Wednesday, April 1, 2009

 

Tongzhi in Love (彼岸浮生)

Director Ruby Yang's (杨紫烨) heartbreaking documentary about devastating HIV/AIDS victims in China, "The Blood of Yingzhou District (颖州的孩子)" won the 2007 Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject. Build on this film's success, Ruby Yang moved to China and worked on many public health related projects including anti-smoking and AIDS awareness campaign in China. Recently, Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon created public service announcements (PSAs) called "Life Is Too Good" to promote safe sex.

Tongzhi in Love (彼岸浮生) Continuing on her worthy contributions, Ruby Yang's new documentary "Tongzhi in Love" (彼岸浮生 | China 2008 | in Mandarin | 30 min. ), perhaps the first documentary about gays in China, examines gay men's double lives in modern China—the freer city gay life versus the closet life being the only child who is responsible for producing an heir for the family.

"Tongzi" (同志) originally means "comrade" in Chinese. However, since the early 90s, "Tongzhi" has become the term for "gay" in Chinese in the LGBT community, and it is a widely accepted term by the general public in Chinese speaking regions nowadays.

Riding the waves of the rapid social and economical progress in China, many gays begin to enjoy a much more tolerate atmosphere in China and to taste their newly found gay freedom in big cities such as Beijing. However, most of them cannot come out to their parents and live a double life; because besides the conservative views toward gays, they also face the immense pressure uniquely to the Chinese culture based on Confucian (儒家) teaching.

One of the most prominent Confucian scholar Mencius once said:

"Among the three major offenses against filial piety, not producing an heir is the worst." (不孝有三无后为大.)

More than two thousands years later, a billion Chinese people still take Mencius's words close to the heart. Obviously, it creates bigger challenge to gay men, many of them are the only child in a family due the one child policy in modern China.

A scene from the short film TONGZHI IN LOVE, photo by director Ruby Yang

"Tongzhi in Love" examines this complex scenario through three young gay men's personal stories. Via candid testimonies and lively interviews, these three characters share their opinions, their struggle, their sacrifices, their sorrow, and most importantly, their love for their parents. The film captures the heavy burden in these Tongzhi's mind and shows how they walk the thin line between pursing happiness and pleasing their parents, especially when the two cannot go hand in hand.

These Tongzhi are in love, but not without pain.

"Tongzhi in Love (彼岸浮生)" will be shown with "City of Borders" at the 52nd San Francisco International Film Festival.

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