After hearing mixed feedback from critics and film programmers, I’ve finally gotten to watch Ngoc Dan Vu’s Lost in Paradise which I find to be a memorable, haunting and beautiful feature that has captured the growing pains of an urban city in a Third World country. It’s also a sexy and queer love story about the disillusionment of modern gay life. Due to a lack of perspective on Third World cinema, one critic has unfairly called it ” the Hello Kitty version of a gay hustler melodrama.” But seriously Mr. Critic, have you ever had to prostitute yourself on the street?
Although the film does have its uneven moments, I have to admit that I still think about the movie weeks after watching it. The film is glossy yet dark. It’s schmaltzy yet brutal. It’s sexy yet sad. As a whole, the film does poignantly portray that disillusionment of modern city life in a developing country whether it is Vietnam or China. Continue reading
A little over a year ago, we did an interview with Campbell X whose Stud Life was in the making. Stud Life is now coming out now to a film festival near you and will have its (already sold out or “fully booked”) world premiere at BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and the North American premiere at Outfest Fusion. Touted as an homage to Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It, Stud Life is about the friendship between a young black lesbian and young gay man. The trailer looks hot!
-a term from Cantonese Opera. It refers to an imaginary line between the stage and the backstage area. When actors cross the “Hu-Du-Men”, they should forget themselves and become their roles.
The opening shot of the 1996 Hong Kong film explains the origin of its title, which serves as a motif throughout the film. This wonderful comedy-drama by director Shu Kei tells the story of a famed Cantonese Opera performer Lang Kim-sum (played by the amazing Josephine Siao Fong-fong), who specializes in portraying male roles on the opera stage, and her struggle to juggle many different roles in life, both on and off stage. It has been over ten years since I first saw this film and, much to my delight, I re-watched it recently as I was conducting more research for my short film Memory of a Butterfly, a lesbian love story with Chinese Opera elements, that is based on my feature project.
“Fall 1990” was also very much another experimental film in the sense that it was my first experiment to make a traditional and compelling narrative film with a non-traditional protagonist that you still won’t see in a Hollywood film—a gay Asian American college student. I set out to write something that chronicled my politically active senior year at Berkeley. Ambitious enough to make a semi-period piece, I wrote “Fall 1990” in the fall of 1994 as my second year “Advanced Project” at UCLA.
I also just met UCLA film school senior Justin Lin. Bonded over founding APACT (Asian Pacific Coalition for Film, Theater and Television at UCLA), I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to work with Justin who became the Director of Photography on the project. I can still remember driving up to the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival with Justin in March of 1994 right before shooting “Fall 1990” to screen our short films—my “Matricide” and his Spotlight Award winning “Soy Bean Milk.” We watched Kayo Hata’s Picture Bride together on the opening night of the festival. I remember Justin commenting all night about the exposure of the moon in that movie. Was a it 1/4 stop off or something? Continue reading
In 1994, when Max Almy showed us Maya Deren’s “Meshes of the Afternoon” in her experimental film class at UCLA, I had already seen “Meshes” in another experimental class at Berkeley as an undergraduate. Since the first time I saw it, I have never forgotten how mysterious, surreal and emotional it is. So when we had to do a project in Max’s class, I knew I had to pay tribute to the masterpiece by making my own version about two gay vampires.
With both “Meshes” and Luis Buñuel’s “Un Chien Andalou” in mind, I wanted to make something about a young gay couple stuck in a stagnating relationship so I thought vampirism would be a good metaphor. And to frame their relationship somehow I saw this lonely drag queen who exists in a parallel universe. That was sort of the idea. Continue reading
The inspiration of “Matricide” came about a couple months before Christmas when my ex-boyfriend and I argued about where we should spend our Christmas… in Hong Kong or Taiwan… in LA or Orange County… with my mom or your mom? I suddenly realized that the central figure in both of our lives were our moms. For a long time, even though my mom was more emotionally available she wasn’t quite sympathetic to my being gay. And I really hated her for that.
My mother was controlling and manipulative. So she became my inspiration for “Matricide,” my 410 project at UCLA after “Hysterio Passio.” I wrote the script in Hal Ackerman’s screenwriting class and when I asked him for feedback he said, “I wouldn’t change a word. It’s perfect.” Really? I totally did not believe my professor. I was thought that he probably didn’t want to deal with this crazy gay Asian filmmaker. So I p0lished it up during that painful Christmas I spent with my ex-boyfriend whom I knew was breaking up with me… and I finished that script in the cold of New York when I went to help him settle down there for good over Christmas break.
I know this is going get an X rating. But it’s not hard. And it’s my penis. I don’t know how I convinced myself to have done it, but I put my penis in my own first ever short film I made at UCLA Film School. This is probably the very same short film that Dustin Lance Black kept teasing me about every time I bumped into him at some queer cocktail party.
Stop it, Dustin! But what a perfect COCK-tail party icebreaker, right?
My first assignment at film school was to shoot a 2—5 min. 16mm film in 4 hours. It was really a camera exercise for our upcoming 410 project. What a 2—5 minute film can you make but an experimental queer short film, right? I was very much inspired by my late Shakespeare professor Janet Adelman’s lecture on King Lear and so I decided to make a short film about the Renaissance term for male hysteria, “Hysterio Passio,” quoted directly from a King Lear speech. I was living with my ex-boyfriend then during the first year of film school and of course I had to put him in it. Continue reading