After Taiwan’s legalization of same-sex marriage back in May 2019, themes in local LGBTQ+ titles have become much more diverse and elaborate. Chen Ming-Lang’s The Teacher (2019) puts its focus on a civics teacher’s forbidden relationship with an HIV+ married man he meets at a gay sauna. Featuring naturalistic sex scenes, the film caused quite an impression during its theatrical run in a region still not used to this type of content in the big screen. Adding to the film’s realistic approach, while in search of love, Kevin (Oscar Chiu, Synapses) is witness of the petition signings, referendums, and the passing of the marriage equality laws in Taiwan. Featuring real images of these events, the film also somewhat makes for a documentary of the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the island.
The first queer Taiwanese film after the passing of same-sex marriage in the country, The Teacher tackles the different issues that still burden the community (HIV, bullying, coming out) from the point of view of a gay civics teacher fighting for social equality. Rémi Bonhomme, the program manager at Cannes’ Critics Week, complimented the cast and said the performances were “fantastic.” The film was also nominated for Best New Performer (Oscar Chiu) and Winnie Shih-Ying Chang, who plays the married man’s wife, won Best Supporting Actress at the 56th Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival. At the end of her award speech, Winnie dedicated some encouraging words to the LGBTQ+ community, “for those who struggle, be brave and have faith in love.”
Chen Ming-Lang’s second feature after Tomorrow Comes Today, The Teacher is an original film by the Taiwanese streaming platform GagaOOLala, currently available in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and South and Southeast Asia. The film stars Oscar Chiu, Chin-Hao Chang, Tzu-hua Ho (When Love Comes) and Winnie Shih-Ying Chang. The film has also been selected at Sydney’s Mardi Gras Film Festival, Singapore Chinese Film Festival, Amsterdam LGBTQ Film Festival, Brisbane Queer Film Festival and others.
The Teacher is available online on GagaOOLala.