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    Frameline’s Focus on Taiwan Program Offers Some Worthwhile Films

    By Gary M. Kramer–

    The Frameline Film Festival is winding down, but there is still time to catch some films streaming on the fest’s site through June 27. A highlight of this year’s program is the handful of shorts and features that are part of a Focus on Taiwan program.

    The enchanting As We Like It reimagines Shakespeare’s play As You Like It in the near future and showcases a fun, all-female cast. When Rosalind (Hsueh-Fu Kuo) is dumped by her boyfriend, she and her cousin Celia (Camille Chalons) head to the internet-free zone, Ximenting, to find love. When Rosalind meets Orlando (Aggie Hsieh) sparks fly, but their brief meeting has Orlando seeking out “Rose,” the name Rosalind gave him. Adding to the romantic confusion, Rosalind cuts her hair, dons men’s clothes, and renames herself Roosevelt, telling Orlando he is Rose’s twin brother. And, Roosevelt insists, if Orlando loves Rose, he must woo Roosevelt as if he were his sister to prove his heart to her. This bromantic storyline, which involves game playing—there is a clue-filled treasure hunt—is contrasted with various other romantic subplots, from Celia wooing Oliver (Joelle Lu), to Angel (Esther Huang) connecting with Dope (Helena Hsu), and even Gold (Lan Tsao) uniting with Silver (Hsin-Ling Chung). The result is a frothy rom-com that offers a sensory experience as it is filled with color, music, animation—at times the action unfolds like a video game—and fantasy elements. Directors Hung-I Chen and Muni Wei have a light touch, winking at the audience with all the gender play. And the film does include the famous line, “All the world’s a stage” (in a song), as well as, “A rose by any other name …” from Romeo and Juliet. As We Like It is very likable indeed.

    Dear Tenant is an involving melodrama about Lin (Mo Tzu-Yi), a tenant living with the diabetic Ms. Chou (Chen Shu-fang) and her grandson Yo-Yu (Bai Run-yin). When Ms. Chou dies, she leaves her house to Yo-Yu, whom Lin has legally adopted. This inheritance prompts an investigation: Did Lin murder Ms. Chou to gain the property in Yo-Yu’s name? Dear Tenant uses flashbacks to explicate Lin’s care for and intentions towards Ms. Chou and Yo-Yu, as well as his relationship with Li-Wei (Yao Chun-Yao), Yo-Yu’s father. These scenes generate sympathy as Lin is accused of murder and child endangerment. While this film is at times a bit slow, it is quite moving—especially in the scenes between Lin and Yo-Yu—and it raises important legal issues involving gay couples.

    Frameline also provides attendees with another chance to see the sweet and bittersweet 2013 romantic comedy-drama, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? This wonderful film features a handful of gay and straight characters in modern Taipei. They are unhappy in their lives and relationships. Writer/director Arvin Chen, who is straight and grew up in the Bay Area, displays a real sensitivity towards his characters who grapple with romantic crises. Weichung (Richie Jen) is a married optometrist whose wife Feng (Mavis Fan) wants to have a second child. However, at his sister Mandy’s (Kimi Hsia) engagement party, Weichung reconnects with his old friend Stephen (Lawrence Ko), a gay man. The glum Weichung soon finds himself reconsidering his repressed same-sex feelings and questioning his marriage—especially when he meets Thomas (Wong Ka-lok), an adorable flight attendant. Meanwhile, after Mandy breaks off her engagement to San-San (Stone), he enlists Stephen and his queer friends to help him win his fiancé back. Chen’s buoyant film uses elements of fantasy and deliberately subverts the tropes of traditional romantic comedies, which is what distinguishes his film and makes it as charming as it is wistful. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? is worth a(nother) look.

    The Taiwan Shorts program (free; reserved ticket required) offers four strong films. Hidden is a delicate coming out/coming of age short about Xiao Wei (Lin Yu Lun), a bespectacled teen who is slowly breaking away from his best friend Pin Rui (Wu Chih Hsun) to explore his same-sex desires. While he has different and uncomfortable encounters with Tom (Tang Wei Chun) and Kevin (Wu Shih Wei), older men he meets online, Hidden shows the risks teenagers face when they explore their sexuality. This is a touching short that operates as a real cautionary tale. The upbeat 3-minute documentary Taiwan Pride for the World features various international LGBTQ celebrants—including noted Taiwanese gay civil rights activist and rainbow flag-waver Chi Chia-wei—marching for others who cannot attend a Pride gathering because of COVID-19. The nearly wordless short Undercurrent is an intense drama about a teenager (Huang Lee-Fong) who encounters another man (Chang Chih-Han) in 1979 during the time of martial law and enforced curfews. When a policeman (Wu Ming-Fan) picks the teen up, the situation becomes more charged. Undercurrent features some very sensual cigarette sharing between the two young men as it makes a political statement about how gay men operate outside social norms. Lastly, Unnamed is a comic-dramatic short about Ting (Chang Chun-Yu), a teenage girl who wants to change her name, much to her father Zhang Yi-Chun’s (Chin-Chang Yeh) chagrin. She seeks refuge with her gay best friend Hong Jia-Hao (Gao Hong)—and helps extricate him from a hookup with Jerónimo (William Serrano)—only for another crisis to occur. Unnamed is a perceptive short about sexuality and identity, and was well directed by the two leads.

    The Frameline Film Festival also held a Taiwan Focus panel during the festival. It is available on the website through June 27.

    Happy viewing!

    © 2021 Gary M. Kramer

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer

    Published on June 24, 2021