The Asian Pop-Up Cinema is currently running through Nov. 14 in Chicago with screenings at AMC River East 21. One film from Taiwan with gay content is called Dear Ex. It tells the story of the death of a women named Liu Sanlian who discovers her husband's life insurance is being left to a male lover. The mother and son discover things about themselves throughout the course of investigating the beneficiary where the son even moves in with him to discover the truth.
Dear Ex won Best Narrative Feature, Best Actress and Best Actor at the 2018 Taipei Film Awards. The co-directors Mag Hsu and Hsu Chih-yen won the Press Award for showing TaiPei in a different perspective.
While in town, Chih-yen sat down at his hotel to speak about Dear Ex. This is his first film as a director after shooting music videos in the past.
Windy City Times: Dear Ex is both directors first time shooting a film?
Hsu Chih-yen: Mag Hsu was a stage director and screen writer, but this is the first time she directed a movie, after making TV series before this.
WCT: Where did the story come from?
HC: From Mag's friend Shih-yuan Lu. She told Mag that her story was better than any screenplay could be. Two years before it happened to her. She pretended she was happy and not sad. After hearing the story from her friend she could tell she was upset. It is the same story in the film.
WCT: Is anyone gay involved with the film?
HC: One of the art directors is gay, but others not officially gay or lesbian that we know of. We didn't seek out a consultant for the film.
In Taiwan people don't hide the fact that they are gay. It is not illegal to be gay there, although gay marriage is not legal yet.
WCT: How is the movie being accepted in Taiwan?
HC: It just opened Nov. 2. It was number one at the box office there on opening weekend. For a local film to be number one like that is amazing. It's the first time that has happened this year.
It had a world premiere in Europe in April and received five awards at the Taipei Film Festival.
It just opened here, San Diego and London all at the same time.
WCT: Where did the term "mantress" come from?
HC: In Taiwanese it translates to the third person in a relationship, but in English is refers to mistress and changed to man. The translation actually works.
WCT: Is the lesson in the film that there are two sides to every story?
HC: Yes and it is talking about love. We want to let people to be considerate of each other and see what each other is fighting for. It is giving them both a voice in the story.
By showing different ages in the film, we hope that there is everyone someone can relate to.
WCT: With the character Jay's flashback it felt like a softer tone. Was that intentional?
HC: Yes. The color we wanted to make to represent Taipei. In the beginning we were setting the color and in the memories still colorful, but we wanted a flashback look to it.
The entire tone and color is adapted from the messy city. In the United States there is a lot of color coordination, in Taiwan it is still evolving.
We didn't choose it to be softer as a LGBT sentiment but here have been some of the character's emotions involved with it and may be perceived as sentimental.
WCT: What do you want audiences to get out of Dear Ex?
HC: We want the gay community to identify with Jay's character and root for him. They can all relate to Jay's relationship with his mother. She is a very traditional mom that wants her child to marry a woman.
My classmates have seen my film and since they are my peers can be competitive or jealous. I have been surprised how their hearts have opened up and liked the movie. Dear Ex has been a surprise with how it moves people and I am proud of that. It has certainly started conversations so far.
I hope it breaks barriers for everyone that sees it.
Dear Ex continues on the festival circuit. For more information on the current Chicago film festival visit AsianPopUpCinema.org .