Monthly Film Bulletin: GagaOOLala

By Miruna Tiberiu

GagaOOLala is a Taiwan-based streaming service which aims to bring together queer stories of all genres from around the world. As the first LGBT-focused media platform in Asia, GagaOOLala curates feature films, shorts, documentaries, and series from the past few years, as well as producing its own original content. In the run up to World AIDS Day at the start of December, this month’s film bulletin is dedicated to LGBT+ films that delve into the experience of living with HIV today, particularly in non-Eurocentric contexts. A commemoration of the lives we have lost, and a reminder of how far we have come in the battle for queer medical rights, these films are heartwarming, hopeful, and innovative. Here are our recommendations.

The Day Began Yesterday (2020), dir. Julián Hernández

A quiet, gorgeous romantic drama shot in ochre and jade tinted hues, The Day Began Yesterday follows the transformative encounter between two queer men who meet in the bathroom of an HIV clinic in Mexico. Orlando, a university gymnast, has been living with HIV for a while, refusing to allow his diagnosis to prevent him from living his youthful years, learning about desire, and finding love. Saul, on the other hand, gets diagnosed early on in the film and finds himself rethinking everything about his lifestyle, his future, and his very identity. Whilst at first polar opposites, the two learn from each other as they become closer and fall in love. The film’s director Julián Hernández does not point the audience towards either perspective, but rather allows the two protagonists to change in the film’s real time, which makes for a poignant narrative of transformation and affirmation of identity whilst living with HIV in modern day. The two build this egalitarian relationship of trust as their relationship blossoms – placed within this context, the sex scene between the two is beautiful, raw, and refreshingly genuine. Whilst tinged with the trauma suffered by the generation of the LGBT+ community who lived through the AIDS Epidemic not that long ago, Hernández’ short immortalises a battle won, at least in part, where his protagonists are not fated to a life of only suffering and ostracization.

Watch The Day Began Yesterday here.

The Way (2019) dir. Chandler Huang

This Taiwanese documentary short takes us on a heartwarming queer pilgrimage. The film follows Hua Paung, a HIV-positive gay man who is part of the ‘HIV+ hugs’ organisation spreading information about living with HIV/AIDS as well as fighting discrimination towards HIV-positive individuals in Taiwan. Aside from his activist work, giving back to the community that acted as his found family when his biological relatives kicked him out following his diagnosis, Hua Paung is also a follower of Matsu, and dreams about one day organising an LGBT+ group to complete the annual Dajia Matsu pilgrimage, carrying flags that symbolise the goddess’ sons and daughters and walking alongside her on a monumental 300km journey. This is where Hua Paung’s two pilgrimages intersect. As we follow his daily life, occasionally delving into his often-traumatic past, we realise that, despite living in modest conditions, despite losing contact with his family, and having to live in a halfway house for part of his adult years, he remains happier than ever to simply be alive and to help others. An intimate portrait of life with HIV in contemporary Taiwan, this short captures a worldview of a more tolerant future that is dynamic and larger-than-life, much like the film’s own community of queer characters.

Watch The Way here.

Lines (2019), dir. Kyle Jumayne Francisco

Set over the span of a few hours, as the day slowly trickles away into the night, this short centres around a father-son relationship in the face of HIV diagnosis. Andrei, a young gay man living in the Philippines, takes an at-home HIV test which comes back positive. Meanwhile, we delve into the world of their family setting as the film alludes to a certain tragedy that has occurred, leaving Andrei’s father to raise his son alone whilst still grieving the loss of his wife. Blunt, occasionally avoidant, and somewhat awkward around his son, Andrei’s father steps up to the parenting task in a tear-jerking gesture. Andrei tells his father about his positive test, bursting into tears at the thought of being left alone to deal with this life change. His father, however, comforts Andrei in his own way. Placing a hand on his arm and letting him know that he will accompany him to the clinic as soon as possible, all whilst scooping a steaming portion of Andrei’s favourite stew into his bowl, Andrei’s father attempts to connect with his son. A short tale of overcoming dysfunctional family relationships in the face of hardship, and one centring a positive experience of opening up to parents about queerness that is not seen in cinema often enough, Lines is sure to instil a certain faith in love.

Watch Lines here.


If you liked the sound of these, check out more of what is on offer on GagaOOLala!  

Miruna Tiberiu is the Managing Editor of GAY45. She is a student at Cambridge University. Tiberiu has written for numerous publications, including The Cambridge Review of Books, and the Cambridge Language Collective. She is the co-founder and co-editor of Cambridge’s first all-queer magazine, Screeve. Tiberiu is currently long-listed for the International News Media Association (INMA)’s “30 Under 30” Awards 2023.

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