Love Is The Only Way (愛是唯一): Taiwan Showcase at Frameline 45

June 23, 2021 at 9:24 pm Leave a comment

Fluidity, Unnamed

Frameline 45 is in full swing and this year’s festival marks a return to limited in-person screenings, along with a full slate of programs available to stream online.

This year’s program includes a segment focusing on films from Taiwan. The first Asian nation to legalize same-sex marriage, Taiwan is one of the most queer-friendly countries in the region, as evidenced by its large and popular Pride parade every year. 

Futuristic, As We Like It

Frameline 45 includes several features and shorts from the island country, including the gender-bending Shakespeare adaptation As We Like It (揭大歡喜), directed by Hung-i Chen and Muni Wei. Loosely based on As You Like It, The Bard’s iconic cross-dressing play,  the film takes place in a slightly futuristic Ximending, one of Taipei’s artsy hipster neighborhoods, which in the film is a no-internet, gender-free zone.  In a twist on the Shakespearean tradition of excluding women from performing on the stage, the entire cast is female. The players are cute and charming queer folks working on relationship issues and the film’s mood and tone are a sweet celebration of finding true love. 

Poignant, Dear Tenant

On a much more poignant tip is Dear Tenant (親愛的房客), directed by Cheng Yu-chieh (鄭有傑), which is a delicate and sensitive story of a man caring for his dead lover’s son and sick mother. When the mother passes away the legal complications of his unclear status act to prevent him from continuing to care for the son. The film is nicely wrought, with sensitive performances from the leads including Mo Tzu-yi (莫子儀), and  Chen Shu-fang (陳淑芳), both of whom acting awards at the 57th Golden Horse Awards last year, as well as Runyin Bai as the 9-year-old You-Yu. Neither overly sentimental nor melodramatic, this dramatic narrative explores the gray areas of the law and biases against gay couples when the custody of a child is involved.

Smoldering, Undercurrent

The short film program Taiwan Shorts, which is streaming for free, includes four films that are very different from each other. Unnamed (未命名) directed by Gao Hong & Chang Chun-Yu looks at the fluidity of queer identity through a naming conceit, with fun performances from the two young leads. Taiwan Pride for the World (世界驕傲在台灣), directed by Larry Tung, documents Taipei’s 2020 Pride Parade which due to the COVID-19 pandemic was possibly the only one to take place in the world that year. At the time Taiwan had a very low incidence of coronavirus and LGBTQ+ organizers there decided to hold a parade in honor of those around the world who couldn’t. Since then Taiwan’s COVID-19 situation has reversed so it’s bittersweet to view this film from a June 2021 perspective.

Hidden (迷藏), directed by Kuo Hsuan-Chi, follows a young teenage boy as he struggles to navigate the waters of his sexuality while trying to avoid predatory online hookups and catfishers. Undercurrent (宵禁), directed by Weng Yu-Tong, is almost dialog-free, creating a moody, smexy atmosphere. The film follows the smoldering cigarettes and smoldering desires of two young men playing cat-and-mouse during martial law in Kaoshiung.

Each of these films gave me the Taiwan feelz, as they emphasize the specific culture, language, geography, and architecture of Taiwan. The films include shots of the distinctive tile-covered buildings, the humidity and fog, the green mountains, the scooter-covered streets, and the neighbors bringing garbage out to the garbage truck in pink plastic bags, which are details that all scream Taiwan. The films are a window into Taiwan’s singular vibe and delineate the many distinctive elements that make up the island nation. 


All films in the Taiwan showcase, which also includes Arvin Chen’s outstanding 2013 romcom Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,  will be streaming through June 27, 2021 on Frameline’s online platform.

Entry filed under: frameline 45, queer. Tags: , , , , .

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