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:


     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.


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.


     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.


3 thoughts on “Lilting: The Collision Between Western and Chinese Culture

  1. Wow Jacqueline! You’ve made some really important points here. First, I’d like to say thank you for taking the time to explain aspects of a culture that you hold so dearly, that may or may not be considered controversial in regards to the queer and trans communities. Your point of view was not only enlightening, but thought-provoking. Your references to the historical positionalities of women in China was very important to your overall message, and they were placed intelligently and effectively.

    Seeing a film that you were initially interested in has really shone through in the passion of your writing and your attention to detail in regards to the plot of the film.

    I especially enjoyed your account of your personal experiences at the festival. Going in feeling nervous, although I cannot personally relate, is a very valid and justified feeling given the historical context and upbringing you provided in your writing. I’m very glad to hear that you were able to relax and become comfortable in the space – as spaces like these are meant to be supportive and safe for anyone, regardless of their own sexual or gender identities. The small snippet you shared with us of your own personal transformation while in the theatre, really goes to show how we need to push ourselves outside of our own comfort zones to truly understand the people around us. Hearing about your new found respect was uplifting and gave me hope for many of the other people in this world who have yet to experience this state of ease.

    It is hard to believe that this is your first time in an english-speaking country with writing like this! You’ve inspired me to keep learning new languages in the pursuit of my studies.

    I can’t wait to read what else you have to post over the semester! 🙂


  2. I really enjoyed how you included the image of a typical woman in China. It is crazy to think that women are so oppressed in China that they have to limit their daily activities to the dimensions of their home, or live their lives by subordinated by men. It is interesting to see how these characteristics are implemented in this film, and these actions towards Chinese women influence the way a women might grow up to be. Is to interesting to think how different our society sees women and acts towards them in contrast to how they treat women in China. Coming from a Chinese background myself, I see the image of a typical woman in China in my Grandma. She holds many of the characteristics that you mentioned for instance, staying at home either cooking, doing chores and so on. She also allows my Grandpa’s opinion to influence her decision on many things. But because my parents have immersed themselves in Western culture, being the first generation in Canada, they have adopted the Western gender roles. There are some of the same gender roles seen in China for instance my mother does most of the cooking in the hose, but they are not as extreme as those in China.

    I also enjoyed how you inputted your feelings when talking about your experience before going to the festival. After reading that you felt a bit nervous, and also curious, I felt relieved that someone was on the same boat as me, as I too felt the same when walking up the stairs towards the theatre. However after experiencing the warm-hearted environment I felt more comfortable. As well taking us through your experienced made me feel like I was right there with you! I really glad that it was a good lesson in terms of authentic meaning of respect!

    I also found it interesting that Junn never acknowledges Richards kindness because she cannot accept the care from a stranger. As in our society it is typical place our elders in homes where strangers who take care of them twenty-four seven surround them. They see their patients naked and have to help them at the hardest times of their lives. It is crazy to think that Junn did not want this kind of help.

    AS well I’m glad that you included the trailer and great summary of the movie as now I want to go see it!


  3. I found your personal insight to be quite interesting, and it certainly lends a unique brand of criticism to the mix. I really enjoyed reading about your own experiences, and feel as if I’ve learned a lot from it.

    I also liked how you incorporated cultural appropriation into your analysis, as I believe that that is a very important thing. One’s culture and all that comes with it is a very important part of their identity, and yet too often people claim that immigrants should leave their cultural heritage behind and completely adopt the culture of the country they move to. I think the idea that Richard respected the fact that Junn retained her cultural heritage and even attempted to learn more about it is fantastic, and is something that should be more common.

    I wonder- while Richard is clearly an important character in attempting to achieve great strides towards a more accepting society, is the character of Junn perhaps somewhat problematic? I haven’t seen the film so I can not say for sure, but it seems as if her character reflects a stereotypical view of Asian women, particularly those who are elderly. While I understand that this was necessary and that it does in some sense show the issues faced when dealing with people who are prejudiced towards homosexuals, especially when that prejudice is built into their culture, I also feel as if it may promote negative stereotypes and further spread them to a wider audience. However, I also understand that it is true to an extent, as it was a societal norm years ago.

    Overall, I thought you had a good review. It seems as if it was a fantastic movie, and it certainly appears that your personal insight furthered your comprehension of the film.



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