Sexuality on the Silver Screen

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There aren’t many openly gay public figures in South Korea. However, let’s face it, there aren’t many in Hong Kong either. So it’s fitting that openly queer Korean film director Kim Jo Gwang-soo is gracing this year’s Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival with his presence – and he’s bringing his first ever feature-length flick. He was the director of this year’s Seoul LGBT festival, cementing his status as a big influence in the country’s gay scene – and it’s hoped his influence will follow suit in Hong Kong.

The HKLGFF is the longest running LGBT arts fest of its kind in Asia (dating back to 1989) and is also one of the highlight events of the annual Pink Season. This year the 12-day fest runs between November 16 and December 3 at a host of city cinemas. Kim Jo – a self-confessed huge Hong Kong movie buff – says the extravaganza has long caught his eye. So much so, in fact, that this year he’s honoured to debut his first feature-length movie, Two Weddings and a Funeral, as the festival’s opening feature – and one of its most anticipated offerings. “Hong Kong’s LGBT film festival is the one I envy the most,” he says, “and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Kim Jo – or Peter Kim as he’s also known – has gained a certain amount of notoriety for his short LGBT films over the past few years. Having directed two shorts – Boy Meets Boy and Just Friends – he uses his creations to portray the gay and lesbian scene in Korea as authentically as possible. But it’s Two Weddings and a Funeral which is really exciting Hongkongers due to its feature-length quality.

Kim says his many ideas for Two Weddings and a Funeral were derived from personal acquaintances, including the main ‘glitch’ in the film – fake marriages. The movie sets off with the lesbian and gay protagonists setting up a fake marriage with each other in order to appease familial pressures. But, as we know, dishonesty often leads to trouble and their plan begins to collapse as the storyline unfolds. Sounds like another tragic gay movie caused by social circumstances, right? Kim disagrees. “Though things seem tough,” he says, “the message is to show that gays can live a happy life.”

However, there were challenges to producing the film, says Kim. According to the director, the biggest problem was before production even began – the casting. The LGBT film genre is considered taboo in Korea for well-known actors and actresses, and most will avoid playing homosexual roles. For Korean actor Park Jeong-Pyo, who portrays gay character ‘Tina’ in the movie, it’s his debut in the LGBT film genre. Park believes that there is still a strong opposition against homosexual society in Korea but LGBT films are a good opportunity for people – as was the case for him – to understand more about the LGBT community.

Kim’s opinion is predictably strong on the subject. “I am Korean and also Asian,” he says. “My idea is that we can sympathise more with Asian LGBT movies rather than European ones.”

Although the Asian LGBT film industry is said by many to be at its peak, Kim disagrees and believes it will continue to develop over the coming years. And, of course, he hopes to be a ‘strong contributor’. “A number of homosexual activities are being prevented [in South Korea],” he says. “But there is a bright future for LGBT films in the Korean and Asian market and through these films prejudice will vanish.” Here’s hoping… 

Davis Cheung

Two Weddings and a Funeral screens on Fri Nov 16. For details on the festival check out hklgff.hk.

 

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