Nick Chan 「Front Cover interview with director and cast」

Posted on October 16, 2015
James Chen & Jake Choi

Hong Kong-based director Raymond Yeung and his Asian American cast members Jake Choi and James Chen speak to Nick Chan about their new dramedy, 「Front Cover」, and how the conflict between sexuality and cultural identity is very much alive

The opening film for the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festiva (HKLGFF) and the official selection for the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, 「Front Cover」 tackles not only the topic of sexual identity, but also cultural identity. The film features a romance between Ryan, a gay Chinese American fashion stylist who shuns his ethnic heritage, and Ning, the hottest, up-and-coming (and closeted) actor from Beijing.

Wrapped up in a witty and humorous production, 「Front Cover」 provides the perfect metaphor for a generation that faces the constant struggles of self-discovery.

This is director Raymond Yeung’s second feature film and『Time Out』speaks with him and his two main leads, Jake Choi and James Chen during their visit to HK about what it means to be caught within a space that society is only slowly starting to recognise.

How much of the film is based on your own experience?

Yeung: I’ve always felt like a guest in my own home, since I was educated in an English boarding school. Hong Kong has always faced an identity crisis as a result of British colonisation and it is not much different to the American-born Chinese character Ryan. His desire to fit into ‘white’ society is the main reason behind his disregard for Chinese heritage. I have had experience trying to be as British as possible. At the end of the day, we all tend to put up a front and pretend to be something we are not.

Describe the relationship between Ryan and Ning.

Chen: It’s a journey of discovery – literally and physically [laughs]. Having read the script, I thought it was beautifully written, with three-dimensional characters playing off to each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Choi: At the beginning, there are so many things they hate about each other, yet their differences help them rediscover who they really are. Sometimes we hate someone purely because we are suffering from insecurity. While one person may be proud of their sexuality, another may be ashamed, so they end up detesting it out of jealousy.

Do you find it difficult to be accepted for your identity in today’s society?

Yeung: It really depends on how comfortable you are in your own skin. If you find it difficult then you will undoubtedly try and hide it. It all comes down to insecurity because when everyone is talking about one thing, you don’t want to be the person saying something else.
Choi: I also find it depends on where you are. Ryan’s character says it’s not that difficult to be gay nowadays, but that being said, he was referring to NYC. There are still countries with conservative backgrounds that have people fighting for their lives simply for being who they are.

On that note, is the situation getting any better?

Yeung: Hong Kong is definitely becoming more aware of the LGBTI community with its fair share of events, namely the HKGLFF, and more recently, the Pink Dot event. It’s great to hear that there are more and more celebrities who have become more vocal in recent years. You also see people being more comfortable about their sexuality in public. Though I don’t expect gay marriage to happen overnight, I believe we are heading towards the right direction.

Is it hard being openly gay in the film industry now?

Chen: As a Chinese American auditioning for a role, it’s hard not to feel the pressure of being an Asian actor or play into the stereotypes that have been ingrained into the minds of society. Thankfully there has been more exposure as to what it means to be Asian with TV shows, such as the new ABC comedy 「Dr Ken」. For the past few years in a row, each show with Asian leads has outdone the last in being a watershed moment for cultural representation.
Yeung: However, I do find the representation of Chinese people lacking in comparison to gay characters. Asians are still sadly cast in the same stereotypical fashion. It’s one reason why I want to focus on local narratives for my future projects.

What are some of the difficult aspects when dealing with LGBTI issues as a director?

Yeung: I suppose it’s trying to make things as realistic as possible. The conclusion was something that I had to rewrite several times in order to avoid giving the audience a Hollywood ending. Often times, we get a rosy picture of the LGBTI community that in reality is not the case. It’s a bittersweet journey that reveals the sacrifices people make to achieve what they want in life.

「Front Cover」 Official release date is to be confirmed.

James Chen, Ray Yeung & Jake Choi





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