Film, TV + Theatre

6 Amazing East Asian LGBTQ films that should be on your list


By Eugene Chen

6 Amazing East Asian LGBTQ films that should be on your list

Although the LGBTQ community is still highly stigmatised worldwide, especially in Asian societies, auteurs have sought to shed light on this matter through the art of filmmaking

Taiwan’s legalisation of same-sex marriage demonstrates Asia’s path towards progressiveness and a more inclusive society. While we still have a long way to go in terms of legislation, the arts have created a safe space for artists to explore gender fluidity. These artistic expressions transcend societal perceptions of gender and raises awareness of the struggles within the LGBTQ community.

Forget Stonewall and the New York City pride parade, we’re celebrating pride month in Asia with these queer films.

Your Name Engraved Herein (2020)

Set in the 1980s when martial law saw its end in Taiwan, two male students—Jia Han (played by Edward Chen) and Wang Bo To a.k.a Birdy (portrayed by Tseng Jing-Hua)—fall in love while dealing with the struggles of family pressure, homophobia, and social stigma. The film went on to receive five Golden Horse Award nominations and became the highest-grossing LGBTQ film in Taiwan’s history. A great tribute to Taiwan’s recent legalisation of same-sex marriage, less than a year before the film’s release.

Dear Ex (2018)

This Taiwanese comedy-drama stars Song Cheng-xi (played by Joseph Huang), a teenager caught in a complicated feud between his mother, Hsieh (played by Liu San-lian), and his deceased father’s former lover, Jay (played by Roy Chiu). Prepare for a rollercoaster of emotions as the characters navigate through the struggles of motherhood, grief, and relationships.

Happy Together (1997)

Wong Kar Wai’s Happy Together is probably the most well-known Asian LGBTQ movie on this list. The film stars the late Cantonese singer, Leslie Cheung, who was an icon in the Asian LGBTQ community. Happy Together follows the turbulent relationship between Ho Po-Wing (Leslie Cheung) and Lai Yiu-Fai (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), and their visit to Buenos Aires in search of the Iguazu Falls. The cinematography is what you would expect from a Wong Kar Wai film: Dreamy and colourful.

The Handmaiden (2016)

The Handmaiden is directed by Park Chan-wook who has worked on other legendary films such as Old Boy, Lady Vengeance, and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. The plot is based on a novel called Fingersmith, written by British writer Sarah Waters. Set during the Japanese occupation of Korea, a con man under the alias of “Count Fujiwara” hires a pickpocket named Sock-hee to help him seduce a wealthy Japanese heiress. As the story unfolds, you’ll start to realise that nothing is what it seems.

Suk Suk (2019)

Unlike most LGBTQ films that feature a younger antagonist who struggles with self-identity, Suk Suk centers around the lives of two elderly men. Pak, a 70-year-old taxi driver, and Hoi, a 65-year-old single father have spent their lives hiding their sexuality from their respective families. The film reflects on the societal pressures that queer individuals have to face in Asian societies, which often results in them having to hide their authentic selves to avoid scrutiny.

The Wedding Banquet (1993)

The Wedding Banquet director Ang Lee is also known for directing another prominent LGBTQ film, Brokeback Mountain, which won an Oscar for best director. However, his experience directing LGBTQ films started off with The Wedding Banquet, a film that stars Taiwanese actor Winston Chao. The film follows a bisexual Taiwanese immigrant living in Manhattan, who marries a Chinese woman to get her a green card and to hide his relationship with his gay partner from his family.

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