TAIPEILOVE* is a documentary from Berlin filmmaker Lucie Liu.
Taiwan is the first country in Asia that in May 2017 ruled that same-sex couples should have the right to marry, even if the proposal was defeated in a recent referendum.
Taiwan’s fight for marriage equality is the result of a long journey. TaipeiLove* is a documentary focus on Taipei’s perception of homosexuality in Taiwanese society.
The movie provides a deeper understanding of breaking down stereotypes and starts to think about what is love: a feeling that is inclusive and indiscriminate.
Interview by Dominique Musorrafiti
This is a selected interview from
Planet China Vol. 05 issue
China-underground: Can you tell us something about you?
Lucie Liu: I’m Lucie and I am 25 years old. I studied political science but I was always very interested in theater.
I used to act in theater and I started writing my own pieces and move towards the direction, that’s basically me!
Then I decided to start this movie because this documentary is kind of perfect combination of visual art and political science and that’s what I always wanted to do.
Where did the idea for your documentary “Taipeilove*” come from?
I used to live in Taipei in 2016.
I was working at the Goethe Institute.
I went to the gay pride parade (it was really packed ) and I saw so many people.
I met two Korean guys and a Japanese guy and I spoke to them and they told me that the gay pride parade in Taiwan, they attend every year, is the only time in the year where they can be truly themselves.
I thought it was kinda odd but then I was digging a bit deeper and I started reading on it and I realized that Taiwan is really having a super important role in this by pushing same-sex marriage.
I started reading about it and I realize there’s almost no coverage and since I always wanted to do something, as I said, combines politics at the arts I wrote a script for a potential movie. It’s really funny because I never had any film experience.
I mean I did some short commission works but never anything like that big, I kind of ended up pursuing a German political foundation to give me funding and I ended up flying to Taipei in October last year.
How would you describe your documentary?
I would say that TaipeiLove* is basically a snapshot of society that is currently going through a lot of change.
How long did it take to make the whole project?
Basically I’m still currently editing. Well, the idea process and the research process, I think, three or four months but not that intense and then the whole filming process was eight months.
Right now the editing process has been going on. From when we started it’s been like maybe a month.
It will be finished in October or November. There is a trailer for our crowdfunding campaign.
When you started filming, did you plan ahead, or there were events that influenced the development of the documentary?
The first event that really changed something was when I went to Taiwan and my German cameraman was supposed to come to Taiwan.
But then, only a few days before, he was supposed to come, he told me that he doesn’t want to come because he was kinda scared of Asia. I was there all by myself and I have felt incredibly lost, but I think this started my thrive because I realized “I’m here now and I can, I did it or I don’t”.
So I put all my energy into doing it. Then I basically asked all my friends “Please connect me with anyone who’s gay or lesbian” So I conducted around 40 interviews with friends of friends in the park in cafes.
They just told me what is happening in their lives and I kept asking them very similar questions and so I could point out the difficulties in being gay or lesbian in Taiwan. Then the filming process itself started.
I carefully selected three protagonists. The interviews I did with those 40 people they really helped me and put a finger on who’s really important in the scene. So I was able to find five experts and politicians give me an inside interview.
It’s really interesting because everybody was super open about it because I think there hasn’t been any coverage or a lot of coverage. So everybody was welcoming me with open arms.
That was probably like the highlight of everything. I just walked into the politician’s offices and they gave me an interview. I think in Germany that wouldn’t have. They really help me understand that this is a super important issue.
What were the biggest challenges of “TaipeiLove*”?
I think personally, for me as a person, it was kind of difficult because, in the beginning, I was kind of doubting, because I mean, it was my first movie, my first production and of course you have a lot of self-doubts and you kind of just want to be taken seriously. There’s still so much to learn, but I was really lucky.
I had a really great cameraman. A nice guy. He supported me so much. He knew I didn’t have experience.
He helped me so much and supported me a lot. I’m really grateful that I had him. He helped me like it was his personal challenge. I would say the bigger challenge, I think, it was really incredibly difficult and sad to see how people are struggling.
How difficult still is, despite that same-sex marriage will be legalized, how difficult it is to be gay or lesbian in public or especially in terms of being with your family or talking with your family about it.
One of the hardest challenges was to see how people are living in an open society but society is still too closed to accept. So that was very challenging to work that.
Can you share with us a story from the backstage of your documentary?
Well, I think there’s one I remember pretty closely. One of my protagonists is called Sarah and we became pretty close friends which were really nice.
When we had an interview day with her, I interviewed also her aunt. Her aunt was sending a picture of the interview situation to the group chain of the family.
Then Sarah’s mom calls and it was really moving, cuz her mom didn’t really want Sarah to give this interview or do have anything to do with the documentary.
We got the chance to listen to her mom telling Sarah all the reasons and everything that Sarah has always had trouble with. Her mom was on speaker so we could all hear it and it was really silent in the room all of a sudden.
Sarah’s mom just talked about “I wish you had a husband, I wish you had children. It makes me very sad that you chose that life. I just want you to be happy and I don’t want you to be lonely.”
This phone call kind of summarizing all the struggle and all the difficulties. So many people are going through and that was really moving and after this phone call, after she hung up it was just like everybody and the team was really tense and everything you could feel was the energy in the room.
It was there I think was like the golden moment of the documentary.
That was just super intense!
I think we hit a really good time, cuz the people of my team were just really cool people, genuinely nice and that really helped me.
I think it’s like this very tense moment on one hand, and under the other one, a very cool team then it works together.
Another story is that: I asked my team for motivation, like “What is the reason .. Why you’re doing this documentary with me?” My cameraman, who I’m really close to, told me he has a daughter. He told me when he was in high school he was a bully. He used to bully gay kids. I was really shocked.
He used to bully, but now he wants to help to do this movie because he realized he doesn’t want his daughter to grow up in a world that kind of makes it difficult for her if she would be a lesbian. He just wants to show his daughter that change is possible and it’s so interesting because he was the one who was putting so much trouble on gay kids in his high school and then he kind of changed his direction.
The realization of the revelation and that was also really interesting. He wants her to grow up in a world where she doesn’t have to worry about her sexuality.
Legalizing same-sex marriage is a historic moment for Taiwan. Do you think it reflects an important part of the society or LGBT community still faces problems with “coming out”, tradition, families, religion …?
I wish it would have a really big impact of course, but I honestly think for now that legalizing same-sex marriage will definitely lead to a change in society into a note.
You will just see a lot more weddings or it becomes more normal, to see that but I’m not really sure.
I really hope it would bring that change, but from what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen that families are still a huge obstacle.
I talk to so many people and they were in their 30s sometimes even in their 40s and their family still doesn’t know.
So I hope it would bring that change, but I think it takes a lot more time and a lot more education to actually have this change that everybody is hoping for.
I heard there was a protest from Catholics …
It’s so weird when you think about the new society because like the part that is actually religious, in terms of Christian religion it’s so small.
It’s four, around five percent of society and when you think about the part of society that is gay or lesbian is equal.
Five to ten percent. If you think about it’s like two equally big groups but the problem is that the religious groups are so vocal because they get so much money. They have so much funding from America, Australia.
A lot of priests from America and Australia are in Taiwan so this religion is so vocal. They have so much money into that.
They make advertising on TV, so it’s really difficult for the other group to kind of hold against.
They have this weird propaganda against LGBT education or gender education and they think that they tell people that their child will turn instantly gay.
These people are so odd, it’s so weird. They are really strong there and so they also fuel these anti-gay protests, so it’s a really big divide like a small part of society but that’s like a really strong divide.
How do you expect the audience reaction will be to your documentary? Do you think they will understand the historical important step in human rights for the LGBT community in Taipei?
I think as for now, I was always doing the documentary target audience, which is actually Europe and I hope any Western country.
I’m also hoping for America, but I think that a lot of people don’t know a lot about Taiwan. When I told people I was going there, a lot of people told me to have fun in Thailand. I think they will learn and they will see that this really small country that has this huge change going on, which is historic for Asia and I hope that they will understand and realize and give Taiwan more credit for it.
I know politically, it may have its chaos and nobody recognizes Taiwan and China have constantly claiming Taiwan, but I think in terms of human rights and soft power it’s incredibly important to actually give Taiwan credit for it.
It helped Taiwan go through that and be the role model it is supposed to be.
What I’m really hoping to do is that I will be able to go to different universities in Asia and just show the movie there. Because after all, I hope that next to the biggest Western audience.
I hope that if I go to university screenings, attend university screenings in Asia will also bring a slow impact there.
I really hope that. If people see what is possible in their own continent I hope in that change, maybe can a little bit change it up a little and changes in habits.
Do you think the example of Taiwan will help other Asian Countries to consider more freedoms and rights for the LGBT community?
I think if you have one positive example, others can follow.
I’m sure that it won’t be a change within the next five years. But I think within the next generation, my generation, when I’ll be a bit older or when I’ll have children, then it’s going to be definitely easier for them to be openly gay or lesbian in Asia.
That’s what I’m really sure of. Because if you have one positive example, I think others can actually follow. I know that it’s so difficult to generalize in Asia because there are Muslim parts and Buddhist parts.
But I spoke to activists in Taiwan and also I was in touch with activists all around Asia. They just have a problem.
Other countries want to legalize it as well but the politicians and the governments they really don’t want to do it.
Society is a lot more involved but after all, it’s the Government on the other side.
But I’ve always said if I’m in a lecture hall in some country: in South Korea, in Japan or anywhere and I only have the ability to speak to some students and those students will be touched by my movie that would be a huge success for me.
Photos courtesy of Lucie Liu
topics: Taiwan same-sex marriage
CHINA-UNDERGROUND. Ciao! My name is Dominique. I’m Italian and I’m proud to be a mix. My father was an Italian chemical engineer and high school teacher, with Greek and Polish heritage. My mother is Haitian, she was high school language teacher, with Dominican, Spanish, French, Portuguese, African and Native American heritage. Being a mix makes me appreciate to want to understand different cultures and lifestyles. I grew up in Italy, lived few years in Haiti, travel around main European capitals, lived seven years in China, six in Spain and UK. Traveling makes me feel that we can learn something from every situation in every part of the world.