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 more of its content as part of the second instalment of her monthly film bulletin. Here are some of her recommendations!
Firecracker (2022) dir. Caroline Guo, China/United States
Set against the background of Lunar New Year celebrations, this short film is a fitting watch for this season. The film takes place over one evening in a Beijing apartment, and follows our protagonist, Annie Wang, and her Asian-American girlfriend Sam, as they celebrate their anniversary. Taking the titular Firecracker as a metaphor for the intensity of a queer first love, as well as generational trauma and the first-generation experience, the film tackles Annie’s growing inner tensions waiting to explode, as she must decide whether to keep Sam a secret from her conservative Chinese family during an upcoming reunion, or to stay true to her identity and reveal everything. The image of the firecracker brings with it allusions to change. its visceral crackling, burning smell, and whirlwind of colours trigger an odyssey through memories of the past for Annie. She remembers shared moments with her family as a child, as well as the previous Lunar New Year, when her and Sam shared their first kiss amongst the fiery colours of the firecrackers. Annie is also gifted a camera by Sam, in order to be able to immortalise these memories in the future. She is instructed by Sam to ‘change the world’. Will she be able to accept this new leaf of internalised change? The film does not draw such conclusions, leaving us instead with a sweeping piano soundtrack that bleeds into uplifting guitar riffs as the end credits roll, and the old and the new become one.
Watch Firecracker here.
Her Mothers (2020) dir. Asia Der and Sari Haragonics, Hungary
Moving into the political climate of Eastern Europe, the documentary Her Mothers follows a lesbian couple in modern-day Hungary, Virag and Nora, throughout their process of adopting a child. We are given an insight into their everyday life through home-video-like shots from their house in the suburbs, a life which is always haunted by chilling radio announcements of new homophobic laws put into place by the Hungarian government to crack down on a so-called ‘homosexual perversion’. These news announcements pierce the couple’s serene familial life as they play in the background over shots of a shared meal, or a morning kiss, reminding us of the dystopic realities lived by queer people in the still-hostile societies of Eastern Europe. Unable to get married, and unable to adopt a child as a couple (Virag resorts to adopt a child as, on paper, a single parent), the couple nevertheless attempt to create a cocoon of normality in their microcosm. On the one hand, a call to arms against the inhumane treatment of the LGBT+ community in Hungary, and on the other, a family portrait woven out of memories, shared pockets of happiness between two mothers and their infant daughter, this documentary achieves an all-too-rare reminding the viewer that rights can be taken away at any moment all whilst normalising queer parenthood in a heart-warming way.
Watch Her Mothers here.
Xiao Lin (2021) dir. WU Xuan, China
Continuing the exploration of the queer experience within a family context, WU Xuan’s short film tells the story of the titular Xiao Lin, a college freshman returning home to his single father and grandmother during the holidays. A closeted gay man, he is met with incessant questions about his fictional girlfriend as his family members force him into skewed imaginations of what his future will look like to them. This future includes a ‘good’ wife, children, and a family home which Xiao’s father reveals he has bought for his son in an unpleasant surprise. The film traverses a series of borders; between Xiao’s future at university and past in his family home, between familial obligations to buy into the heterosexual lifestyle and a proposed alternative embodied by the mysterious writer whom Xiao meets on a gay dating app. Wide tracking shots capture this contrasting landscape as Xiao and the writer wander through it, talking about literature, queerness, and shame. Xiao is trapped by these lifestyles which are imagined for him throughout the film, emerging confused, and scared, no longer sure what life he even wants to live for himself anymore. A quiet drama about family relationships which subtly critiques the attitudes towards homosexuality in modern-day China, Xiao Lin is a thought-provoking must-see coming-of-age story.
Watch Xiao Lin here.
If you liked the sound of these, check out more of what is on offer on GagaOOLala!
By Miruna Tiberiu
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.