Directed by Richard Fung
“Wow, I don’t even recognize that person.” Retired postal worker Gary Joong observes as he watches playback of footage of his younger self. RE:ORIENTATIONS, Canadian documentarian, scholar, and activist Richard Fung’s follow-up to his groundbreaking 1984 LGBTQ documentary, ORIENTATIONS (LAAPFF 1989), revisits and checks in on Gary and other original subjects after 30 years. In the original documentary, Fung interviewed 14 queer people of Asian decent living in Toronto, Canada at a time when there wasn’t much positive exposure for the LGBTQ community. Activists Prahbha Khosla and Mary Woo Sims both agree, back in the day, it was the desire of LGBTQ people to be included in the mainstream culture that drove the movement but today, with the visibility and progress made, LGBTQ people are looking to illuminate their differences from mainstream culture and to advocate for that being acceptable.
The documentary’s seven subjects come from diverse backgrounds, yet share similar views on the need for community, recognition, and acceptance. Dr. Alan Li and Prof. Robert Diaz share their inspirational stories of “coming out” and how that experience informs their sustained activism in health services advocacy and academia. The intersectionality of being queer and Asian continues to impact both contemporary reality and debates in the community. Racism (especially post 9/11 Islamophobia) persists unabated in different forms and fuels further misconceptions and stereotyping. The chorus of his subjects’ experience emphasizes how other gay men see gay Asians (teacher and globe-trotter Paul Cheung tells wonderful anecdotes about how he would approach other gay men), whether at the club or, now, on online platforms, and how queer women of color often encounter racism before homophobia.
Fung also speaks with several LGBTQ youth (Fung’s research assistant, Nathan Hoo pinpoints more deep-seated issues on the horizon such as class inequality and privilege certain gays have over others) who are currently continuing the fight for equal rights and greater visibility. Their insight and appreciation of the struggles the community has faced provide proof that outreach organizations have done amazing work in normalizing the lives of the queer community. Cultivating raw, one-on-one interviews, Fung elicits an honest appraisal of the work accomplished in the API LGBTQ community and the work that still needs to be done.
— Jeremy Gaudette, with additional contributions by Lindy Leong
Richard Fung is an award-winning Toronto-based video artist and cultural critic. His videos includes Chinese Characters (1986), My Mother’s Place (1990), Sea in The Blood (2000) and Dal Puri Diaspora (2012). He is a professor in the Faculty of Art at OCAD University.
Director: Richard Fung
Camera: Kwoi, Iris Ng
Composers: Phil Strong, Thomas Hoy
Editor: Dennis Day