The Queer East Film Festivsl returns on September 15th for its second annual edition.
Screening exclusively in cinemas – a welcome relief after last year’s festivals found themselves almost entirely online – the festival will screen 37 features, shorts and other moving image works from 15 countries.
They’ve announced their entire lineup, and we’ve broken it down for you.
Wednesday 15 September
Opening Film: Daughters (Japan) – Genesis Cinema
Koharu and Ayano are two carefree young women living together in Tokyo whose lives are turned upside down when Ayano suddenly becomes pregnant. Hajime Tsuda’s directorial debut shows how the lives and relationships of the two women are changed and formed by this. Most interestingly, Daughters challenges conventional ideas about what a family should mean, stimulating debate on whether a film needs to feature LGBT storylines in order to present an alternative queer perspective.
Thursday 16 September
Lan Yu (Hong Kong, China)– Curzon Soho
One of the most famous LGBTQ films in Asia, Stanley Kwan’s novel adaptation tells of Han-Dong, a successful businessman, and Lan Yu, a sensitive college boy, who first meet during a one-night stand. Undeterred by Han-Dong’s compulsive promiscuity, Lan Yu demonstrates unwavering devotion to his lover – but can this save them from an unforgiving fate? Lan Yu is celebrating 20 years as a queer cinema classic and is a must-see.
Saturday 18 September
My Dear Friend (China) – Curzon Hoxton
Director Ping-Dao’s debut sees a young woman named Jing-Jing drive from the city to search for her boyfriend in his hometown. Instead, she encounters his grandparents, Shui-Mu and A-Fang, and Jing-Jing unearths a mysterious relationship that has lasted for sixty years: Shui-Mu has a secret friend called Zhong-Sheng, who is mute and has lost all memory of his childhood. Jing-Jing agrees to help find Zhong-Sheng’s true identity, which takes them on a foggy road trip to another village 300km away, and on a journey into the past.
Number 1 (Singapore) – Genesis Cinema
A musical comedy about a middle-aged white-collar worker who is made redundant, Number 1 tells of Chee-Beng who takes employment as a manager at ‘Number One’, a popular drag club. Soon, he is roped into dressing up and joining the drag queens on stage – and turns out to be a natural. He instantly becomes the club’s biggest sensation – something he is desperate to conceal from his wife and son. Number 1 is a rare glimpse into Singapore’s LGBTQ scene.
Sunday 19 September
Days (Taiwan, France), 2020 – Curzon Soho
Kang lives alone in a big house, from which he looks out onto the treetops lashed by wind and rain. Non lives in a small apartment in Bangkok, where he methodically prepares traditional dishes from his native village. When Kang meets Non, gentle caresses soothe their pain and loneliness as they find consolation in each other.
Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence (Japan), 1983 – Catford Mews
Nagisa Oshima’s classic film about four men confined to a POW camp during WW2. In 1942, British officer Major Jack Celliers is captured by the Japanese and taken to a camp overseen by Captain Yonoi, a man fixated on discipline and the glory of imperial Japan. As the pair become locked in an obsessive psychological battle, Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence, the only inmate with a degree of sympathy for Japanese culture, develops a friendship with Sergeant Hara, a compassionate man beneath his cruel façade.
Monday 20 September
Close-Knit (Japan) – Curzon Hoxton
Tomo, a young girl who finds herself alone after her mother abandons her, heads to her uncle’s apartment, where she finds him living with his beautiful girlfriend Rinko, a transgender woman. The three of them settle into a new lifestyle, but is society ready to accept their blissful existence? Directed by Naoko Ogigami, Close-Knit offers a sensitive portrayal of family life, and won numerous awards including the Teddy Jury Award and Panorama Audience Award at the 67th Berlinale, and audience awards at the Udine Far East Film Festival.
Tuesday 21 September
Hush! (Japan) – Genesis Cinema
Questioning the traditional structure of family, Hush! is a modern classic about Asako, who has always avoided meaningful relationships. After a chance encounter with a gay man, Katsuhiro, she sees the opportunity to become a mother by having a child with him through artificial insemination. When she makes the proposition, Katsuhiro and his partner Naoya are initially astonished, but gradually, they begin to open up to the idea of having a baby.
Secrets of 1979 (Taiwan) – The Lexi Cinema
In the summer of 1979, during Taiwan’s martial law period, Bing-Kuan asks her college friend Shu-Lan to help out on her family’s banana plantation. As time goes by, the two girls secretly develop a romantic relationship, but their youthful romance is threatened as the Kuomintang regime seeks to suppress dissident voices.
Wednesday 22 September
Queer Japan (Japan), 2019 – Bertha DocHouse
This documentary sees trailblazing artists, activists, and everyday people from across the spectrum of gender and sexuality defy social norms and dare to shine in this kaleidoscopic view of LGBTQ+ culture in contemporary Japan.
Madame X (Indonesia), 2011 – The Prince Charles Cinema
The queer action comedy superhero film Madame X is nothing short of a wild time. When his land is threatened by a militant and homophobic political party, hairdresser Adam must become Madame X and save the day, with Lenggok – something of a fusion of traditional Indonesian and modern dance.
Thursday 23 September
Ghost in the Shell (Japan), 1995 – The Lexi Cinema
Adapted from the manga by Masamune Shirow, this 1995 masterpiece remains a milestone of animated cinema. Ghost in the Shell takes place in 2029, with humanity and technology intertwined to such an extent that people can transfer their consciousness into cybernetic bodies. Cyborg cop Major Motoko Kusanagi leads a special police security unit that is tasked with tracking down ‘ghost hackers’, criminals who can clandestinely tap into the bodies and minds of other people. Ghost in the Shell has been acclaimed for its inversion of traditional gender roles and depiction of fluid sexuality.
Shinjuku Boys (Japan), 1995 – The Horse Hospital
This 1995 documentary is about the Shinjuku Boys: three onnabe (women who live as men ) working as hosts at a Tokyo nightclub for female clients. Filmed at home and at work, they speak frankly about their lives, their hopes and their sexuality. The young women who come to the club often have relationships with the boys, but their underlying fear is whether such a relationship can withstand the pressures on a girl to get married and have children.
Friday 24 September
The End of the Track (Malaysia), 2020 – The Horse Hospital
Filmed years before its 2020 release, The End of the Track is one of the earliest examples of queer cinema in Taiwan.Friends Tong and Yongsheng are inseparable friends who spend their time wandering the countryside, training for athletics, and hanging out at the dumpling stall operated by Yongsheng’s parents. The End of the Track makes a quietly radical statement about repressed desire, examining the psychologicall impact of trauma on a young boy.
Saturday 25 September
Gohatto (Japan), 1999 – Genesis Cinema
The young and handsome Kano Sozaburo is admitted to an elite samurai group that seeks to defend the Tokugawa shogunate against reformist forces. Kano is a skilled swordsman, but his physical beauty leads the members of the strictly male group to compete for his affections, generating tensions that threaten to become lethal. In Gohatto, director Nagisa Oshima explores the ambiguous forms of masculinity that the samurai code concealed.
Miss Andy (Taiwan, Malaysia), 2020 – Genesis cinema
Evon is a transgender woman living in Malaysia. Transitioning late in life after losing a wife, job, and family, she is subjected to prejudice in a society that restricts LGBTQ+ freedoms. Evon’s life seems bleak until she has a chance encounter with an illegal migrant worker and her son, who are on the run with nowhere to go, and nobody to care for them. Evon offers them a place to stay, and her friendship with the pair slowly brings about change in her life, as she gains the confidence to begin trusting other people.
Sunday 26 September
Moonlit Winter (South Korea), 2019 – Curzon Hoxton
Saebom, a high school student who lives with her mother has become depressed, having recently had a divorce. So when Saebom finds a love letter sent to her mother from Hokkaido in Japan, she begins to wonder about her mysterious past. Sensing the opportunity for them to develop a closer relationship, Saebom concocts a plan to find the sender of the letter, and the two embark on a trip to Hokkaido.
Closing Film: Dear Tenant (Taiwan), 2020 – Genesis Cinema
Finally, closing out this year’s festival is Dear Tenant. Mr. Lin is a tenant in the rooftop apartment owned by the elderly Mrs. Chou, who is suffering from late-stage diabetes. Lin helps tend to her daily needs and looks after her nine-year old grandson, the orphaned Yo-Yu. But when Yo-Yu’s uncle returns to Taiwan, he discovers that the ownership of the apartment has been transferred to the young boy, whom Lin has legally adopted. The stage is set for a conflict that uncovers a very different side to the seemingly perfect tenant.
On top of these feature films are a number of shorts and othjer features. On Friday 17 September, the Horse Hospital will be airing the Artists’ Moving Image Programme and the collection of short films Provocations.
The short film Undercurrent (2020) will be shown preceding Secrets of 1979 at the Lexi Cinema, and two shorts FATbulous Me (2021) and Moving In Between (2019) will precede the documentary Shinjuku Boys.
Friday 24 September sees another collection of short films titled What We Want, and End of the Track will be preceded by Melt (2018). Both are screening at the Horse Hospital.
Tickets are available on their website here.