Film and TV

Taiwanese Director Ya-Che Yang Discusses His New Film Girlfriend Boyfriend

Girlfriend Boyfriend stars Gwei Lun-Mei, Joseph Chang and Rhydian Vaughan; Ya-Che Yang writes and directs.

The political landscape in Taiwan over the last few years inspired filmmaker Ya-Che Yang to make Girlfriend Boyfriend, the story of three friends who come of age during the country's recent social revolution. The film starts in 1985, a time when Taiwan was still under martial law. The trio of friends, Mabel (a lovely Gwei Lun-Mei), Liam (Joseph Chang), and Aaron (Rhydian Vaughan), are caught up in the anti-establishment movement. But more than that, they are in love with each other. Aaron is in love with Mabel who is in love with the closeted Liam, who is in love with, of course, Aaron. Over the next 30 years, the friends grow closer, then apart, then closer again - always with Taiwan's political landscape as a background.

In a translated e-mail exchange, Yang tells Art Attack, he didn't set out to make a gay movie, but a political one, one which happened to include a gay character. "Politics and homosexual love, these things both in fact represent the theme of freedom," he tells us.

Yang has said he used the gay vs. straight dynamic to mirror the government-enforced segregation of Taiwan's population into indigenous vs. mainlander groups that were then set upon each other. The us vs. them attitudes when it came to country of origin were rampant in Taiwan just a few years ago, but they have begun to soften. As, according to Yang, have the attitudes about straights and gays.

"In Taiwan, after centuries of conflict over birthrights and culture, the different communities calling this island their home have been able to come to a place where they can be united, and look upon each other as countrymen - in the same way, the Taiwanese people are beginning to open their minds to new notions of 'family.' No matter what shape it takes on, no matter whether gay or straight."

The filmmaker says he hopes to influence people's thinking, not just about homosexuality, but about freedom. "I hope this film can relay the message that freedom is not a mistake." After martial law was lifted, Taiwanese society underwent enormous and sometimes chaotic political and cultural changes. "A while ago some Taiwanese people would say that freedom was the cause to a chaotic society. Actually I think this argument is wrong, because freedom ... is never wrong. Politicians are the ones that make mistakes. Just because the politicians are wrong doesn't mean freedom and democracy are wrong."

Girlfriend Boyfriend is currently screening at AMC Studio 30, 2949 Dunvale. For information, visit the theater's website or call 888-262-4386. $7 to $10.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Olivia Flores Alvarez