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In the ongoing conversation about LGBTQ representation, sometimes the need to expand beyond the American zeitgeist gets lost. Last year, writer/director Ray Yeung managed to do just that with his critically-acclaimed film Twilight’s Kiss.
In it, Yeung confronted two hereto-little investigated areas of queer life: Aging queer seniors, and the LGBTQ community in China. For him, the story began after stumbling on several real-life stories of older men in Hong Kong who were in love with other men.
As he told Queerty in February of this year:
I came across this book called Oral Histories of Older Gay Men in Hong Kong. The book is a collection of 12 interviews of gay men who are in their 60s or 70 years old…After I read it, I thought it was very interesting. It’s a topic we very rarely touch on within the LGBTQ community but within cinema in general. Stories about older people are rare. I decided to recreate a story really, not really based on any one of them, but the spirit of it. Imagine what it would be like if [they met as older people] and fell in love.
After finishing the script, Yeung had to fight to see his film come to fruition. Money proved hard to come by given the film’s subject matter. Casting, too, posed a major obstacle, as numerous Chinese actors turned down the two leads to avoid any association with homosexuality.
Fortunately, his persistence paid off and the final film picked up roughly two dozen awards and even more nominations on the festival circuit before finding an enthusiastic audience in the United States.
For Yeung, Twilight’s Kiss is just the latest entry in a career that focuses on the intersectionality between Chinese and queer identity. His 2007 film Cut Sleeve Boys detailed the friendship between two gay, British-Chinese men searching for love.
And his 2015 film Front Cover detailed the budding love between a Chinese-American fashion designer and a prominent, closeted Chinese actor.
Telling untold stories has become Yeung’s mission in life. As he once told Junkee.com:
There are so many things we need to talk about. Our lives are so much more complex in many ways — and if straight movies have so many topics, we should multiply that by five times because we’ve got so much more to say. There are endless topics — when people ask me, ‘Oh, are you just going to make gay movies?’, I say, ‘I’m just making movies about the world that I’m in. And there are so many straight people who have made so many straight movies, they don’t need me to go and make more. I have this wealth of topics that I can explore, then why don’t I just keep on making them?..I feel that Hong Kong LGBT films are still [in an] infant [stage]. We still have a long, long way to go. We need more filmmakers telling stories, but of course, you always come up with the issue about funding and people don’t believe that LGBT movies have a market. So you’re always having to combat that.
We’re happy–and proud–to know Ray Yeung will help keep up the fight.