During Pride, we are celebrating the ways we are #ProuderTogether. Yi from Queer East talks about the importance of queer representation in the media, and of amplifying the voices of Asian communities in the UK.
Founded in 2019, Queer East is a London-based community-focused cultural organisation that aims to shine a spotlight on LGBTQ+ stories and experiences, both from and about East and Southeast Asia, and amplify the voices of Asian communities in the UK. The organisation runs an annual film festival and year-round cultural events across the UK.
It has been over half a century since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK, but stereotyping, discrimination, and misrepresentation still exist. This is especially true for LGBTQ+ people of colour, who are often marginalised both for their race and sexual orientation, and are excluded from mainstream discourse.
Significant progress and landmark rulings have been made across Asia in recent years. However, challenges and obstacles that many are still facing remain. In the UK, especially in London, Asians are one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups, but it seems that we still lack an understanding about these communities.
Queer representation in the media is strongly linked to the wider public’s views on LGBTQ+ communities.
Arts and culture reflect society and are mediums capable of raising awareness amongst the public in a direct and accessible way. Queer representation in the media is strongly linked to the wider public’s views on LGBTQ+ communities. Hence, I feel it is crucial that we bring more on-screen representation of queer Asian and diasporic communities to uplift their voices, and bridge the cultural distance between Asia and the wider society.
Originally planned for April 2020, the first edition of the Queer East Film Festival was disrupted significantly by the COVID-19 outbreak. While cinemas had to close their doors, the organisation shifted to virtual space and created two online series, QE: HomeSexual and QE: Docs4Pride in April and July respectively. Returning in the autumn, our main festival was reimagined as a season-long showcase in a hybrid format, with a programme of 36 films incorporating classic retrospectives and new releases spanning over 50 years of queer filmmaking in Asia. Altogether, with our two virtual series and a hybrid festival, we have screened 55 films from 17 countries across the Asian continent and beyond, championing the diverse voices of queer Asian storytelling.
To mark the Pride season this year, Queer East returns to cinemas across London with a diverse set of films from China, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, and the UK, exploring how culture, law, history, and social norms have shaped the current queer landscape in East and Southeast Asia. The film programme includes Japanese maestro Toshio Matsumoto’s kaleidoscopic masterpiece Funeral Parade of Roses (1969), Oscar-winning director Ang Lee’s gay romantic comedy The Wedding Banquet (1993), a Taiwanese blockbuster GF*BF (2012) and 2015 BAFTA nominee, Lilting. The series continues in July, featuring the UK premiere of Memories of My Body (2018), Indonesia's official submission for the 2020 Oscars, the 2019 Berlinale Teddy Jury Award-winner A Dog Barking at the Moon (2019), the UK premiere of As We Like It (2021), an all-female queer reworking of Shakespeare's play, and documentary The Two Lives of Li Ermao (2019), charting the life experience of a transgender migrant worker in Southern China.
Film is one of the most direct and accessible mediums able to shine a light on issues.
Global events in the past year, from Covid-19-related anti-Asian attacks to the Black Lives Matter movement, have once again reminded us how vital fair and authentic racial and sexual representation is for our society. Film is one of the most direct and accessible mediums able to shine a light on issues and situations that people just weren’t aware of before.
By showing films ... we can provide a platform for under-represented Asian and diasporic communities to share their history
By showing films that people might not otherwise get a chance to see, we can provide a platform for under-represented Asian and diasporic communities to share their history, stories and what it means to be Asian and queer today. Advancing LGBTQ+ rights requires a collective approach, and we think it is important that Queer East plays a part in this, as a joint force together with many other allies. Together, we can work on tackling the inequalities both outside and within the LGBTQ+ communities, and ensure the full diversity of the queer community is well reflected through the power of cultural activism.
The second edition of Queer East Film Festival will be returning in London and across cities nationwide this autumn. To stay in touch with our upcoming events, you can subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.