Exploring the spectrum of queer stories at the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival

Sophia Shek
Sophia Shek. Illustration by Kaitlin Chan, Still / Loud.
Curator Sophia Shek's picks for films showing at this year's event.

Born and raised in Scotland, Sophia Shek has lived in Hong Kong for 14 years since a fateful vacation landed her the job as a runner on the set of Hollywood blockbuster Ultraviolet.

To her, Hong Kong feels like a “transitional” place: while she was never officially out in her hometown, Sophia says she is more open about her sexuality here. In 2015, she produced the acclaimed short documentary KasparX about local trans man activist Siu Keung, as her way of giving back to the community.

With experience on both sides of the big screen, Sophia joined the team of curators at Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (HKLGFF) four years ago. She is now in charge of watching 60 to 80 films, liaising with distributors, arranging subtitles, and promoting and running the event.

Any film festival comes with the pressure to fill the house. Despite this, Sophia insists on featuring as many independent lesbian and trans movies and documentaries as possible. These are movies she knows will be a hard sell compared to gay movies, or Hollywood productions with an A-list cast like Carol.

Sophia says that, in the past few years, there has been a surge in female directors for lesbian films, as well as films that are “less depressing” in general. There is more to cinema than just narratives about the rips and shreds of the queer community.

“I take it upon myself to try and cover the spectrum,” Sophia says. “It’s not about selling tickets for me. A good film is a good film.”

Here are Sophia’s picks from the festival:

Man Made (2018)

Directed by T Cooper, a trans writer, Man Made follows four transgender male bodybuilders through their preparation process for the world’s only transgender bodybuilding competition in Atlanta.

“Its approach is very candid and personal. It’s very ‘fly on the wall.’ It’s inspiring to see [these trans men] who are confident about [their] bodies,” Sophia says.

Venus (2017)

Venus is a comedy about an Indo-Canadian trans woman who comes out to her traditional Indian family, while also discovering she has fathered a child in her teenage years.

The movie diverges from tragic clichés, portraying issues faced by transgender people beyond their transition (in this case, parenthood) through the lens of a modern family. For some, its drawback may be the portrayal of a trans character by a cis actor.

I Miss You When I See You (2018)

Last but not least, the local feature I Miss You When I See You which is produced by Sophia. The film follows the relationship of old school friends Jamie and Kevin after they run into each other years later. It explores depression, first love and sexuality within the suffocating “don’t ask, don’t tell” environment of Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival hosts screenings daily until September 26. Still / Loud’s Vincy Chan and Holmes Chan contributed writing and editing.