Donovan Trott 「It’s time we start telling Asian American gay stories.」

Posted on June 29, 2017 commentaires
(Art by Cat Baldwin/Very Good Light)

Editor’s Note: As Pride Month comes to a close, we here at Very Good Light are dedicating an entire week on LGBTQ+ voices, stories, and the beautiful diversity that the community has to offer. Today, we review a community that rarely receives attention: LGBTQ+ Asian American men. Below, an eye-opening story about what it means to feel invisible.

With recent hit shows like 「Transparent」, 「Sense8」 (RIP!) and 「Orange Is The New Black」 putting trans talent and issues front and center – and last year’s historic Oscar win for 「Moonlight」 – some groups, which have often found themselves sidelined in LGBTQ centered stories, are finally beginning to make gains towards greater representation.

However, one group that continues to wait for its breakthrough moment are gay Asian American men. Gay Asian Americans face a uniquely barren landscape when searching for images in media that reflect their experiences. In recent history, there was 「Entourage」‘s Lloyd Lee, the flamboyantly endearing assistant to cantankerous Ari Gold or the blatantly racist portrayal of Han in CBS’ 「2 Broke Girls」. What’s more, the images most commonly associated with the group, i.e. the flamboyant best friend or the a sexual computer nerd (see 「How to Get Away With Murder」’s Oliver), rely on harmful stereotypes that can have real consequences in the everyday lives of these men.

For Asian Americans, the challenges of under representation in film and TV are far from anything new. One report released from USC last year analyzed 109 films and 305 TV series and found that at least half or more of all cinematic, television, or streaming stories failed to portray even a single speaking or named Asian American part onscreen. That amounts to a mere 2.3% of all characters.

“Many gay men don’t even consider me an option for dating.”

A lack of representation has had a real effect on Asian American men and their own gay identities.

(Ricky, a corporate lawyer based in Washington D.C. says his dating life is affected because of his ethnicity. Photo courtesy: Ricky Mempin)

According to Ricky Mempin, a 25-year old corporate law attorney in DC, the consequences of this underrepresentation are especially steep for gay Asians. This, specifically when it comes to finding love.

“Many gay men don’t even consider me an option for dating,” says Mempin to Very Good Light. “Because young queer people typically have to teach themselves about the community, often in secret, LGBT people particularly rely on whatever media they can find to make sense of our culture. Since most LGBT representations are white, the community has internalized that that is what is romantically desirable.”

“People have definitely assumed things about my sexual roles.”

(Jon, a chef based out of NYC, says there are always preconceived assumptions on his sexual roles. Photo by: Ron Anthony Photography)

Complicating matters are Hollywood’s stereotypical or oftentimes uncomfortable assumptions of Asian men. “People have definitely assumed things about my sexual roles,” says Jon Pham, a 29-year old chef living in New York City. “The size of my dick, and other things of that nature, or I’ve been assumed [the role] of the passive Asian princess to be taken care of by some older man.”

“I’ve had people respond to me on apps saying that I’m not their type or that it’s not a good match, specifically because they’re just not into Asians,”

Dealing with assumptions about their sexuality is only half the problem; gay Asian Americans are also subject to widespread marginalization on the basis of their race. This trend is particularly noticeable on dating apps where it is easy to find users with profiles that state racial preferences like “no rice,” slang for no Asians.

“I’ve had people respond to me on apps saying that I’m not their type or that it’s not a good match, specifically because they’re just not into Asians,” says Mempin. “The sad part is that these people are more honest than most. It’s hard not to suspect that people who don’t respond to me are considering my race in their decision, especially when they have almost nothing but a picture of me to go off of.”

Mempin’s experiences are not unique. One recent survey found that 79% of gay Asian American men report having experienced some form of sexual racism from within the LGBTQ community. And while some argue that having a racial preference when dating is not a legitimate form of racism, research shows that those who exclude certain minorities from their dating pool tend to have less favorable views of those minorities in other aspects of life as well.

This knowledge, coupled with what we know about how much the media influences the public’s attitude toward minorities, makes clear just how important multifaceted depictions of gay Asian Americans really are.

“Having been raised in the same racist culture as other LGBT Americans, I also grew up believing that whiteness was the primary desirable factor in gay relationships,” says Mempin. “It is only since I started dating more as an adult that I began questioning the reasons behind this belief, and whether things can be actively done to work against it.” It’s hard to say what is actively being done to work against harmful depictions of gay Asian Americans at the moment, but there are some hopeful signs.

Though the character he plays is straight, openly gay Filipino actor, Vincent Rodriguez II is one of the very few Asian American actors on television with a romantic storyline, playing the affable Josh Chan on the CW’s 「Crazy Ex-Girlfriend」 “... one of the things that’s come up with me playing Josh is that I play this male love interest and that’s so not what we’re seeing on tv and that’s so new,” Rodriguez said of his role to TV Insider. “It’s new but it’s not. It’s new for TV but in the world, it’s so not.”

Perhaps the most famous gay Asian American entertainer to make waves in sometime is 「Rupaul’s Drag Race」 finalist, Sang-young Shin, better known as his stage name, Kim Chi. Although he did not win, Kim Chi was able to make a lasting impression on fans, earning him a loyal following of thousands. “Asians in American pop culture are generally portrayed in a comic relief way,” said Kim Chi when asked of his impact on pop culture by The Center of Asian American Media. “They make fun of the way we talk and the way we act. I get comments like, ‘oh my God, thank you for sharing our story.’ ‘I’m going through the same things you’re going through right now,’ and ‘thank you for showcasing to the world that Asians aren’t just comic reliefs.’”

With big studios lagging far behind on delivering nuanced portrayals of gay Asian Americans, some have begun to take matters into their own hands. Mempin, who also acts, is currently in pre-production on an indie comedy/drama called 「No Chocolate, No Rice」 (Disclaimer: a film that I personally wrote).

The film follows two best friends, one Asian, one Black, and their tumultuous love lives against the backdrop of racism within gay “hookup app” culture. “Although mainstream America likes to consider itself officially open to the LGBT community... empathetic or even serious representations of Asian gay men still remains practically nonexistent,” says Mempin. Producers of the film, which will be shot this year in DC, will be launching a Kickstarter campaign over the summer to secure funding.

Of his hope that the film will serve as a learning moment Mempin says this: “I hope that a perspective from the side of LGBT racial minorities will help people understand that although all LGBT people are marginalized by mainstream American culture, the fact is that racism affects our community as well... more generally, as long as the public faces of the queer community are kept almost exclusively white, white gay men can remain free to believe that their struggle is the same as everyone else’s, which is simply not the case.”

Asian Americans as a whole may soon take on a more visible face in the American cultural landscape, if for no other reason than simple economics. Asian Americans are the fastest growing minority in the country with current U.S. Census projections showing that they are on track to become the largest immigrant group in the nation by 2055.

But even before then, Asian Americans will wield considerable influence in the marketplace with a cumulative buying power which is on track to reach 1.1 trillion dollars by the year 2020. If media outlets wish to strike a chord with this group then they’ll have no choice but to begin developing programming and images geared to the Asian American community’s specific tastes. Stories that don’t rely on worn out stereotypes, and images that give a well balanced view of modern life for gay Asian Americans in all its complexities.

Donovan Trott is a freelance writer and performer living and working in his hometown, Washington DC. He covers politics, social justice issues, entertainment and LGBTQ rights. He’s currently producing a film which he wrote for the screen entitled 「No Chocolate, No Rice」.

Cat Baldwin has been a Brooklyn-based illustrator for 8 years after fleeing the scent of patchouli that haunted her formative years in the Pacific Northwest. She spends her free time seeking out delicious food and maintaining what she likes to call her “moon tan”.
Follow her on Instagram @catbee643 for photos of cats, pizza, and colorful city living.





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BLACKPINK 블랙핑크 「AS IF IT'S YOUR LAST」

Posted on June 22, 2017 commentaires

BLACKPINK 「AS IF IT'S YOUR LAST」【마지막처럼】- released on June 22, 2017.



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Emma Do 「This photo series captures what microaggressions feel like」

Posted on June 13, 2017 commentaires
Bryan Tang’s images explore frustration, prejudice and internalised racism in Australia.


Having your identity casually put under the microscope is a common source of anxiety for those who are visibly “other.” For those with faces and voices that don’t fit the prescribed “Australian identity,” it only takes a passing comment from a stranger, friend or even a lover to suddenly feel displaced. Migrating to Australia from Malaysia in his teens, photographer Bryan Tang’s experience echoes migrant stories of past and present.

Recently, Bryan was invited to create a set of photos around the theme of ‘Asia and Australia.’ As a young fashion photographer, his body of work has thus-far mostly steered clear of politics, but given the explicit go-ahead and chance to present with a group of other Asian photographers, he decided to create a series that would confront racism head on. In 「Colour Correction」, Bryan re-stages the moment when his subjects were the target of microaggressions. Here, Bryan talks about untangling internalised racism in his own life and work, and why shooting Asian faces is relatively new to him.

How did you have the idea for your photo series?

My friend Mike Souvanthalisith was curating a photo exhibition at the restaurant Burma Lane and asked me to take part. Most of my work was fashion based so I thought I could do something more personal with a message I haven’t been able to express in fashion. In the creative world Asians are mainly sidelined to be behind the scenes, not so much in front of the camera, whether in fashion or film. I thought it would be cool to shoot a series in a cinematic way so Asians would be the protagonists.

You mentioned in our past conversations that you haven’t shot many Asian models in your fashion work. Why has that been the case?

I think there aren’t many male Asian models compared to females. Thomas, one of the guys in the photos, is one of the very few Asian male models in Melbourne. But to be really honest, I think I still need to take that step forward of choosing to shoot more non-white faces and trying to push that harder with people I work with. Sometimes when an agency forwards me a list of models to shoot, there’s only one Asian face. Recently I had a chance to do a paid shoot for a publication in Asia. They straight up told me they wanted a Caucasian model because that’s what is seen as luxurious and prestigious, even though the photos would only be seen in Asia.

How did you feel doing this project where you only shot Asian faces?

It felt refreshing and true. It felt like something I’ve always wanted to do but didn’t realise.

How did your subjects feel about re-staging moments where they experienced racism and various microaggressions?

I think they were very open. A common response to these microaggressions is shock, or not saying anything because it’s happened so many times you can’t be bothered. You just know that sometimes no matter how much you try to explain to a person why something they said is wrong, they may not get the point. It’s educational labour. So there was a general sense from everyone I shot like ‘we’ve always had these things bothering us internally and now we have a place to express it.’


Tell me about the people in the photos. How did you link up with them?

The portraits feature Jenny Wang, Lei Lei K., Thomas Chow, Nick Teng and Charmaine Salvacion. It’s a mix of people I follow online and who I’ve worked with before. Jenny was one of the first people I thought of for the series because she’s very vocal about race issues. Even her Insta name is so in-your-face (@asiangirlfriend). That’s how people seen Asian females.


I imagine a lot of Asians in Australia instantly recognise these quotes. The one where Lei Lei is being told she isn’t Asian seems odd though, she obviously looks Asian. What was the context surrounding that comment?

Lei Lei’s old friend told her that. The implication was that because she’s Asian but grew up in the West that she benefits from white privilege. But the sentiment was also that Lei Lei doesn’t look Asian. You look at her and you think how on earth could she be someone who looks white or even white passing? It’s jarring. Lei Lei was so shocked she just tried to move conversation on.


Charmaine’s quote about being told she looks half white really struck me because the idea that being ‘half’ is more beautiful was quite prevalent among my Asian family and friends growing up.

Charmaine said that she heard that comment from a lot of Asian people. She said she initially felt a sense of pride to know people thought she looked half white, even though she isn’t, but as she grew older, she became more conscious and proud of her Filipino identity. She was like, “why aren’t my Asian features celebrated in the same way?”

Even the way people say “you look half” without needing to qualify that with “half white” just shows how deeply entrenched white beauty ideals are in our Asian communities. Since starting your creative work, have you come across your own prejudices that you’ve worked to overcome?

One clear memory was when I first started out. I was too self-conscious and ashamed to use my full name in my photography work. I would use a moniker instead. At the time, I didn’t know of other successful Asian creatives here. I had this mindset that if I used my real surname then people wouldn’t take me seriously or want to work with me. I think it took a long time for me to be like, ‘screw it.’ Now that I use my real name, it feels like I’m not lying to myself. In terms of people’s attitudes, I haven’t seen much difference. But hopefully that’s because I’m making better work.

Why was it important for you to make a series directly confronting racism and microaggressions?

Racism comes in all shapes and forms, it has no definitive identity – it could come from not just strangers, but friends, or even loved ones. I think the general public is more used to the direct form, but not the indirect. This series is my way of subtly highlighting what may pass as offhand comments or compliments even. In reality they are part of a cycle perpetuating ingrained stereotypes or assumptions people may not be aware of. I hope that it starts a deeper discussion of what race means to be an Australian and internal self-reflection.

Credits
Text Emma Do
Photography Bryan Tang

Connect to i-D’s world! Like us on Facebook follow us on Twitter and Instagram.


Bryan Tang
Official Website: http://www.bryantang.net/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bttqh56
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bttango/


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Alice Nicolov 「The Japanese artist using sport to talk about sexuality」

Posted on June 12, 2017 commentaires
The sportsman and performance artist Yuki Kobayashi on gender, identity and being naked

Basket by Yuki Kobayashi

How free do you think your mind actually is? Are you entirely absent of race and gender stereotypes? Do you reject society’s standards of what beautiful means? Yuki Kobayashi’s art will force you to confront the depth of your own convictions.

Using sport as a platform for his uninhibited performance art, the 27-year-old Tokyo-native employs his body and his clothes to explore the neutrality of gender, challenge racial stereotypes and raise questions of the self. Kobayashi’s work is pretty unique in the world of sport: an arena where people are endlessly categorised, stereotypes are usually deeply ingrained and matters of gender, race and sexuality are thrown into sharp relief. “I started to be naked to show this isn’t dangerous; this isn’ dirty; this isn’t negative,” Kobayashi explains when we meet. “Let’s just see it as a real body – this is what you’re hiding under the clothes you choose. It’s a body and you can’t choose how you’re born. That’s your original skin.”

Kobayashi, who trained as a professional tennis player, is brave. Almost unnervingly so. He dismisses the idea of fear – he likes performing too much. “Or maybe I’m too stupid to feel afraid?” he ponders. That’s a trick question. Kobayashi is not stupid. A fine art graduate of both Central St. Martins and the Royal College of Art, Kobayashi challenges preconceptions intelligently. He’s not aggressive or dogmatic – he simply opens doors for people to explore ideas in a safe space, be it in an art gallery or through a picture.

In this day and age, we idolise the image of the body and strict, sometimes invisible, rules govern our thoughts and discourse. But when Kobayashi confronts us with the real thing, we have to ask questions about our received cultural ideas. Dazed spoke with the artist ahead of his upcoming performance at the Yokohama Paratriennale in October to find out more about norm-defying work and why he refuses to compromise.

“Let’s just see it as a real body – this is what you’re hiding under the clothes you choose. It’s a body and you can’t choose how you’re born. That’s your original skin.”

Why do you combine sport and performance art?

Yuki Kobayashi: For me, sport and performance work are very close. The aspect of using the perception of physicality, following your intuition before you think something and how you occupy space and time are similar. Maybe the difference is that in the performance there is no opponent, no winner or loser and, while there are some rules, you can expand or reduce them by yourself and create by yourself. In the performance, action and emotion become very significant materials for making the work.

What are you trying to do with your work?

Yuki Kobayashi: When I went to Florida to play tennis there weren’t many Asian guys and I didn’t see many black guys either. I felt a little bit weird in that situation and when my friends and I tried to join in socially, there weren’t a lot of acceptable situations for us to be involved in. I was a teenager at the time so I didn’t take it too seriously but now I look back it was a little bit weird.

I want to change people’s prejudices. Humanity and biological stuff won’t change – people’s physicality is really different and it depends on how you’re born, but it’s about changing the way people think and breaking those boundaries. I don’t like using the word discrimination but it’s about how you think about everyone else and how you think about yourself – it’s more like self-discrimination. For example, ‘I’m Asian so I can’t really win in sports against stronger people.’ I want people to break down those kinds of boundaries and I want to say: ‘No, don’t think like that, you can do it!’ I think you just have to win. If you win everyone in the audience is going to think, ‘If this Asian guy can win, I can too.’ Winning is the proof and evidence that you can do it. It’s a good way of opening up people’s minds and changing their negative thinking into a positive mental attitude.


What took you from painting on a canvas to making yourself the art?

Yuki Kobayashi: I wanted to show how to make artwork that didn’t have to be painting or installations; it can also be only your body. Performance is better for communicating because it’s more direct. It’s one on one and eyes to eyes so you can feel things from the audience and it’s the most direct way of expressing yourself to someone in that moment. When I’m performing I can see every single person in the audience’s face – that’s why it’s more comfortable for me to do that. I like performing or otherwise why would I do it? I also feel a duty and a responsibility to try and bring about changes. I may be wrong, but I do believe that.

Why do you wear what might be considered typically female costumes?

Yuki Kobayashi: I want to experience what people are feeling and understand how people are looking at sexism and racism – that’s why I wear those costumes. I want to totally change my body’s identity. It’s not about my body needing to be female; I know myself that I have the body of a man. The question is how can you look more neutral? The idea of clothes as an identity and that what you wear is down to your preference is common, but in sports, you have to wear a certain costume. So women have to wear a skirt in tennis and at Wimbledon the players have to wear all white clothes. Those kinds of traditions and rules are pushing people’s identities in one direction. That was what gave me the first idea of starting to wear female clothes and playing sports in gallery spaces.

Did you ever feel like you were having an identity pushed onto you in the world of sport?

Yuki Kobayashi: I would never be pushed by anyone to wear anything I didn’t want to so I’ve never felt bad. But I’ve seen it happen to other people – that’s why I started doing this. People are really fascinated with clothes. For example, female tennis players are expected to wear sports bras, but some don’t and you can see their nipples and people comment on it. Those kinds of issues make me feel really strange like, why are people going crazy about that? It made me think about stadiums almost changing into strip clubs and that made me feel really, really weird. Why are people looking at athletes like that? It’s a sport. I don’t like the sexualisation and the sexism. I want there to be more respect and for people to see the sports. It’s just about winning and losing.

Why did you choose a cheerleader’s outfit for one of your performances?

Yuki Kobayashi: I played sports but I had never tried cheerleading before. When I choose clothes there are a few things I look for: first is whether I like it and I want to wear it. The second is how does it fit on my body? More like a modelling mentality. Then I think about the ideas, the culture and concept of those clothes and the message you send when you put them on your body. Finally, I think about how it works with the concept of neutrality.

“Cheerleaders are in a really weird position. They’re performing in the same stadium and on the same stage as the players, but somehow people don’t think they’re athletes”

That’s why cheerleader’s outfits are nice. Cheerleaders are in a really weird position. They’re performing in the same stadium and on the same stage as the players, but somehow people don’t think they’re athletes. They’re always there in the gaps or in the break time when the teams are taking a rest and they have to get up and perform. It’s an ironic situation to be in. Sometimes the players are kind of tacky – they’re too excited and full of testosterone, but the boys cheerleading with the girls seem much more gentle. I feel like the male cheerleaders are always there, supporting the women, throwing and catching them. They’re still strong but they’re kind gentlemen. I really like that idea.

Do you ever feel vulnerable when you’re performing?

Yuki Kobayashi: In Asian countries, they always think that nudity isn’t good to show and that it’s not really art. For me, it’s not good to compromise an artist’s work. I want to break the walls of the limits of showing artwork in a gallery space and that's why I started to use more nudity. I don’t think my body is dirty – it’s good to show your body as a sculpture and as a piece of art. I don’t feel vulnerable when I’m performing. I don’t really care. I don’t ever feel anything negative from the audience. Whatever the situation is, it’s about just making your work. My work doesn’t change depending on the situation because I never want to compromise myself. I just do the maximum I can in that moment. I wish I could talk to every single person and tell them to be free and that you can be whatever you want to be.

Follow Alice Nicolov on Twitter here @alicenicolov



Yuki Kobayashi 小林勇輝
Official Website: https://www.yukikoba.com/


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Michael Han 「A Letter To Queer Asian-Americans」

Posted on June 09, 2017 commentaires
This letter is here to serve as hope.

Being a minority is tough.

Just like many other minorities in the United States, Asian-Americans have their own set of challenges with racial identity. Having been born into two completely different cultures, we Asian-Americans are forced to juggle between values of both Eastern and Western cultures while, at the same time, develop our own sense of identity. With collectivist principles fostered at home, we are taught to maintain order, peace and harmony, placing the family’s needs over the individual’s. Then, we enter the outside world where we are introduced to individualistic values, empowering us to value individuality and pursue our own happiness. With so many expectations to uphold, many of us feel they have no say in who or what WE want to become. Our parents tell us how to study, what schools to go to, what careers to pursue, to work harder, to strive higher, to do better... while society tells us something completely different. Although, our parents’ expectations are out of good intentions, many of their choices for us strip us of our individual goals and aspirations. Eventually, all these opposing ideologies will clash. Add being gay into the mix and you have a conundrum of issues...

With so many expectations to uphold, many of us feel they have no say in who or what WE want to become.

Identity is such a key part of what it means to be human. Whether it be race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, religion etc., there are so many identities that play a role in shaping an individual’s sense of identity. However, when two or more of those identities come head-to-head, it gives birth to internal conflicts, years of unanswered questions, and one painful journey of self-discovery. Being gay and Asian-American is definitely a complicated scenario, but, at the same time, being true to yourself is such an important part of life – so why not just pursue both identities? Well, remember, Asian-Americans (whether it be explicitly or implicitly) are still expected to preserve their family’s honor, norms, and values, while simultaneously develop a persona that adheres to both Asian and Western ideologies. Maybe it’s best to throw sexuality under the bed.

Well, that may not be the case.

Suppressing any part of your identity isn’t the best course of action, either. If you are currently closeted or have had hidden in one, you know first-hand how painful it is. People have no idea how dark, isolating, and mentally damaging “the closet” can be. There are all types of closets, but concealing one’s sexuality, in my opinion, is the most lethal. Innocent lives every year fall victim to suicide simply because of the never-ending torment that lies behind those menacing doors. Since society places so much emphasis on heterosexuality, anything that “deviates” from that path of righteousness is immediately deemed evil and sickening. So what happens to us queer folk? We’re implicitly thrown into a closet in order to maintain that social harmony and order – at the expense of our physical and mental health. While mentally incarcerated, shame and self-hate fester in our minds like psychological wounds, manifesting into a multitude of mental disorders and potentially life threatening decisions. Many of us have been there; I can definitely attest to this.

There are all types of closets, but concealing one’s sexuality, in my opinion, is the most lethal.

Okay, being in the closet sucks. Why not just walk out of it then?

Oh, trust me. I’ve considered it more times than you can imagine, but this is a lot easier said then done. To clarify, I don’t believe the closet’s doors are ever truly locked – everyone can make the active decisions to freely exit. On an individual basis, some people’s situations may be more difficult than others to come out. For Asian-Americans, the pressure of maintaining cultural norms, family values, and fear of disappointment are strong enough reasons to stay hidden. And honestly, I don’t blame any one of them. You need to do what is best for you, and if staying in the closet is best, I fully support that decision. But don’t forget, everyone has the ability to shed their closet. However, at the same time, that’s painfully difficult and almost counterintuitive when that outside world hates you just as much you hate yourself while closeted. It sounds like there’s nothing else to do to save yourself... Suicide doesn’t sound like such a bad exit plan anymore, right?

Wrong.

Just as every heterosexual person has the right to life, so does every gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer individual. We’re all human, and I believe we all deserve the life we were given whether it be from my God or yours. Life is beautiful. You are beautiful. No person or society has the power to strip you of that which you inherently deserve. Fear, anger, sadness, and pain are all emotions just as happiness, acceptance and love are too. We all have the right to feel every single one of these emotions. So what did I do? I walked out of my closet. I fearfully but hopefully stepped into the world that hated me so much because I didn’t want to hate myself any longer. And you know what I discovered? That love is truly attainable. That acceptance and happiness actually exist. That my racial identity does not completely collide with my sexuality. That I am just as beautiful as every other person, gay or straight. Now it hasn’t been easy and it will continue to be difficult. But I rather live this life where I feel all these emotions, both positive and negative, than only endure the painful ones. Life is worth it.

This letter isn’t here to force anyone to make a decision or refrain you from making one. This letter is here to serve as hope. Yes, life does get better. Yes, you are strong. Yes, you are capable of change. Yes, you are loved. Though it may not seem like it now, racial identity and your sexuality can coexist as parts of your whole identity.

You are gay. You are Asian-American. Be proud of who are you. Love yourself no matter what AND always know – you have a friend here at Borderline Free.

Yours Gayly,

Michael

P.S. If you found this post helpful or interesting, please visit my blog www.borderlinefree.com! Though I have not posted in a while, it’s summer now and I have more time to dedicate to my writing! Look out for more posts soon! Thanks for reading!

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.




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Jonathan Patrick 「‘Eat With Me’ Director David Au Discusses LGBT Films, George Takei, And His Start In Filmmaking」

Posted on June 03, 2017 commentaires
Photo Courtesy of David Au

Director David Au has led a life inspired by creativity; from Hong Kong to Hollywood, and from theater to film. Au, who is also a writer and producer, is most recognized for his indie film, #EatWithMe, starring Sharon Omi, Teddy Chen Culver, and George Takei. David and I recently discussed his experiences bringing 「Eat With Me」 to life, how he got started in film, and his upcoming projects.

How did you get into filmmaking? What makes a great film, in your opinion? How did you bring that to 「Eat With Me」?

“I didn’t have a direct path into [filmmaking]. I started doing theater in college. That was my major and I did a lot of directing in theater. I was interested in the storytelling part of it. It’s really fun to work with actors and develop something together and collaborate. I thought I was going to pursue a theater career. Then I took a film class in Chicago, just for the heck of it, and I had a fun time doing it.”

“[There is] something about film that you can compose every shot and every frame to tell the story; I think that’s very interesting. As a control freak, that’s a cool way to sort of get your story out. I think once I found film, I got attached to it. Then I came out to LA and got into film school and that’s history.”

“As far as what’s a good film, I mean there’s so many ways to look at it, but I guess, for me, it’s something that emotes the audience. I love watching movies that make me feel and think, and have the movie linger on in my head after I finished watching it. So, as a filmmaker, that’s what I try to do as well. I like a film that can make people cry, make them laugh. I think that's something that I tried to do in 「Eat With Me」.”

What is your favorite memory from making 「Eat With Me」?

“Just talking about shooting it, getting to make it was the most amazing thing. It did go pretty quickly because we only shot it for fourteen days. Once we got the money, we’re like, “Let'’s shoot it.” And then, two weeks later, we’re done. So everything went by really quickly.”

The day George Takei was there was definitely one of the highlights for everyone on the crew, including me. It was also the longest day of our shoot. We shot eighteen hours from morning to midnight. I was surprised the crew was still there at the end. It was the hardest and also the most fun, the most exciting day. George brought a fun, warm and exciting vibe to the set. He talked to every single person on set, and he was telling different stories to everyone. It was fun to have him there.”

“When we were screening [the film], my favorite screening was in San Francisco during Frameline Film Festival, at the Castro Theatre. It was a full house with 1,200 people. Just seeing it with that many people – people laughing and people crying – it was really something to be in that audience. It was rewarding also because the ride had been on for ten years, and there are a lot of different people along the way who helped us get there. It was nice to actually show it to all these people and let them know that their help was not lost, it’s in the film.”

「Eat With Me」 was, as you mentioned, years in the making, from the film school thesis project, 「Fresh Like Strawberries」, to the feature film. What was it like to see the project conclude after so many years?

“Every stage is a little bit different in terms of how I feel about the film. At this time it is nice because [the film is] out there now, so it’s out of my control. [People] watch it, and they comment on it, and they give us feedback. This has been an interesting stage, because we get to hear people’s thoughts about the film. [It’s] positive stuff mostly; a lot of people relate to the characters and relate to coming out to your family, to parents.”

Your film incorporates both the Asian American and LGBTQ communities. What feedback have you gotten from members of those groups?

“We definitely have a lot of people who are very appreciative in terms of seeing themselves on screen and I think that’s something. I mean even for me too, I watch movies and I don’t see a lot of Asian American people on screen or Asians in general, especially in American cinema. So it’s something that me and my producers and our team really strived to get into the film and I think that’s something people appreciate.”

“Just seeing a young healthy Asian American guy being the lead, and who is also gay and able to be the lead and actually have a storyline, and actually have relationship, have failure in relationship, have a career – all that stuff is relatable to a lot of people, and I think that’s something. It was rewarding to see people relate to him, as well as to Emma, who is a middle aged Asian American woman. The last time I remember there [being] a film that focused on that group was 「The Joy Luck Club」, and I think that was maybe 20 years ago.”

“We also have families, parents with LGBT kids, talking to us about their experience with their kids. That was really rewarding, to get a sense that they see something they feel is relatable. We see there are a lot of LGBTQ films out there now, and not a lot [are] through the parents’ perspective, seeing through their eyes what they have to go through and what their process is like. I think that was interesting to hear their feedback about it.”

What do you think 「Eat With Me」 brings to the table that makes it unique and fresh compared to other films?

“This is something that I’m interested in and that’s why I personally made this film the way I did instead of exploring people dealing with relationships in a very smooth way. With romcoms, every other film that I see is very smooth and generic and obviously they’ll be together at the end. There’s no insecurities.”

“I wanted this film to be less smooth, especially with Elliot’s character and how he deals with life and relationships and ends as a person who is so introverted and unable to speak his mind all the time. So, this was a good opportunity to show him, how he struggles, and how he falls a lot and then how he deals with things, how he escapes from life in general and how to deal with life in general.”

“I also believe that every story has two sides of it, right? So I think for this story particularly, you have your mom’s side and then you have the son’s side. So we kind of see a little bit of both and to have them come together and confront each other. That’s something that was very exciting to me, to show that.”

You’ve shared that the scene where Emma’s husband cuts off his wedding ring is inspired by a true incident where your father did the same thing. What other moments or experiences in your own life did you draw on to write this story?

“That part did happen to my parents. They’re still together but they weren’t very happy with me making this whole story into a movie, but it was a very interesting story when I heard it. I immediately thought in my mind, ‘What if she took it a little bit further and just took off, and then have a whole new life?’”

“So that’s where 「Eat With Me」 came from, and I think that’s actually sort of the only real story from the film. Everything else, different elements of it are true but the actual plot lines are fictional. Definitely there are parts of me and my mom that show up in Emma and Elliot in terms of how they deal with each other, how they communicate. I think they’re very similar and that’s why I wrote those characters.”

“Other aspects of the film are based on a lot of true moments in my relationships with people, friends and partners. That’s all part of it for sure. Like there was that moment with Elliott and his one night stand; the first time he had sex with somebody, and hoping that it might become something, but knowing that it probably won’t. Those are true moments that have definitely happened either to me or other people as well. If was just based on my life, that would be a little bit more boring.”

Which character do you identify with most? What is it about them that you relate to?

“It’s a little bit of a cliche thing to say for me, but I find myself a little bit in every single character. Like, I think with Emma, I have – or at least I want to have – her courage and adventurous personality. That she would just pack up her bags and go and have no regrets; to be at that stage of her life and still wanted to make a change. I think that’s something that is very courageous to me. I can also see part of myself also in Elliot. l, myself, am also kind of an introvert. I don’t know how to vocalize a lot of feelings in the moment. I can definitely see the struggles that he’s dealing with and how he relates to people and finding relationships. I also like to be the fun Maureen as well. I want her humor, her sparks, her way of looking at life.”

How did you decide that the film would focus on Emma and her journey as much as, if not more, than on Elliot and his?

“To me that was a little bit more of an interesting and unique story to tell. I think there is so much struggle within the mother’s character that we don’t see otherwise. I haven’t seen that many stories about an Asian American parent dealing with a gay son. What does that feel like? I think that’s something that was interesting, especially for a woman who was also dealing with issues with her own husband and her own relationship.”

“I was interested in the parallels of the child-parent relationship, and how the parents’ relationships are sometimes moved and transferred to the children’s way of looking at relationships. I think that’s the reason why we focused on it. At one point [Emma and Elliot were] actually pretty 50/50 in the script, but then we decided to go more with Emma.”

If you had to imagine where the characters of 「Eat With Me」 are in their lives now, where would they be?

“I think Emma definitely moved in with Maureen somehow. I think they became roommates. That’s a good sort of dynamic for them to have with each other. I see Emma start dating again. Maybe start dating her ex-husband again. Just having to experience new things – I think she’s in that stage right now that she will try everything. And Elliott, I think I would say he probably opened up the restaurant and I think he’s still stumbling upon relationships. I’m not sure if he’s still with Ian or not, but I think that part is going to take him more time.”

What other projects have you been involved in since 「Eat With Me」? Can we expect more films from you in the future?

“I produced a film with my friend Michelle Ehlen, who was also a producer on 「Eat With Me」. She did a lesbian comedy feature called 「S&M Sally」. It actually just came out online.”

“I’m working on a couple of projects but the one that’s actually in development right now is another dramedy type of film called 「Better Company」. It’s about two best friends: one gay, one straight. It’s actually a gay Caucasian guy and a straight Asian guy. They’re best friends [from] college and the gay friend just got engaged to his partner and the straight guy just found out that his one-night stand got pregnant. They decided to go on a road trip to go see the birth of the baby.”

“It’s a different sort of coming of age story – how life gives you responsibilities that you have to take on, and where you go from there. So there’s a little bit different kind of feel to it, and I think, as a film, it might be a little bit darker than 「Eat With Me」. The film is co-written with Mark Neal and will be produced by both he and Joyce Liu-Countryman. We’re actually hoping to shoot in Eugene, Oregon. I visited there a few years ago, and that was sort of the start of this.”

Check out 「Eat With Me」, available now on iTunes and Netflix, and keep an eye out for David’s upcoming films!

Author: Jonathan Patrick/Date: June 03, 2017/Source: https://moviepilot.com/p/eat-with-me-director-david-au-interview/4275084



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