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. This month, Miruna Tiberiu is back with more recommendations of the freshest queer cinema out there. The three short films below are linked by a fierce desire to embrace identity and dream big that accompanies childhood. They portray a search for understanding between parents and queer children in search of a more accepting world.

 

In His Island, dir. Christian Candelaria

Panning past swathes of mangroves and peaceful waters, Candelaria’s camera finds Dinggoy, an eight-year-old living in a small fishing village in the Philippines. One day at school, he is set a task: he must prepare a presentation and dress up as who he wants to be when he grows up. Enraptured by the mythical presence of mermaids felt in his world, he begins to imagine himself turning slowly into one. In preparation for his big reveal at school, Dinggoy practices his mermaid swim, imagines what the depths of the ocean look like, and weaves together his costume with the help of his diligent, fiercely loving mother. When his new self isn’t received as warmly as he had hoped, Dinggoy is caught by the loving arms of his family. They trust his devotion to the mermaid people, letting his imagination run freely and feeding his every hope and dream for the future. In His Island is not only a tale of reaching towards your own identity for the first time; it is also a tale of leaving behind reality for the momentary respite of imagination. In a world where oil spills have harsh economic effects on local subsistence communities, why not extend a promise of friendship to a mermaid in the form of an offering?

Watch In His Island here.

 

Fairyocious, dir. Fabien Ara

How would you react if your child told you they want to start dressing like a fairy all of the time? Alma, mother to the sincere, mature, and soft-spoken Simon, struggles, at first, to find an answer to this question. She seeks help from her family clan. In near-slapstick fashion, the camera cuts frenetically across each member of this ridiculous round table family meeting. Almost every contemporary transphobic and homophobic argument is outlined, this intimate meeting spiralling further and further out of control and coming to resemble less of a human discussion about how to best support a child and more a political game within a societal microcosm. It is as if seeing the sheer lengths to which some are willing to go in the face of difference in gender and sexuality gives Alma an answer to that first question in itself. She comes to realise that, despite not being able to understand her child’s transness completely, the most she can do for Simon is support them. In a breath-taking ending sequence, silence settles over the previous cacophony of heated debate. Alma appears, amidst the hues of a dreamscape, holding Simon’s hand. They are both dressed as fairies, walking in sync, heads held proudly high. Fairyocious is another film about breaking the parent-child barriers momentarily to reach common ground, and communicate as equals. It is the story of standing up to the voices in your family that try to tell you how to raise your child despite not knowing what it feels like to be their parent; of instinct, rage, and moving on, together.

Watch Fairyocious here.

 

Handscape, dir, Yuri Chen

Yuri Chen’s meditative short film follows Xia Qing, a hard-of-hearing boy living with his single deaf mother. He is utterly devoted to her, for she is all he has left; he heats up her dinner, helps her shell edamame beans, and patiently waits across from her at the dinner table as she finishes her food. A promise of a new driving force in life begins bubbling in his mind, though. Xia Qing dreams of being a dancer and looks up to his mentor, who urges him to audition for his dream dance company and make his dreams finally come true. His mother, however, has done everything in her power to make sure that he son is not ostracised in society, opting for cochlear implantation to open the door for Xia Qing into the hearing world. Dance would only bring him a new sort of ostracization, founded upon homophobic belief and societal shame associated with following creative paths, or so she thinks. Tensions arise between the two, as Xia Qing realises that, if he gives up dance, his very identity will crumble before him. Handscape weaves this intense family dynamic out of the silence that permeates his film. Xia Qing’s heart-stopping dancing comes to mirror the languid hand movements as he signs to his mother. Dancing becomes, then, a form of full-of-life communication, and it is as if his very body holds within its fabric this need to ‘speak’ through closing his eyes and following his rhythm through the air. Xia Qing dances in his room; he dances in the street, and as he is setting the dinner table. His ritual of painting one of his fingers red marks his search, quiet, subtle, but ever-intense, for a world which embraces his identities wholeheartedly.

Watch Handscape here.

 

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

 

Miruna Tiberiu is the Editor-in-Chief 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 was longlisted for the International News Media Association (INMA)’s “30 Under 30” Awards 2023.

 

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