In recent years, courtesy of social changes, stories about LGBT are not unfamiliar with the audience in Asia. There are several gay movies produced in Asia, starring Asian actors. However, if you have a close look, you will realize that the titles are quite similar with each other in terms of subject, such as incitement of youth.
But how about gay people who are middle-aged or older? Is it not possible to find an Asian gay men in their 50s or 60s?
‘Suk Suk’ is a moving gay drama, portraying a middle-aged gay couple living in Hong Kong. The film was released in 24th Busan International Film Festival, in the A Window on Asian Cinema section. Asian Movie Pulse met the director Ray Yeung at the festival.
What motivated you to start this film?
Ray Yeung: I wanted to make a Cantonese film, which is my native language. I read a book that was published by Hong Kong University that interviewed 12 middle-aged gay men in Hong Kong. When the interviewer asked one closet gay man whether he regrets not to have revealed his sexual identity, the response from the man was, ‘Once a refugee, now I have a family and house, why should I have regrets?’
Western Culture says, ‘to be yourself’, and it encourages coming out. However, in Asia, it is a different story. It is very challenging. Also, people in their 60s or 70s had financial difficulties when they were young.What about the cast? Was it not difficult to find actors?
Actually, it was difficult to find fitted ones in their 60s or 70s. Hong Kong actors back in the 1960s or 1970s, the actors used to be action stars rather than actors. And some actors were not willing to take gay roles. Even when they said okay, it was not unconditional, they requested additional conditions like no sex, no hug, no kiss. How can you make a romance movie without those things? Then I met actors Ben(Hoi) and Tai Bo(Pak). I broadened the scoop of search even in Taiwan, and Tai Bo was in Taiwan too. He read the script during the Christmas holidays, and after the new year, he accepted the role.
But the cast in the movie looks perfectly regular, as ordinary Hong Kong men from the street. And shooting locations look like a middle-class neighbourhood.
Yes, I tried to find a man who does not follow the stereotype of gay, but a man you can easily bump into within your daily routine. To do so, I also choose locations in Kowloon, such as Sham Sui Po, Yau Ma Tei, Jordan or Shek Kip Mei.
And the two families in the movie look quite different, don’t they?
Yes, I mean, Pak’s family members are fully attached to each other; on the contrary, Hoi’s family is quite obsessed with the responsibility. In Asia, it is like a responsibility to support your parents and take care of your family. While comparing one to the other, in fact, the latter one is sincerely Christian. And the son of Hoi, who looks very cold to his dad, is highly likely he knows about his father’s secret.
The worshipping of Hoi’s family, and going to church, those are similar to a conversion camp. And his son insists his father come, to convert his father’s sexuality.
Do you think Pak loved or loves his wife regardless of his sexuality?
Yes, there are several shapes of love, not only romance but several others. Old couples like them survive together and support each other, like business partners. I think between them there is a certain affection, for sure.
Do you think being gay in Hong Kong is difficult now and then?
It is different now, with some activists’ actions. However, it was quite tricky, especially when it was in the 1960s or 1970s. They used to be living in a poor environment. They usually had to have two or three jobs, at least, to make their living. So, these people even did not know what being gay meant. And back then, gay was considered as a kind of disease too.
How about now? Has the situation changed significantly? In the movie, an aged gay man is refused to voice out for their nursing home.
It still has a long way to go. Like in a nursing home, for example, in Hong Kong, even a heterosexual couple cannot live together when they are in the nursing home. The government spending deals only with surviving. Still, it does not think aged people have a desire as young people. In that sense, a gay nursing home is of course not accepted yet.
It sounds like they are not welcomed.
Even within gay communities, old ones are discriminated, ageism prevails. When I had an interview, one man told me that he was rejecting from getting a membership for a gay sauna in town. One employee said it is not available, but he told me that the sauna staff let a young guy next to him have a membership. Being attractive is critical, but how about when people get old? Why can’t older people not come out because of their age?
It is easy to consider the elderly do not have any emotion, feeling. But do you think it is that different after 20 or 30 years? That sexual desire is gone? People still want to look attractive regardless of their age. And it is not far awayfrom us, we will get old, too.