Feature

2019 Taiwan Pride: Queerness in Asia

2019 TIQFF Shorts Explore Queer Life In Straight Spaces

2019/09/03 , Opinion
Brandon Kemp
Brandon Kemp
Taipei-based writer exploring queer desire in East Asian cinema, media, and culture, with a focus on the Sinophone world.

The military and family loom large in this year’s Taiwan International Queer Film Festival (TIQFF) short film sections. By using these as windows into the sometimes-violent intersections of queer life and straight society, TIQFF leaves audiences with plenty to chew on.

This_is_my_rifle_this_is_my_gun_10_台灣精選《
This Is My Rifle, This Is My Gun (Taiwan, 2017)

This Is My Rifle, This Is My Gun tackles its serious subject matter with calm control. The temporally disjointed film tells the story of a cadet who takes his life as a result of homophobic bullying. As the film opens, a group of young Taiwanese military recruits driven by their platoon leader sings bawdy songs on the road. A radio broadcast quickly interrupts their revelry to reveal that the source of their derision, Hsiao-C, has committed suicide. Flashbacks ensue showing the young man bawling in the barrack showers before returning to the guilt-ridden survivors, who then wrestle — literally and metaphorically — with who should bear the blame for his death. While the final revelation leaves little doubt as to the immediate culprit, the short film poses big questions about the complicity of those who looked the other way, suggesting that Asia’s beacon of LGBTQ rights still has a long way to go when it comes to achieving true equality.

Military_Dog_10_台灣精選《軍犬》_含LOGO
Military Dog (Taiwan, 2018)

Wang Ping-wen’s (王品文) Military Dog dwells on a very different kind of hazing — the voluntary kind. Adapted from the online novella of the same name, the film centers on Lee Jun-zhong, a fresh-faced young man eager to serve the mysterious, stern DT. When the would-be master issues a secular test of faith to the dutiful cadet, giving him 10 minutes to find a spot to undress and video call him, Lee defies a nosy roommate and watchful military guards to demonstrate his obedience. The film is gorgeously, grittily shot. Its unique mix of grime and sensuality reaches its climax as the protagonist, crouched naked on all fours, struggles to lift his leg, find his foot’s bearings on a filthy concrete wall, and urinate on the spot to earn his master’s approval. While the film limits itself to the beginning of their arrangement, it may be turned into a web series that picks up where the tantalizingly brief tale leaves off, according to the director.

The short will also be screened at the upcoming Hong Kong International Queer Film Festival.

Two_Sons_10_台灣精選《倆個兒子》_含LOGO
Two Sons (Taiwan, 2018)

Turning to the family, Brute Sea’s (吳浩瑋) Two Sons explores two scenarios in which a mother reacts, with only subtle differences, to her son coming out. It’s easily one of the most moving and intimate selections in this year’s lineup. Shot entirely from a stationary camera in a kitchen, the film evokes cinéma vérité and could easily be mistaken for documentary in its first half thanks to the naturalness of the performances and the believability of the dialogue and setting. The first portion of the film paints a picture of a close and supportive mother-son relationship, where the mother immediately and unconditionally accepts her son’s revelation as he chokes back tears. As the family dog intrudes on the scene of the pair sitting, the mother intuits that her son’s close friend is his lover, assuages his concerns that there’s something wrong with his relationship and the possibility of not having children, and finally rises to embrace her child as the screen slowly fades to black and resets. This time, however, the mother’s acceptance is more qualified. She wonders aloud who will take care of him in his old age and whether his lover is “that friend of yours.” After her calm acquiescence, this mother stands and begins preparing dinner as her visibly shaken son remains seated and the screen, once more, fades out.

Euigon_11_亞洲精選《意光》_含LOGO
Euigon (South Korea, 2019)

Family takes on a decidedly different meaning in Jeremiah Magoncia’s Euigon. The film’s eponymous protagonist lives a solitary life characterized by inflexible daily rituals: he begins each day listening to English-language broadcasts, arrives early for his job as a security guard, and walks home alone through a nearby park. His attempts to connect with coworkers or those around him invariably fall flat. But when his step-brother returns from the Philippines after 10 years, Euigon’s routine begins to falter as real intimacy returns to his life. Only now, Euigon finds his feelings have evolved beyond the fraternal. And while it’s suggested that his brother feels similarly, neither dares jeopardize their relationship by saying so. With the camera lingering as lightly as sunlight on the pair’s skin and offering a brief glimpse into moments of closeness, viewers are left to wonder if and how the pair can remain together—and what it might mean for their lives and family to be both brothers and lovers.

The 2019 Taiwan International Queer Film Festival is running from August 28 to September 8 in Kaohsiung.

READ NEXT: 'Postcards From London' Puts a Spin on the Prostitution of Art

TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)

If you enjoyed this article and want to receive more story updates in your news feed, please be sure to like our Facebook page below.

Next article:

Long Live Love: Approaching the Films of Tsai Ming-liang

2019 Taiwan Pride: Queerness in Asia:

In May 2019, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, which makes this year’s pride month all the more meaningful for the LGBT community. To celebrate Taiwan's pride month, we're going to cover queer culture and LGBT progress in Taiwan and the rest of Asia.

All feature article