Thanks to a post by Scott E. Myers in the Queer East Asian Studies group on facebook I got inspired to publish a list of queer cinema feature films, some of which you can stream online, from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. So I think I’ll be busy watching these, the next couple of days. If you know more movies please add them in the comment section.

 

films
Filmposter Fish and Elephant

Fish and Elephant

Fish & Elephant by Li Yu is often referred to as the first film from the Chinese mainland to broach the topic of lesbian relationships in China.

The story follows a elephant keeper in the Beijing Zoo and her lesbian lover, a fabric saleswoman in an outdoor market. Their relationship gets tested, when her recently divorced mother returns to town hoping to set her daughter up for marriage. Another problem arises, when one of Xiaoqun’s ex-lovers returns to her life with the law in pursuit.

The film was an “underground” production (in that it was not made with official support) and was cast entirely with non-professional actors and actresses.

Once the film’s production was complete, it faced several challenges before it could be seen by audiences. Due to its underground status, Li Yu did not have the support of the Chinese authorities. An attempt to deliver a print to the Venice Film Festival in 2001 led to it being lost. Later screenings, therefore, like at the Toronto Film Festival, for example, had to be on videotape instead of a film reel. Fortunately for Li, copies of Fish and Elephant eventually managed to screen at over 70 different film festivals around the world. However, it was shown only once in Mainland China at a LGBT film festival that was quickly shut down by authorities.

Watch the trailer on YouTube.

Stream the whole movie with English subtitles on SolarMovie.

Filmposter East Palace, West Palace

East Palace, West Palace

East Palace, West Palace (Dong gong xi gong) by Zhang Yuan is a Chinese film from 1996. It is also known as Behind the Forbidden City or Behind the Palace Gates.  It is suppose to be the first Mainland Chinese movie with an explicitly homosexual theme. The title of the movie derives from the two parks near the Forbidden City — the East Palace and the West Palace. The two parks, especially their public bathrooms, are known for being meeting spots during the night for the gays of Beijing.

The film was shot in the spring of 1996 and then smuggled out of China for post-production in France.

Watch the trailer on You Tube.

Filmposter Spider Lillies

Spider Lillies

Spider Lillies by Zero Chou is a Taiwanese lesbian drama film from the year 2007. It was screened at the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the Teddy Award for best feature film. In the United States It was released by Wolfe Video in 2008.

I’ve watched this movie a couple of times and I can highly recommend it, even though there are some brutal pictures I will never forget.

The movie tells the story of Jade, a webcam girl, who is looking to get a tattoo. This leads her to the studio of tattoo artist Takeko, who also happens to be Jade’s childhood crush. Jade becomes entranced by a large tattoo of golden flowers—spider lilies—on Takeko’s arm. She wants the same design, but Takeko refuses, telling her that the flowers are cursed. Nevertheless, Takeko finds herself drawn to Jade, and begins designing a new tattoo for her.

I couldn’t say that it is a very happy movie but it is very touching and beautiful.

Watch the trailer on YouTube.

Watch the whole movie on GoodDrama.net.

Filmposter The Chinese Botanist's Daughters

The Chinese Botanist’s Daughters

The Chinese Botanist’s Daughters by Sijie Dai is actually a Candian movie, but it is set in China in the 1980s or 1990s. It tells the story of Li Ming, a young orphan of the Tangshan earthquake, who leaves to study at the home of a renowned botanist. A secretive man and commanding father, he lives on an island that he has transformed into a luxurious garden. Anxious to share this solitary life, his daughter, An, welcomes with joy the arrival of the female student. Soon their friendship develops into a sensual, but forbidden attraction. Incapable of separating themselves, Ming and An create a dangerous arrangement to be able to continue spending their lives together: Ming marries An’s brother, who is a People’s Liberation Army, PLA soldier and cannot bring his wife with him.

Watch the trailer on YouTube.

Watch the whole movie on veoh.

Filmposter Happy Together

Happy Together

Happy Together by Wong Kar-wai is from 1997 from Hong Kong. It depicts a turbulent romance between two men. The English title is inspired by The Turtles’ 1967 song, which is covered by Danny Chung on the film’s soundtrack; the Chinese title (previously used for Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup) is an idiomatic expression suggesting “the exposure of something intimate.” The film received positive reviews from several film festivals, including a win for Best Director at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.

Ho Po-Wing and Lai Yiu-fai, a couple from pre-handover Hong Kong, visit Argentina hoping to renew their ailing relationship. The two have a pattern of abuse, followed by breakups and reconciliations. One of their goals in Argentina is to visit the Iguazu waterfalls, which serves as a leitmotif in the movie…

You can watch the whole film on YouTube.

Filmposter Let's Love Hong Kong

Let’s Love Hong Kong

Ho Yuk: Let’s Love Hong Kong by Yau Ching is a film from 2002. It chronicles theconnections between life, lesbian love affairs, real estate, and internet pornography as three women chase, seduce, resist, and fantasize about each other in a Hong Kong of the near future. The city is as false as it is real and provides the perfect setting for their games, secrets, screams, and tears. The city is dark and grubby—a cacophonous clash of technology, neon, cheap houses, sex, and food. Set amongst this startlingly crowded industrial city, the film primarily concerns Zero, who unwittingly becomes a key member of a girl-on-girl love triangle involving the photographer for a smutty website and one if its models. More so than the affair itself, however, the young women struggle with their roles within their class and the modern city-state in which they reside. Acclaimed short filmmaker Yau Ching makes a bold impression with her debut feature in this intriguing story about three women whose lives quietly intersect in a futuristic yet realistic Hong Kong, a love poem to a vibrant but tough-as-nails living city.

Watch the trailer on YouTube.

Filmposter Butterfly

Butterfly

Butterfly (Chinese: 蝴蝶 Húdié) is a 2004 Hong Kong film based on Taiwanese writer Xue Chen’s novel The Mark of Butterfly (蝴蝶的記號). The film was directed by female award-winning director Yan Yan Mak. The film follows Flavia, a married high school teacher, who meets a beautiful free-spirited female singer-songwriter named Yip and strikes up a relationship with the younger girl. Flavia is a closeted lesbian because she was brought up in a society where homosexuality was not accepted. When Flavia was a teenager, she fell in love with a girl in her class, but was forced to end the relationship when it was discovered by her parents. Heartbroken, she eventually married a competent and caring businessman after graduating from university. Now in her 30s and married with a child, she meets Yip. Flavia is deeply attracted to Yip’s carefree personality and bright spirit, and falls for Yip in the same way she fell for her first love in high school. She slowly dares to break out while worried about the consequences but at the same time, hopeful about finding her true self again.

You can stream the movie on YouTube.

Filmposter Bishonen

Bishonen…

Bishonen… by Yonfan is a 1998 Hong Kong romantic drama film about an ill-fated gay romance. In 2011, the film was screened at the 16th Busan International Film Festival as part of a retrospective of Yonfan’s work, which featured seven of his restored and re-mastered films from the 1980s through the 2000s.

The story is about Jet, a handsome gay hustler, whose sex appeal seems to know no bounds. Everyone wants to make love to him, but he is in love with no one but himself. Things change drastically when he notices what seems like a young couple in a shop, Sam and Kana. At first sight, he falls in love with Sam and begins following the two around. Jet’s friend Ching, who is also a hustler, runs a personal ad in a gay magazine for Jet, imploring Sam to contact Jet. At first, Jet is angry with Ching for not asking him, but his wrath subsides quickly when indeed he meets Sam again in what seems like a chance encounter but actually is an outcome of the personal ad.

Watch Bishonen… on YouTube.

Filmposter Hold You Tight

Hold You Tight

Hold You Tight  is a 1998 Hong Kong romantic drama film directed by Stanley Kwan. It is Stanley Kwan’s seventh feature film, and he says that his previous two documentaries A Personal Memoir of Hong Kong and Yang ± Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema had strong influences on making this film: “Both of them evolved from my thoughts on family background and upbringing, my career as a filmmaker, my sexual orientation and my identity as a Chinese man living in a British colony.”

It explores human sexuality among a trio of Chinese males. Jie is a Taiwanese immigrant to Hong Kong who works at a pool. He finds himself strangely attracted to sullen newlywed Wai, who’s experiencing a few marital difficulties with his new bride Moon. In a thinly-veiled attempt to get closer to Wai, Jie ends up entering into a passionate affair with Moon.

Watch trailer on YouTube.

Filmposter Formula 17

Formula 17

Formula 17 is a 2004 film which was directed by Chen Yin-jung. This film was banned in Singapore because it “portrayed homosexuality as normal, and a natural progression of society”.

Naive country bumpkin Chou T’ien Tsai goes to Taipei to meet an internet friend face-to-face. Being a romantic, and believing in ‘true love’, he is sorely disappointed when his internet friend, Kevin, suggests they have sex with no love. T’ien instead goes to a bar and runs into his ex-classmate Yu and Yu’s friend CC. In the same bar, he encounters the ‘Number One Playboy’ Bai Tieh Nan, who is notorious for one night stands. Despite professing his dislike for ‘men who play with love’, T’ien can’t help but be drawn to Bai. T’ien becomes roommates with Yu. Yu enlists another friend, Alan, to try and set T’ien up with someone so he’ll lose his virginity, but their efforts fail against T’ien’s unyielding belief in saving himself for true love. T’ien later gets a job as a clubhouse attendant, where he has several run-ins with Bai, who seems to like T’ien mutually. Despite warnings from his friends and rumors about Bai’s past, T’ien very quickly develops a liking towards Bai.

Watch trailer on YouTube.

Watch the whole movie on Orvel.

Filmposter Blue Gate Crossing

Blue Gate Crossing

Blue Gate Crossing is a 2002 Taiwanese film by writer-director Yee Chin-yen. It was nominated for Best Asian Film at the 23rd Hong Kong Film Awards held in 2004.

The film has been well-received critically. Dennis Lim, in a review for the Village Voice, observed the film’s “meticulous framing and haunting use of repeated motifs” reflects the influence of Taiwanese New Wave directors Hou Hsiao-hsien and Edward Yang. The Portland Mercury described the film as “a modern-day Chinese lesbo twist on the old Cyrano story” that “treads new territory in the teen coming of age drama realm,” praising Yee’s “haiku-like directorial lyricism.”

Stringing together a daisy chain of unrequited teen crushes, the Taipei-set Blue Gate Crossing flutters between the sweetly muted and the self-consciously cute—a two-girls-and-a-guy puppy-love triangle, Hello Kitty- style.

Watch the trailer on YouTube.

Watch the whole movie on veoh.

Filmposter Miao Miao

Miao Miao

Miao Miao by Cheng Hsiao-tse was shot in Taiwan in 2008. It’s about 18 year-old Ai, who lives the life of a mischievous teenager. She ignores her studies, putting all her passion into baking cakes that always come out burnt, lopsided, or hard as a rock. Ai cannot imagine a greater happiness than one day making the perfect pastry, until someone new walks into her life and Ai discovers some things in life are sweeter than cake.

This is Miao Miao, a shy exchange student from Japan. Yet behind Miao Miao’s modest exterior hides a master chef. Miao Miao teaches Ai the delicate art of baking and Ai introduces Miao Miao to Taipei’s ugliest snack, chicken feet. Both girls promise to make this year special. The year Miao Miao will do everything she’s not allowed to do at home. Ai imagines this as a life where they can do whatever they want. Get a tattoo or a belly button ring. A life away from her estranged father. But for Miao Miao, this means finding her first love. The kind of love her grandmother still talks about, even after Alzheimer’s has erased all other memories.

Anything we should add? Please leave your movie suggestions in the comment area!

1 Response

  1. March 9, 2015

    […] Queer Cinema of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan […]

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