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Hong Kong Film  
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The period costume trend--every film of which invariably mandated that some character appeared cross-dressed--climaxed around 1993, the year that also saw Chen Kaige's controversial, gay-themed mainland opera tale Farewell My Concubine (1993).

Following the popularity of these films, a new liberal trend emerged that produced countless contemporary, urban, middle-class films with lgbt themes or openly lgbt characters: Lawrence Cheng's He and She (1993), Peter Chan's Tom, Dick, and Hairy (1993), Derek Chiu's Oh My Three Guys! (1994), Leonard Heung's Love Recipe (1994), Peter Chan's He's a Woman, She's A Man Pts. 1-2 (1994, 1996), Joe Hau's Boys (1996), Lee Lik-chi's Killing Me Tenderly (1996), and many others.

The Emergence of Queer Films

Yet as the 1997 deadline ticked away, and as Hong Kong film directors worried about what censorship the future might hold, a more focused, less apologetic batch of queer films emerged, films poised to challenge the mainland's official denials of Chinese homosexuality.

These films included Cheung Chi-sing's slyly political bisexual seriocomedy Love and Sex among the Ruins (1996), Shu Kei's coming-out narrative A Queer Story (1997), Wong Kar-wai's highly publicized Happy Together (1997), Jacob Cheung's lesbian romance Intimates (1997), and Yim Ho's disarming drama Kitchen (1997).

Also during this period, Stanley Kwan, Hong Kong's foremost gay director, decided to come out cinematically with his fascinating semi-autobiographical documentary Yang and Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema (1996). Previously, Kwan's gayness as a director had been limited to a hint of transvestism in Rouge (1987) and Maggie Cheung's subdued portrayal of a lesbian in Full Moon in New York (1990), a rarity for its time.

"Category 3" Films

Paralleling these trends was the creation of a new censorship category in 1989 to allow for more sexually explicit films. Predictably, queer images in Hong Kong's "category 3" films tend towards lesbian erotica aimed at the fantasies of a heterosexual male audience, as in the Sex and Zen series (1991-1996), the Erotic Ghost Story series (1990-1992), the Raped by an Angel series (1993-2000), or Ho Shu Pau's lesbian thriller The Love that is Wrong (1993).

On the other hand, lesbianism in these films is often vibrant, unashamed, and (somewhat) liberated, and we should not overlook the probability that lesbian audiences have covertly, subversively enjoyed such films.

Furthermore, a few of these films offer some politically incorrect surprises, from a mafia syndicate populated by real-life transsexuals in Lau Siu Gwan's Hero Dream (1993) to a homophobic male hero becoming the sex object of a diabolical bisexual rapist in Wong Ying Git's The Sweet Smell of Death (1995).

Moreover, marginal, low-budget category 3 thrillers such as Joe Hau's Passion Unbounded (1995), Lo Gin's Spider Woman (1995), and Joe Hau's Crazy (1999) offer both gay and lesbian characterizations that are more nuanced than the stereotypes often found in bourgeois, assimilationist fare.

The "One Country, Two Systems" Policy

While filmmakers' fears of what would follow 1997 were justified, the production of queer films continued according to the "one country, two systems" policy, whereby the mainland government would not interfere with Hong Kong's social fabric until 2047.

Recent queer films have been as diverse as Stanley Kwan's existential Hold You Tight (1998), Yip Wai-man's lesbian gangster epic Portland St. Blues (1998), Yonfan's Japanese manga-inspired Bishonen (1998), Julian Lee's category 3 art film The Accident (1999), and Stanley Kwan's controversial Lan Yu (2001), a sexually explicit romance set against the backdrop of Tiananmen Square.

While Hong Kong's film industry is not as strong as it was before the handover, and while production of films overall has lessened considerably, the openness of queer themes in Hong Kong cinema is apparently here to stay.

Andrew Grossman

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In Hong Kong, one of the world's most cosmopolitan areas, Chinese and Western ideas about gender and sexuality have uniquely shaped attitudes toward homosexuality and transgenderism.

arts >> Overview:  Japanese Film

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arts >> Manga

In Japan, manga--or comic books--are an important medium of cultural expression and frequently feature male and female homosexuality.


Grossman, Andrew, ed. Queer Asian Cinema: Shadows in the Shade. Binghamton, N. Y.: Harrington Park Press, 2000.

Kwan, Stanley, dir. Yang and Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema (documentary film). Hong Kong: Media Asia 1996.

Sandell, Jillian. "Reinventing Masculinity: The Spectacle of Male Intimacy in the Films of John Woo." Film Quarterly 49.4 (Summer 1996): 23-42

Tan See Kam. "Delirious Native Chaos and Perfidy: A Post-colonial Reading of John Woo's The Killer." Antithesis 6.2 (1993): 53-66


    Citation Information
    Author: Grossman, Andrew  
    Entry Title: Hong Kong Film  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated December 26, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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