Focus on Taiwan

Jun 14, 2021

As We Like It

For the second year in a row, Frameline is proud to present a special Focus on Taiwan. This year, the lineup for Frameline45 will feature eight LGBTQ+ films from the island nation, which is still the only country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. The three feature films in the program are Cheng Yu-Chieh’s spectacularly moving family drama Dear Tenant (親愛的房客), which won awards for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Score at the prestigious Golden Horse Film Festival last November; Chen Hung-i & Muni Wei’s As We Like It (揭大歡喜), a dazzling new take on Shakespeare’s classic As You Like It with an all-female cast; and a retrospective screening of Arvin Chen’s spirited comedy Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? (親愛的房客) which originally played at Frameline37 back in 2013.

You'll find four of the five short films—Gao Hong & Chang Chun-Yu’s Unnamed (未命名), Larry Tung’s Taiwan Pride for the World (世界驕傲在台灣), Kuo Hsuan-Chi’s Hidden (迷藏), and Weng Yu-Tong’s Undercurrent (宵禁)—in their own free streaming program called Taiwan Shorts, with Taiwan Pride for the World also playing as part of the Up Close & Personal shortsprogram. And finally, Su Hui-yu's The Women's Revenge (女性的復仇) will be a part of the Dark Twisted Fantasies shorts program, where the director's previous short The Glamorous Boys of Tang (唐朝綺麗男(1985,邱剛健)) screened in 2019. All the films in the Focus on Taiwan will be available to stream across the United States from June 17-27.

Thanks to the plethora of streaming platforms around right now, Taiwanese queer films have been reaching enthusiastic audiences all over the world. Following the success of Hsu Chih-Yen and Mag Hsu’s Dear Ex (which was released globally in February of 2019), streaming behemoth Netflix nabbed the worldride rights for yet another queer teen romantic drama in 2020: Liu Kuang-Hui’s Your Name Engraved Herein (刻在你心底的名字). Winner of two awards at the Golden Horse Film Festival (for Cinematography and Original Song), Your Name Engraved Herein shattered two significant records domestically with its release last September; it was not only the most-watched film of 2020 in Taiwan, but it also became the highest-grossing LGBTQ+ film in Taiwanese cinema history. With both Dear Tenant and Your Name Engraved Herein winning several prizes at the Golden Horse Film Festival, 2020 proved to be a vital year for queer cinema in Taiwan.

Other streaming platforms like GagaOOLala have also been doing their part in bringing Taiwanese LGBTQ+ films to audiences far beyond the nation itself, providing unique, quality titles that might have never made it to the western hemisphere in the pre-streaming era. Based in Taipei, GagaOOLala specializes in showcasing the best new and classic queer cinema from not just Taiwan, but from other Asian countries like Thailand, South Korea, the Philippines, and Japan. Some of their recent releases of Taiwanese gay cinema include Lu Mian-Mian’s lesbian dramedy Mickey on the Road (迷走廣州) and Lin Chun-hua’s Nobody (有鬼), which centers on the relationship between a young girl and an elderly trans man—both titles premiered in 2020. Additionally, for those who might have missed Frameline44’s Taiwanese offerings, both The Teacher (我的靈魂是愛做的) and Taiwan Equals Love (同愛一家) are also currently available to stream on GagaOOLala.

Although the US release of Tsai Ming-liang’s latest Days (日子) was delayed as a result of the pandemic, its distributor Grasshopper Films will begin its limited release at the end of August. Additionally, a restored version of Tsai’s earlier queer masterwork Goodbye, Dragon Inn (不散) (2003) has been making the rounds across the United States from Metrograph Pictures, effectively coinciding with the release of writer Nick Pinkerton’s 240-page book about the film (also called Goodbye, Dragon Inn). Pinkerton’s in-depth essay on the film became the first in Fireflies Press’ book series The Decadent Editions, in which a different author tackles a single masterpiece from the 2000s; other titles in the series include Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman (La mujer sin cabeza) (2008), Hong Sang-soo’s Tale of Cinema (극장전) (2005), and David Lynch’s Inland Empire (2006). US distributor Film Movement also released Midi Z's dynamic bisexual thriller Nina Wu (灼人秘密) theatrically and virtually this past year. The film stars and was co-written by Wu Ke-xi, who based the film on her personal experiences, and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival back in 2019.

There's still plenty to look forward to on the horizon as well. At the Cannes Film Festival in July, C.B. Yi's Moneyboys, a Taiwanese co-production with Austria, France, and Belgium, will premiere in the Un Certain Regard section. The film follows male sex workers in China, but was filmed entirely in Taiwan in fear of censorship restrictions. Also coming soon is Lily Ni's Born to Be Human (生而為人) about the struggles of an intersex teenager.

—JOE BOWMAN

Focus on Taiwan is sponsored by Ministry of Culture Taiwan (R.O.C.) and Taiwan Academy in Los Angeles.