The film ‘Dear Ex’ arrived in Taiwan along with the apparent rise of seemingly anachronistic values, writes Chan Shao-yi.
The News Lens
By: Chan Shao-yi
The 2018 Golden Horse Awards had the international film circuit and critics open-mouthed with two highly publicized dramatic events. First, the tensions sparked by speeches made by a Taiwanese awardee and a Chinese laureate that stemmed from longstanding political divisions between their two polities. Second, the winning of the Best Feature Film by “An Elephant Sitting Still” (大象席地而坐) – the debut (and sadly, final) feature of the young Chinese director, Hu Bo (胡波), who ended his own life at age 29.
Amidst the frenzy that surrounded these two events, the films themselves were understandably, yet regrettably, overshadowed by the media spectacle. What caught my attention, though, is the small but noticeable presence of LGBT-themed films, including the Hong Kong film “Tracey” (翠絲), which centers on a married man who rediscovers and struggles with his transgender self; and “Dear Ex” (誰先愛上他的), the only entry from Taiwan shortlisted for Best Feature Film.
Of course, one cannot help noticing the timeliness of these films: a public referendum in November 2018 initiated by the Coalition for the Happiness of our Next Generation (下一代幸福聯盟) saw a result against legalizing same-sex marriage in Taiwan – an event that devastated the hopes of countless LGBT couples and their supporters.
Given the close ties between the medium of cinema and Sinophone queer cultures (the term tongzhi 同志, which is the common appellation for the Chinese-speaking LGBT community, was popularized by the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival during the early 1990s), it seems high time to rethink this turn of events in tandem with the development of LGBT-themed films in Taiwan – itself an exciting arena that deserves more extensive study. For the sake of clarity I have decided to employ the relatively more neutral ‘LGBT film’ throughout this article, but the complexity and varying degrees of contextual significance attached to many existing terms such as queer cinema (or New Queer Chinese Cinema) and tongzhi cinema should not be overlooked. [FULL STORY]