer Spirit Will Carry Us Through
The day after the award ceremony, I spoke on a panel at the Queer Film Summit discussing current trends in LGBTQ visibility on screen. Joining me was producer Eric Cabahug (Deadma Walking, Philippines) director Océan Michael (Embrasse Moi! France) director Simon Chung (I Miss You When I See You, Hong Kong) and documentarian Hikaru Toda (Of Love & Law, Japan) Our discussion revolved around the localised social realities of queer communities around the globe, and the current conditions and future outlook for queer cinemas.
In exchanging ideas and opinions with my fellow speakers, I couldn’t help but express concern over the influence of the current political climate in Mainland China, where many queer community members, queer organizations and queer content creators face increasingly severe challenges. My queer colleagues just across the Strait, meanwhile, receive substantial support and funding from the government and cultural bureaus, reflective of wider advances across the world. But the diversity of this international panel re-enforced my confidence in the solidarity of the worldwide queer community. With information and resources easily shared across different areas, no region will ever have to fight alone. Opportunities as such bring us together, exploring solutions to different problems together in hope of a brighter collective future. Like what I said during the panel, “the queer spirit will carry us through,” I am optimistic towards a better tomorrow.
Queer Bodies In The Rain
All serious talk aside, TIQFF was ultimately an unforgettable queer experience, one that even my most fabulous vacations can match. During the short 7-day journey, there wasn’t a minute where I didn’t feel stimulated. I was incredibly grateful, not only for the fantastic lineup of films I got to enjoy during the festival, but more importantly for the opportunity to have met and become friends with the most kind, beautiful, proud and talented queers from around the world. By day, we basked in the light of the cinema screen; by night, we formed a ferocious queer squad, sashaying our way through the city's divine nightlife.
We were global filmmakers and local personalities, festival staff and community leaders. We danced and laughed, and as thunder clouds chased us from nightclub to KTV, we flaunted our proud queer bodies in the rain. I’ll never forget those ecstatic moments we shared.Queer lives can be individual and diverse, yet together, we complement each other and create a larger collective whole. From separate lives and places, we came together here in Taipei, bridging distances and differences. It is our queer spirit that united our varying cultural backgrounds.Joyful times slip by fast, but I believe that we will be reunited soon. My friends, you promised me that you’ll come to Shanghai soon. Me and my community will be here waiting to welcome you
Words: Xie Xiao
Transation: Will Dai
Originally written in English. Images are from the internet.
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