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. This month, GAY45 staff writer and editor Miruna Tiberiu watched some of its content as part of a brand-new film bulletin. Here are some of her recommendations!
Sleep with Me (2022), Samantha Lee, Philippines
When wheelchair-bound Harry, a DJ who hosts the titular late-night radio show Sleep with Me, and Luna, a science textbook writer who has lost her sense of purpose in life, accidentally run into each other one night, they instantly feel a connection. We follow their budding romance, along with all the fate-driven coincidences that bring them together, and the obstacles that their very different lives bring to their relationship. The show comes with the typical sapphic quirks; awkward first kisses, and queer friendships and exes who magically appear when you least want them to. It also covers, in a nuanced way, discussions of both visible and invisible disability, as well as mental illness, all whilst maintaining a heart-warming, queer-affirming atmosphere.
Watch Sleep with Me here.
Eternal Yesterday (2022), Keiichi Kobayashi, Japan
Whilst initially ticking all the boxes of the classic high-school romance (neat uniforms, classroom gossip, different cliques which cannot, of course, mix with others), Eternal Yesterday emerges as so much more than that. We follow Mitsuru, a lone wolf who prefers to eat lunch alone and doesn’t talk to his classmates much, and Koichi, the most popular boy in his class who plays basketball, as they become friends, and begin to question their feelings for each other. They don’t get much time to brood over their emerging queer sexuality, however, because at the end of the first episode we are introduced to an unexpected plot twist (which I won’t spoil, but I promise you won’t see it coming) that changes their lives completely. The rest of the series explores how the two boys adapt to this change, using elements of horror and fantasy to explore more intimate themes of queer identity and young love.
Watch Eternal Yesterday here.
The Elephant Joke (2020), Kang Rim, Korea
What happens when a broken-up lesbian couple, a cat, and a deserted fridge meet? After breaking up, Yeo-Bin and Hae-Kwang attempt to find a new home for their cat. They travel out to the countryside to meet the cat’s new owner, and their car, of course, breaks down in the midst of a leafy valley, miles away from civilization. The only remnant of civilization is a broken fridge, decorated with pink rainbow stickers. The couple are now faced with two choices: do they ignore the fridge, and accept this wilful blindness, or do they try to open it and potentially save whatever creature has been trapped inside? Following the titular elephant joke, the viewer is invited to leave behind their sense of logic and accept the film’s warped fantasy instead. Merging, once again, elements of thriller and horror, this masterfully shot short film captures perfectly the intricacies of falling in and out of love within a claustrophobic society.
Watch The Elephant Joke here.
Fragrance of the First Flower (2021), Angel I-Han Teng, Taiwan
Set in the year after Taiwan’s legalization of gay marriage, this TV drama presents the changing political climate and the growing acceptance of queer couples into mainstream Taiwanese society. Turning the romantic trope of the ‘meet-cute’ on its head, our two protagonists, Yi-Ming and Ting-Ting, encounter each other years after the end of their romance at a wedding reception venue, where Yi-Ming, who had come to attend a heterosexual wedding, is surprised to accidentally join a queer wedding, and even more surprised to find Ting-Ting, her old fling from high school, there too. We are then led through a back-and-forth of flashbacks to the past and the present reunion of these two lovers. The show poignantly captures compulsory heterosexuality and internalized homophobia as well as the sweet, slow, flourishing of queer love. It is a heart-warming snapshot of a historical moment in queer rights, one which signals a future-oriented move toward acceptance.
Watch Fragrance of the First Flower here.
If you liked the sound of these, check out more of what is on offer on GagaOOLala!
Miruna Tiberiu is an editor of GAY45. She is an undergraduate student at Cambridge University. She has written for numerous publications, including The Cambridge Review of Books, and the Cambridge Language Collective. She is also the co-founder and co-editor of Cambridge’s first all-queer magazine, Screeve. Miruna is currently in Paris carrying out her dissertation research on Franco-Romanian cinema and hopes to continue this work as a postgraduate at Cambridge. To keep up with her work, follow her on Instagram or Twitter @mirunii_t.