游静 Yau Ching’s professional trajectory interweaves multiple threads – the aesthetic and technical components of filmmaking, critical scholarship in cultural studies, educational advocacy, and other queer activism. On June 8, 2013, I attended the first of four screenings of her work this month at the New York City LGBT Center, which paired a short narrative film with a documentary.
The short 我饿 I’m Starving, made on a negligible budget in 1999 when Yau Ching was studying in New York, is an evocative tale of a relationship between an African-American woman and a Chinese female ghost. We see brief shots of the woman out and about on the streets of New York City, her attire suggesting a white-collar job. The ghost, appropriately pale, always greets her human lover with the eagerness of one who cannot leave the building she haunts. “You smell good,” she says sensuously. “What do you have?” Yau creates several stand-out scenes involving paper, fortune cookies, and eating.
坏孩子 We Are Alive is a documentary that arose from video workshops Yau conducted at three juvenile detention facilities, in Hong Kong, Macau, and Sapporo, Japan. The bulk of the film consists of footage shot by the participants, with frequent intercuts of the popular media that the detainees draw on in multiple ways – for pleasure, engagement, identity formation, and social critique. It is an unabashedly fond portrait of young people whom mainstream society has deemed “Bad Kids,” the Chinese title of the film. Their reasons for ending up locked up are briefly touched on at the beginning of the film but not its focus. Rather, 坏孩子We Are Alive presents an engaging and moving portrait of the participants, who talk about their pasts, presents, and futures.
Yau noted that she considers 坏孩子We Are Alive one of her queerest works, yet it has never been accepted by an LGBT film festival. At one level, this makes sense; although some same-sex expressions of affection and horseplay appear in the film, there isn’t a gay or lesbian narrative per se. Yet in the broader sense of queer solidarity with other marginalized groups that Cathy Cohen and others have called for, this film – made by a queer activist and scholar – invites consideration of how we delimit inclusions and exclusions at queer media venues.
坏孩子We Are Alive will screen again on Friday, June 14, 2013, 2-5pm, at the NYU LGBTQ Student Center (not the NYC LGBT Center this time!), along with another of Yau’s short films. On Saturday, June 15, 2013, 4-6pm, there will be a screening of two other films at the Ran Tea House in Williamsburg (see flyer for details).