A still from After Erection, a Hong Kong film that will screen as part of the Asia Pacific Queer Film Festival Alliance (APQFFA) Shorts selection at the 28th Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, on September 16. Photo: HKLGFF

Ahead of the 28th Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, which will take place in Hong Kong from September 9 to 24, Asia Times spoke with Joe Lam, the festival’s director, about the films selected, the state of Hong Kong cinema and how the region’s filmmakers are evolving.

Can you briefly explain the selection process this year? What kind of films are coming through?

Our team watched hundreds of films from across different countries and film festivals this year, and we narrowed the pool down to 32 programs and 55 films in the end. I think the list is probably one of the most diverse selections in recent years.

The main theme this year is queer and transgender films. We think that society nowadays is more accepting of gays and lesbians, but not of queer or transgender people. The film festival is a way to shed some light on the issue. We had only one queer/transgender program in last year’s film festival, but in this year it is up to five. For example, we have Close Knit and A Fantastic Woman, two award-winning transgender films.

I think our team did the selections based on one most important factor, which is whether the films will touch Hong Kong audiences’ hearts. Being able to see yourself, your friends or your family’s experiences in a film is essential; it makes you really connect to the film. In the selection process we had to give up several good productions because the themes were too distant to Hong Kong audiences emotionally. I think what we have now are the best picks.

A still from Close Knit. Photo: HKLGFF

Can you tell us about the state of LGBTQ+ film industries in different countries?
I think we’ve started to see a good level of diversity in film markets. For example, in Thailand, things have come forward a lot on the choice of topics. They have already moved from films about recognition, identification and coming out, to building families and adopting babies. This is a very good step forward.

Hong Kong, on the other hand, still suffers from a rather small market size and a lack of human resources in producing and making LGBTQ+ films. The smaller the market, the fewer people making LGBTQ+ films; the fewer people making LGBTQ+ films, the smaller the market will be. So that’s why, as one of the longest running LGBTQ+ film festivals in Asia, we try to encourage more Hong Kong people to create films. We organized three panels to talk about the 101 of LGBTQ+ film productions, and these panels are free of charge.

Joe Lam, director of the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. Photo: Asia Times

Have there been any difficulties in organizing the film festival this year?
Too many. Money and funding has always been a problem. We are a small team dealing with so many films and so much work, and I have been constantly thinking of how we could attract more audiences to purchase tickets and go to the cinemas to enjoy our selection of films. But I also feel that in recent years we have started to attract people who are not in the LGBTQ+ community. They might be indie film lovers, they might be here to watch their favorite movie star, but either way, it’s good, it’s a good development.

Do you specifically recommend any films this year? Is there anything that you think people should really watch?
Yes, actually. I really love The Wound, it puts a spotlight on the annual ceremony of men in a small Xhosa community of Africa. Each year teenage boys are sent to the mountains to go through a painful ritual circumcision followed by two weeks of healing in order to be considered adults. If Moonlight is the very beautiful version of being gay, The Wound is the real life version of struggles brought by tradition and manhood, and is not widely accessible or discussed in Hong Kong. I really recommend everyone to watch.

The 28th Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival will open in Hong Kong on September 9 and close on September 24. For ticketing information please visit: http://www.hklgff.hk/.