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director statement

Having 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 it all!


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?

rayAlthough 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 include
‘Hysteria’, ‘Juke Box Jury’, ‘The Last laugh’ and ‘The Happening’.

Ray has written and directed three short films:- ‘A Chink in the
Armour’, ‘A Bridge to the Past’, funded by the British Arts Council,
and ‘Yellow Fever’ which won the Audience Award in Madrid
Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and is being distributed by
Frameline Distribution.

CUT SLEEVE BOYS is Ray’s first feature.