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Lilting: The Collision Between Western and Chinese Culture

    When viewing all the trailers of the Reelout Film Festival, there is only one movie that fully attracted my attention – Lilting. The reason why it draws my attention is quite simple – the heroine of the movie is a Chinese mother. After viewing the trailer I am really curious about how will this film reveal the conflict between the Western and Chinese culture, because as a Chinese myself, I know clearly what’s most Chinese’ view towards LGBTQ. Here is the trailer of this film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeInPhXR4Gk

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     Lilting talks about the changing relationship between a Cambodian Chinese mother (Junn) and her son’s homosexual partner (Richard), after the death of her son (Kai). Richard, as Kai’s beloved one, decides to take the responsibilities of looking after of Junn. However, Junn never acknowledges his kindness because she cannot accept the care offered by a stranger. Knowing Junn’s identity as a traditional Chineseh mother – who is homophobic because there’s a lot of prejudice, stigma and the like against LGBTQ in traditional Chinese culture – Kai and Richard knows clearly what would it means to Junn if she knows Kai’s true sexual orientation.

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However, because of Richard’s persistent efforts and patience,including finding a translator for Junn to help with her romance with a British old man. great progress is finally made in their relationship. The reason for this success is largely due to Richard ‘s cultural appropriation – using chopsticks and making good Chinese dishes. All these behaviors gains Junn’s favor gradually in the plot.

                           

     One important scene I remember is the argument between Junn and Richard when Junn tell him that she no longer wants to meet the Alan. They both shouted out their indignant and depression that is concealed carefully for the past days. In their conversation, Junn is emphasizing that she is Kai’s mother, and Kai is her only son and also, the only person she could rely on in this foreign land. Therefore, she takes it for granted that she should live with her son instead of Richard, the people have no relation with them. She refuses the care offered by Richard, even doubt his intention of being so caring to her as a stranger. Here, Junn is representing a typical Chinese woman who is influenced deeply by the society characterized by over-emphasized femininities. During 1960s-1990s, women in China are always told to be a good wife and good mother since a young age. They are never taught to pursue their own life, contrarily, they are asked to stay at home – cooking, doing house chores and so on. For example, Junn was placed in the Nursing Home, where there is nothing to worry but to enjoy her remaining years happily. However, Junn would rather to stay with her son all the time, taking care of everything for him. Besides, according to what Richard said, Junn is too dependent on Kai and is pushing too much pressure on him. Here, being subordinated by men is another characteristic of emphasized femininities. As it is introduced at the beginning of the movie, Junn has been in England for over a decade, however, as it is shown in the movie, she cannot speak in English or even understand it at all. We can easily identify that how much Junn rely on Kai, even for the most basic daily communication. This scene plays an important role in the overall importance of the film because it is the first time Junn faces her problems directly, laying a solid foundation for breaking of ice in her relationship with Richard at the end.

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     This is the first time for me to attend a film festival, so I have imagined a lot before attending this special event. Due to the special theme of this festival – queer films, which is controversial in a certain degree, I felt actually a little bit nervous, and also curious. What would be special from my past cinema experience? Will some of my behaviors be considered offensive? However, since the moment I step into the cinema hall, it seems all these questions came to an answer.

      Before the film really begins, the manager announced a lucky number, and the person with that number on her ticket got a set of DVDs as a prize. This activity successfully lightened the mood of the audiences, rendering everyone feels more comfortable and relaxed. During the viewing, everyone just laughed at the funny points, smiled at the sweet scenes, and signs at the sad moments. Everything just seemed so natural and normal. Then I realized that it was just adopting this kind of ordinary heart when viewing, that the respect is fully paid. Acting too courteous and cautious will probably be counterproductive. This experience was really a lesson for me in terms of the authentic meaning of respect.

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Blog 1: Around the World in Eight Ways: Shorts Program

Around the world in 8 ways is a foreign film consisting of seven short cinemas.

Bendik and the Monster

  1. Originated in Norway, Benedik and the Monster is a cartoon about a little boy named Benedik who is pressured to live the “manly” life by his mother’s boyfriend whose bond shows a purely heterosexual In the middle of the movie Benedik meets a monster, which he helps pursue the monsters dream of becoming a singer. In this short film the audience learns to find yourself and to experiment with your identity.

Scaffolding

  1. Scaffolding is about two male nieghbours who capture a relationship and connect over the construction of a their building. In this film the audience gets a grasp of the idea of homosexuality with the reality of two males engaging in a relationship.

Last Farwell

  1. The following film called Last Farewell shows an aging man morning over the loss of his husband, and in the end he finally is able to let go.

Das Phallometer

  1. Das Phallometer that is based on a true story, shows a refugee crossing the border. While being questioned, the refugee admits to being homosexual and is sentenced to a phallometric test.

I love Her

  1. Next to this film a Ukrainian movie, I love her, about a musician who spends her days busking on the street meets a women passing by and together they find love. At the end of the movie it states that the Ukraine is a highly homophobic With a country’s mentality like this, heterosexism is highly affected in the Ukraine, where it is believed that heterosexuality is the normal sexual orientation.

Kuhani

  1. Kuhani, a Uganda based movie orients around a Priest who is prosecuted based on the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act that has been recently passed. It is shown in this film that citizens of Uganda face compulsory heterosexuality as it is seen to be illegal if one engages in a homosexual relationship.

Butterfly

  1. The last film called Butterfly shows a transgender couple who both have Asperger’s and while admitted into the LGBTQ community they confront their own gender identity.

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Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It was interesting to see how different parts of the world deal with the idea of LGBTQ community. Some places around the world have acknowledged the fact that heterosexuality is not the norm for everyone, and accept those who do not fit this gender identity. For example in the movie Das Phallometer the refugee is welcomed to Germany because he passed the absurd phallometeric test. While on the other hand, places such as Uganda one might face serious consequences when admitting to be homosexual. This is shown in Kuhani, where Father Musaala is victimized because of the Anti-Homosexuality Law placed in Uganda. Due to the immense difference in the seven cinemas, the audience gets a grasp of a variety of different camera work, lightning, and visual design. In the movie Benedick and the Monster the audience is exposed to special effects and animation, as the movie is purely cartoon based. On the other hand, Kuhani, the camera work looked very shaky and immature almost as if it was a home video and was filmed on a camera phone. The originality for this movie was definitely unique, as I’ve never experienced a movie that expressed the LGBTQ community in different parts of the world. It is hard to compare this type of move to a movie that is similar, although the film industry around the world expressed LGBTQ people in different ways than Western Society. In Western society I feel is more accepting to LGBTQ. For example, there are more transgender people shown in popular TV or Movies such as Orange is the New Black. Western Society also accepts homosexual relationships on the big screen such as in the TV show Glee, or the movie GBF. Overall, the movie was quite enjoyable and I overall had a splendid time at Reelout.

There is one scene that I really enjoyed in the third movie, the Last Farewell. At the beginning of the movie it is seen that the father resents his daughter because she gave consent for a character named Papa to die. The audience does not know who this Papa person is and what his relationship is to the main characters of the movie. When the father imagines Papa in his presence, it is finally realized that that the Father and Papa are engaged in a homosexual relationship, and are in love. The father explains to Papa that he is angry because he feels that he left him. In the end the Father is able to let it go and move on with his life. Finding out the relationships between these two characters was very shocking, as throughout the film I believed that Papa was the Grandpa. By realizing that the characters were in a love relationship it made a great plot twist and made the move more intriguing. Mystery and curiosity were added to the mix when the director made the characters aware of what is happening while the audience is not aware. Through the fathers relationship with Papa one can understand that heterosexuality does not have to be the norm in every family, and homosexual people are able to live “normal” life as well.

My overall personal experience attending the festival was interesting. My first thought pulling up to the screening room was confusing. When you first walk you see a concession stand on the left, my friend and I were confused and thought we had the wrong address. We then proceeded to upstairs towards the theatre. The theatre was old but gave off a homey feel. The workers there were very personable which overall created an unthreatening environment. The theatre seats were pretty empty but consisted mostly of University students, which made me feel confortable because they were on the same boat as me. There were some local people of Kingston who came to voluntarily came to watch, which was interesting because I didn’t realize the Reelout was that big of a festival. I wish an event such as Reelout were held in my home city, Toronto, so I can attend more movies such as this one.

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Blog One: The Way He Looks

When representatives from Reelout Queer Film Festival originally visited our class to show us trailers of all movies offered this year, The Way He Looks was one of the ones that really caught my eye. The trailer can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBlLAzamSa4

If I’m being honest though, it was not my first choice, but was instead within my top 3 or 4. Needless to say, when I found out that I was not able to view the ones that I would have preferred I was a little disappointed, though still excited in a sense as it seemed like a very intriguing movie nonetheless. The disappointment did not last long; it began to ebb the moment I walked into the room where it would be shown. The excitement mounted while I climbed the stairs, something that I had never done to see a movie before. It was the beginning of a very unique outing. Somehow, I knew it would be a great experience right from the start. Though not tiny, the room was still smaller than I had expected; for some reason, I was imagining a huge room. Still, the atmosphere was friendly and welcoming, and I instantly felt a sense of community, which only grew as anticipation for the film expanded.

The film itself was impressive, and certainly met my expectations and then some. The Way He Looks follows blind 15-year-old Leonardo and his best friend Giovanna as they deal with teenage angst, romance, and other typical teenage problems. When a new kid named Gabriel joins their class, Giovanna is thrilled at the prospect of finding her “prince”. Ironically, when first discussing him with Leonardo she mentions this and questions whether Leonardo is jealous. Shortly thereafter, Leonardo and Gabriel begin spending an increasing amount of time together, leading to Giovanna herself becoming jealous and feeling as if they are leaving her out and possibly leaving her behind as a friend.

The appeal that surrounds Gabriel is quite clear; in an ablest society, those who are differently-abled are often viewed as childlike, incapable of taking care of themselves, or as defects. As stated within Gender, Race, and Popular Culture, “We are the living proof that minds can and do go haywire and that it can happen at any time. Some people aren’t ready for that news, so they react to it with overt anxiety or hostility.” As such, Leonardo is often treated in an overprotective manner such as when his parents are reluctant to allow him to stay home alone, freak out when he doesn’t check in for an hour, or in their refusal to allow him to go abroad due to his lack of sight. His mother even asks who would take someone like him into their home. When treated any other way, it is most commonly in the form of bullying, such as the little quips that Fabio and his group of friends make. It is quite clear that those who are able-bodied hold the power, and seemingly look down on Gabriel or see him as incapable of caring for himself, such as when Fabio declares that if he must sit behind Leonardo in class, he would be forced to help him for the entirety of the day. Gabriel, however, does not view Leonardo as someone who is incapable of doing things viewed as regular, but instead takes him to the movies, asks him to watch a meteor shower with him, and even has him ride a bike at the end of the film.

It becomes increasingly clear that there are romantic feelings between Leonardo and Gabriel, but also apparent is their reluctance to admit these feelings. This us seemingly the first time they have been attracted to someone of the same sex, thus bringing up questions of sexual orientation for the two boys (Gender Spectrum), both for themselves as well as wondering about the sexuality of the other. Unfortunately, in a heteronormative society such as ours where the assumption is that a person is heterosexual unless told otherwise as that is considered the norm, heterosexuality is a large part of the cultural hegemony (Aulette &Wittner, 200). This is exemplified when Leonardo tells Giovanna that he is in love with Gabriel. At first she runs off, unable to discuss it with Leonardo before first processing this new piece of information. A few days later she visits him at his house to discuss it with him and says that she never saw him in that manner. Rather than imagining that he was homosexual, she automatically assumed that he was heterosexual.

After confronting their feelings for each other, the pair kiss and hug before the screen cuts to black and then begins a new scene. In this new scene, Fabio is once again tormenting Leonardo. He teases Leonardo on his close friendship with Gabriel, implying that they are more than friends. In response to this, Leonardo slides his hand down Gabriel’s arm and entwines hand with his new beau. Upon seeing this, Fabio’s friends begin chuckling not at Leonardo and Gabriel but at Fabio and his sudden lack of power over the pair. In a way, this new confidence on Leonardo’s part shows how this film was as much or more about discovering oneself as it was about discovering one’s sexuality. This is important as it shows that while sexuality is a very important part of ones’ identity, there is much more to a person than simply that. In each other, they find themselves.

In fact, the relationship between Fabio and Leonardo is an excellent example of two cases where an intersectional analysis is required when viewing their interactions, specifically in regards to the power structures in effect (Aulette & Wittner, 18). In Western countries, straight, able-bodied white men are generally viewed as those with the most power. In the case of Fabio and Leonardo, both are male but Fabio is both straight and able-bodied, therefore possessing more power than homosexual, differently-abled Leonardo.

While this film provides a fantastic look at homosexuality and differently-abled bodies and could play a large part in raising awareness for those who fit under either or both categories and could be argued as achieving greatness, there were some problematic scenes among those better ones. For one, there were multiple scenes where slut shaming was enforced, such as where Giovanna calls Karina a slut because of her interest in Gabriel, mostly simply because Giovanna herself was interested in Gabriel. Both Giovanna and Leonardo dislike her for this reason, and it is implied that they disliked her before primarily because she was a “slut” for flirting with many boys. It is Gabriel who says that he likes her because she is a nice person, leaving Leonardo hmming and haaaing in response.

Finally, Leonardo experiences relatively positive responses when coming out as homosexual. Giovanna accepts it, and even those who previously bullied him seemed mildly okay with the concept. While this is great and supportive communities such as that do exist, there are often individuals and even whole communities who outright reject those who are not heterosexual, shunning them and tormenting simply for being themselves. This was not exhibited within the film.

Ultimately, I found this to be a fantastic movie and would very much recommend it to anyone who is given the opportunity to see it. It is well worth it, and truly does bring up important topics.

~MeggaPengu

Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith G. Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2012. 18-120. Print.

Daniel Ribiero. The Way He Looks. Brazil, 2014.

“Disability and Ableism .” Gender, Race, and Popular Culture Book 2. Canada: Pearson Custom Library, 2013. Page 37. Print.

“Understanding Gender – Gender Spectrum.” Gender Spectrum. Web. 9 Feb. 2015. <https://www.genderspectrum.org/quick-links/understanding-gender/&gt;.

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The Way He Looks: The Way We Should Always Look At Young Love

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Walking into the Screening Room in downtown Kingston to attend a queer film festival, I had absolutely no expectations of what I was actually getting myself into. Passing the convenience store, I made my way upstairs to be greeted, once again, by the flamboyantly spirited executive director of Reelout, Matt Salton. My pixie cut and I made our way around the corner into Screening Room #1 where we were able to be pleasantly complimented by a group of eclectic, creative, inspiring and passionate individuals who seemed comfortable to sit themselves out of the societal norms usually seen around campus. For once, I felt as though my environment challenged me to embrace the diversity of people around me. Whether it was the person sitting behind me covered from head to toe in various piercings, the person sitting in front of me with bright pink hair, or even the twenty-some-year-old male wearing the most beautiful suede boots I’d ever seen, I knew I was immersed in a group of people that all shared a similar passion for gender, race and sexual diversity – and that felt really refreshing.

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After the lights dimmed and we had seen a few previews for the other films being shown throughout the week, the title I’d be waiting for for weeks came up on the screen in great, big letters: The Way He Looks. This film follows the story of a young blind boy named Leonardo and his best friend Giovanna. Complications arise when they end up both falling for the new kid at school, Gabriel. Therefore, this film not only challenges the medical industrial complex of disability regarding eyesight but also examines its intersection with the discovery of ones queerness and the struggles with the social complex that this brings along.

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This piece of art is able to effortlessly capture the mishaps and mistakes in cliché rom-coms in the most raw and unfiltered way I’ve ever come across in a form of media. It takes cheesy moments of eye contact and flirtation and revolutionizes them to actually show a realm of human emotion and connection. It is so well represented that I forgot the entire film was in Portuguese, accompanied with English subtitles; and that says quite a bit, seeing as I have never been able to get through a film with subtitles in my life! The characters were well developed and able to portray exceptional interpretations of love and self-discovery. I would have to argue that the chemistry between the two male-identified lovers would make even the most homophobic person in the world rethink their views on same-sex relationships. When the credits began to roll, one of my close friends turned to me and through teary eyes said, “I don’t understand how anyone living and breathing could ever think that there is something wrong with that.” I believe this to be the take-away and intent of this piece of art. It took seriously controversial approaches on ability, sexuality, friendship, family and growing up and turned them into relatable and touching elements of every day life.

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I especially enjoyed how Gabriel and Leo used each other as means of discovery. For once, a queer film was able to depict the coming out of these two young men as a realization of love, rather than a realization of sexuality. Leonardo did not have to tell Giovanna that he was experiencing homosexuality, but merely that he was experiencing love. It was true and it was pure. It was not weighted with labels or heteronormative confusion. Giovanna was initially jealous, because she had made the assumption that Gabriel was interested in her. Yet, once she truly opened her eyes to the way Gabriel looked at Leo, she supported their love and valued their friendships once again. Similarly, at the beginning of the film, we see the group of cliché bullies making fun of Leo and Gabriel’s ‘bromance’, however, once the two of them express the true love in their relationship, the discriminatory barriers disintegrate and the bullies becomes powerless. All negative comments, whether they be about Leo’s disability to see, or his sexual preference towards Gabriel are no longer relevant. I think this is an extremely important message for youth coming out because it focuses on self-love and self-confidence.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of attending this film with my peers was the feeling of the audience’s journey; as if we ourselves were coming-of-age. From the moment that Gabriel entered Leo’s classroom on the first day and took the seat behind him, we became obsessed with this confusion of inner desire and adventure. Every moment the two boys would spend together alone, the audience would breathe in deeply in suspense that this might be the first time they realize there is something electric between them. By the time they ended up having their first real kiss, there was this beautiful, simultaneous sigh of relief in the room. It was as if I could feel the corners of everyone’s mouths stretching to the sidewalls of the theatre. It was at this moment that I realized the importance of live-art viewings. Even if the art you’re experiencing is pre-recorded, there is something emotionally invigorating about going on a journey with your fellow theatregoers. I would highly recommend viewing this film for yourself, even if it is in the comfort of your own bed because the elements of this story are enough to transport you elsewhere. It can be found online here – http://putlocker.is/watch-the-way-he-looks-online-free-putlocker.html

– The Funky Phoenix