Asia’s longest running annual LGBTI film fest, the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, is currently screening an eclectic programme of queer films in cinemas around town. It’s one of the most important events on the regional LGBTI calendar. Festival director Joe Lam ensures us that the trailblazing event hasn’t lost any momentum since its inception in 1989. “A queer person can walk into a cinema and say, ‘that’s me. That’s my story’,” Lam explains. “And a straight person can watch the same film and think, ‘we’re really not that different’.”
This year’s diverse lineup offers a selection of profound narratives from established and emerging international filmmakers. A focus on documentaries was chosen by Lam in light of Hong Kong’s lack of lasting legislative and societal change regarding LGBTI issues. “Hopefully, seeing real queer people fighting for real queer issues will help raise awareness in our society about the discrimination some LGBTI individuals still face,” Lam comments. “That’s why we’ll always need an LGBT Film Festival in Hong Kong.” While Korean documentary features like Weekends and Inside the Chinese Closet, which explore the specific struggles facing LGBTI individuals in Asian societies, should feel close to home for local audiences, Lam is confident that films dealing with issues and individuals beyond the consciousness of Hong Kong’s queer community will also resonate with festival-goers. “We face different problems and different types of opposition here in Hong Kong,” Lam points out, “however, the idea of standing up and living authentically is universal.”
Here are Lam’s five must-see films to catch at this year’s event.
What to see that the HKLGFF 2016
Vice’s dark exposé of London’s underground gay scene details the experiences of young gay men affected by ‘chemsex’, the damaging intersection of intravenous drug use and casual sex. Boldly depicting stories of addiction and isolation, Chemsex unmasks a crippling crisis that many queer youths face today.
Lam says: "The gay community needs to talk about this issue. We can’t ignore the fact that chemsex is happening everywhere."
Wed Sep 21, 7.50pm, The One, and Sat Sep 24, 6pm, Palace IFC.
Also screened at this year’s Sundance and Berlin International Film Festivals, KiKi documents New York’s queer people of colour, their artistry and their activism. The film – which closes the festival – follows seven members of the community as they practice, perform and reveal stories of struggle and strength.
Lam says: "One of the most important queer films of the year."
Sun Oct 2, 5pm, The One, and 5.35pm, Palace IFC.
This Brazilian effort follows a young soldier embarking on a journey of self-discovery after ditching the army and escaping to Porto Alegre, exploring his identity and sexuality within the port city’s queer scene. This beautifully shot and poignantly acted film is representative of the blossoming South American queer cinema movement.
Lam says: "This film about Brazilan queer youth is no ordinary coming-of-age film."
Fri Sep 23, 9.50pm, The One, and Wed Sep 28, 9.50pm, Palace IFC.
Strike A Pose
Strike A Pose details the personal stories of Madonna’s boundary-pushing backup dancers. In the 1990s, these homosexual men famously broke down barriers for the gay community through their controversial performances on the singer’s Blond Ambition World Tour, recorded in the famous documentary Truth or Dare, all amid personal struggles against shame and prejudice.
Lam says: "A must-see for all Madonna fans."
Thu Sep 22, 8.10pm, Palace IFC; Sun Sep 25, 8.05pm, The One; Sat Oct 1, 9.50pm, Broadway Cinematheque.
A queer French twist on the classic tale of lovers from different worlds, Summertime chronicles the romance of Delphine, a sheltered farm girl, and Carole, a free-spirited Parisian. Their budding relationship is tested when the couple move outside of the liberal bubble of Paris and have to face a new reality of discretion and stigmatism.
Lam says: "The most cinematic and beautiful lesbian film of this year."
Sun Oct 2, 3.10pm, The One, and 5.50pm, Palace IFC.