As the latest edition of the LGBTQ+ festival returns to London, we highlight our picks for the most essential features...
Queer East returns this year in fully-fledged form, championing and showcasing the best of LGBTQ+ cinema from East and Southeast Asia, and the wider Asian diaspora. The past few years has seen the festival succeed in spite of pandemic-enforced roadblocks, hinting towards the hunger of audiences for new and exciting voices.
This year’s selection includes a retrospective on Thai queer cinema, which has a fertile and exciting history, underseen here in the West. Elsewhere, aside from the glut of UK premieres for some of the most exciting LGBTQ+ filmmaking voices from the East, the festival is also expanding its remit to include artists’ moving images, VR work and TV. Beyond the highlights below, there’s plenty on offer – don’t forget to check our listings of film showtimes. In partnership with the festival, we’re also offering a number of ticket giveaways – to be in with a chance to win, simply head over to our competitions page.
The festival’s opening film is a biopic on the transgender kickboxer, Parinya Chareonphol, a famed Muay Thai fighter who competed as a male to raise money for her gender re-assignment surgery. It’s a compassionate and thoughtful biopic, amplified by some elegant fight sequences, with the film’s star also a real-life fighter. The film is also being paired with It’s All Because of a Katoey (a Thai term denoting transwomen or effeminate men), a recently restored 1954 short silent film, harking towards the length and breadth of Thai LGBTQ+ cinema (get screening info).
Take Me Home
Across much of the world, the subject of same-sex parents adopting children is still considered taboo, and in many cases illegal. That’s the subject at the heart of this tearjerker from South Korean director Jay Han. Eun-soo and Ye-won are in love, but in the wake of a tragic accident that injures Eun-soo and kills her sister, leaving Soo-min orphaned. The couple suddenly find themselves in a position where they need to take care of Soo-min. Of course, things are not as simple as that. What emerges is a story about growing strong together (get screening info).
East Palace, West Palace
This groundbreaking feature – the first from mainland China to deal explicitly with gay characters – had to be smuggled out of Chine for post-production. The title refers to two public toilets either side of the Forbidden Palace, which became an infamous meeting spot for gay men. Secrecy is key to the film’s themes, told in flashback as protagonist A-Lan is interrogated by a policeman. Yet, despite initial hostilities, the questioning gradually thaws into empathy and stormy attraction (get screening info).
Richard Fung Double Bill
Back in the ‘80s, Toronto-based video artist Richard Fung made Orientations, a documentary about the lives of Asian-Canadians lesbians and gays, allowing them to openly discuss how they saw themselves and how others saw them. In 2016, Fung tracked down many of the original participants to make Re: Orientations, which also includes portraits of younger LGBTQ+ voices. Paired together, these hour-long docs paint a warm, intimate picture that shows both just how much and how little things have changed (get screening info here and here).
Queer East’s closing gala features the UK premiere of Metamorphosis, with a post-screening Q&A with the film’s director JE Tiglao. Tiglao’s debut feature, this coming-of-age drama tells the story of Adam, an intersex teenager looking to undergo gender re-assignment surgery in spite of the conservatism of his devoutly Christian parents. A film about pushing against the limits of given identity, this is set to be a fearless piece of work from a fascinating new voice in cinema (get screening info).
The Queer East Festival 2022 runs from 18-29 May in cinemas across London.