The Queer East Film Festival returns to independent cinemas across London

From ground-breaking new releases to classical retrospectives, these are the Asian LGBTQ+ films you need to know about

Following on from the runaway success of its inaugural showing last year, the Queer East Film Festival is back, taking over independent cinemas across London to showcase the finest talent from East and Southeast Asia. Running from Wednesday 15 – Sunday 26 September, this year’s programme includes a selection of 37 features, short films and artists’ moving image works from 15 countries, including a premiere from one of Japan’s most exciting new directors and a screening of one of the most iconic gay films in the Mandarin-speaking world.

The festival provides a much-needed platform for the voices of Asian communities in the UK, many of whom have often been excluded from mainstream discourse, despite Asians being one of Britain’s fastest-growing ethnic groups. Alongside the films, the festival will also host a series of online panel discussions with international guests, opening up discussions around topics including women in the film industry and the development of Asian LGBTQ+ movements. Drawing on the fact that the pursuit of legal protection for marriage equality and same-sex families has been one of the main focal points in campaigns for LGBTQ+ rights in Asia, this year’s programme has a particular focus on ‘family’.

The festival opens with the UK premiere of Daughters, the directorial debut of Japan’s Hajime Tsuda, who has garnered a name for himself as an artist and leading event director in the Japanese fashion world. Other notable films on show include a 20th anniversary screening of Stanley Kwan’s Lan Yu, one of the most critically acclaimed queer films in the Mandarin-speaking world, South Korea’s award-winning drama Moonlit Winter, and drag comedy Number 1 from Singapore. 

The festival will close with the UK premiere of the multi-award-winning Dear Tenant, directed by Taiwanese filmmaker Yu-Chieh Cheng, which explores whether, following the legalisation of same-sex marriage in 2019, Taiwanese society is ready to accept families who dare to break with conventional norms.

The films will be shown at independent cinemas across the capital, who have struggled since the Coronavirus pandemic hit last year. Curzon Soho, Hoxton and Bloomsbury will all be hosting screenings, as well as the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square, Genesis Cinema in Bethnal Green and the Lexi Cinema in Kensal Rise. Alongside screening the films, the cinemas will also be hosting additional pre-screening introductions and special Q&As with a selection of filmmakers.

“By showcasing films that challenge conventional understandings of family kinship, I hope to provoke a conversation about how we understand and interpret the meaning and formation of family, through an alternative queer lens, even when the films do not include obvious. LGBT storylines,” says Festival Director and Programmer Yi Wang. “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.

LGBTQ+ people have had labels, stereotypes and stigmas imposed on them for a long time. For me, queer is a word without consistent meaning, and we should not settle on a one-note definition. I believe that film is one of the most direct and accessible mediums that allows us to address issues and situations that people simply weren’t aware of before. Films enable us to construct a more positive, inclusive and dynamic LGBTQ+ narrative both outside and within the LGBTQ+ communities.”

The Queer East Film Festival runs from 15 – 26 September 2021

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