worked as Festival director of the Hong Kong
Lesbian and Gay Film Festival since 2000,
I discovered that each year we struggled to
find queer films made by Asians. Those that
were made usually came from Asia and dealt
mainly with ‘coming-out’ problems and the
frustrations of being gay. Tones were usually
sad. I wanted to watch a film about modern
gay Asian lives. A film which asks ‘What happens
to gay men once when they have accepted their
queerness? Do they live gaily ever after?’
So I set out to write a romantic comedy which
dealt with these questions in a humorous way.
I decided to base the film in Britain
because having lived in London for most part
of my life, I realised that there is still
a distinct lack of Asian voices in the British
media. A few more Chinese faces have been
seen selling mobile phones, deodorant and
washing powder on television in recent years
but is that all we have been waiting for?
Even in the new millennium, the Chinese continue
to be depicted as waiters, prostitutes and
gangsters. Has the evolution of multicultural
representation left the Chinese behind?
The main characters in CUT SLEEVE
BOYS do not suffer the ‘fresh off the boat’
mentality of finding it hard to assimilate
into mainstream society. These characters
have done it so well they have become the
city itself – confident, successful and sophisticated,
with the power to choose. They are a new generation
of British Chinese who dare to and can have
A common misconception
of gay Chinese men is that they are all effeminate.
Even though I wrote Ash as a very effeminate
gay man, I wanted to turn this stereotype
on its head. At the end of his journey, we
discover it takes a true man to dare to be
effeminate. In the modern scene, gay men are
restricted by a self imposed ‘straight’ jacket
which they feel pressurised to wear. Camp
men are at the bottom of the hierarchy in
the cruising ground. Is this a form of inverted
homophobia? What is the point of coming out
of the closet when you cannot be yourself?
And what if you are attracted to someone who
is as camp as you? Is distressed denim the
new rainbow flag?
In contrast to Ash’s feminineYing,
I created Mel, the masculine Yang. Chinese
men are rarely seen as sex symbols in Western
media. In Mel’s case, not only is he aware
of his sex appeal, he uses it. He is a muscle
Mary who fits right into the gay scene. A
circuit boy who is so assimilated, he is no
longer satisfied with just one party or one
lover. But where does a gay man go when the
party is over? What if his name is no longer
on the guest list?
Some friends who first read the script
commented that there were not enough references
to the characters’ Chineseness. In fact, one
comment I got was once the characters were
introduced you forgot they were Chinese. This
was a conscious decision. Is the character’s
yellow skin not enough to remind the audience
that they are of a different race? Must they
also encounter ‘Chinese’problems like family
pressure, immigration issues, inability to
communicate with a few drug trafficking or
triad attacks thrown in for good measure to
demonstrate their Chineseness?
Although the film
focuses on two gay Chinese characters, I believe
their problems are universal. With today’s
media obsession with youth, beauty and the
perfect relationship everyone is conditioned
to take that Botox injection. We live longer
but are we serving double time on our mid-life
crisis? In today’s world, is maintaining a
youthful appearance not just narcissistic
but a necessity? And is finding love just
another insurance policy?
Ultimately this film
asks many questions and tries to suggest some
answers. But of course nothing is ever conclusive.
However, what the ending does show is that all
the main characters are in one way or another
looking for their identity. Perhaps this is
the theme for all my films – our constant search
for self-acceptance, that sense of belonging
and that moment of tranquillity.
- Ray Yeung
|Writer/Director Ray Yeung
Ray Yeung, chairman of the Hong Kong Lesbian and
Gay Film Festival Society, has been running the
Festival since 2000. During which time he also worked
as an art director for feature films such as ‘Gimme,
Gimme’, (nominated in four categories including Best Film in the 2002 Taipei Golden Horse Award) and ‘I Hate You So’ shot by Oscar winning
cinematographer Peter Pao.
As director and art director for Television commercials,
Ray has worked for clients including Coca Cola,
MacDonalds and HSBC. A Seven-Eleven commercial he
directed was voted Top Ten Most Popular Commercial
by Asia Television.
A qualified lawyer with a MA in Media studies,
Ray has directed stage plays in Hong Kong and London
including ‘Banana Skin’ written by himself and ‘The
Third Sex’, written by Chowee Leow.
For British television, he directed and produced
‘The Race’, a pilot
magazine programme highlighting the cultural diversity
of Britain for
London Weekend Television. Other television credits
‘Hysteria’, ‘Juke Box Jury’, ‘The Last laugh’ and
Ray has written and directed three short films:-
‘A Chink in the
Armour’, ‘A Bridge to the Past’, funded by the British
and ‘Yellow Fever’ which won the Audience Award
Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and is being distributed by
CUT SLEEVE BOYS is Ray’s first feature.