Four years and going strong, the Queer East will return to cinema screens across London and around the UK in April. The festival has unveiled another exciting line-up which mixes contemporary feature film and documentary with retrospective screenings, short films that explore a diverse range of topical LGBTQ+ issues.
The festival promises to push the boundaries and challenge expectations and labels commonly associated with queer communities. Queer East’s vital programme is sure to provoke, inspire and engage.
The main festival will take place from 18th until 30th April eight venues in London, and a nationwide tour planned from September. The Queer East 2023 features 50 films incorporating work from 17 countries across East and Southeast Asia and beyond.
This year’s festival include Focus Korea which consists of 15 titles spanning from the 1960s to the present and reveal a surprisingly vibrant tradition of queer filmmaking across the decades in Korea, despite the country’s conservative social attitude to LGBTQ+ rights.
Shorts and Artists’ Moving Image Programmes offer more in-depth explorations in the current queer landscape of East and Southeast Asia. Many films in this year’s programme share the common themes of queer and gender performance, from cross-dressing to gender-reversed casting, these works highlight playful and fluid queerness, showcasing the ways that gender and sexuality have been viewed and interpreted by filmmakers in different Asian cultural contexts.
Queer East 2023 begins on 18th April with Percival Intalan‘s high-camp comedy I Love You, Beksman (Philippines, 2022). the film follows glamorous make-up artist and fashion designer Dali, who is assumed by his friends, colleagues, and queer family to be gay. But when Dali falls for beauty pageant queen Angel, he’s forced to finally come out as straight… the problem is, nobody believes him, not even Angel. The UK premiere will take place at BFI Southbank.
Finishing the festival at Barbican Cinema on 30th April, this year’s Closing Gala is the UK Premiere of Home Ground (South Korea, 2022), a poignant documentary about Korea’s first lesbian bar, Lesbos. Since 1976 when women-only cafe Chanel was closed down after a baseless police raid, the city’s lesbian community had been left with nowhere to call their own. Home Ground is an affecting portrait of a woman determined to provide refuge for her city’s ever-expanding queer community, and is a vital piece of contemporary Korean LGBTQ+ filmmaking.
Other highlights from Queer East 2023 include Let Me Hear it Barefoot (Japan, 2021) from director Kudo Riho (Orphans’ Blues, 2018) arrives in the UK after an impressive festival run and tells the story of Naomi, a student dropout, who befriends the happy-go-lucky Maki. As they begin to express their growing intimacy through rough playfighting, their actions acquire a hurtful intensity that threatens to overwhelm their relationship. About Us But Not About Us (The Philippines, 2022), a tense and claustrophobic mystery in which literature student Lance meets his university professor Eric for dinner. But as disturbing revelations about the past begin to emerge, the encounter evolves into a vicious battle of wills. 5.25m2 (South Korea, 2022), a haunting cinematic VR experience, presented in collaboration with BFI Expanded, which imprisons viewers in a solitary confinement cell – Stateless Things director Kim Kyung-mook’s prison after he was sentenced to 18 months for objecting to Korea’s mandatory military service and coming out as queer.
The above is only a selection of what is on offer at this year’s Queer East Festival. For the full line up and to book tickets plus any updates please head over to the Queer East Festival website. This year’s festival will take place between 18th and 30th April.