‘Gentleman Jack’ Celebrates Lesbian Existence, Bravery, and Love

Gentleman Jack (2019) makes me feel that my life is possible. As a long-time fan of Sally Wainwright, I trusted her to do justice to Anne Lister’s diaries. My expectations were high, but after having been let down time and time again by most lesbian-centered representations, they were still within reason. Before the series premiered, I expected a brilliant portrayal of Lister – one that is done with respect and empathy. However, on the topic of lesbian sexuality, I had far less hopes. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Gentleman Jack unabashedly delights in including its lesbian audience, and revels in speaking only to lesbians. The series goes beyond merely portraying lesbians on the screen, and takes lesbian representation a notch further by being unapologetic about its depiction of lesbian desire, lesbian sex, and lesbian mannerisms.

Just as the real Anne Lister was proud of her ability to seduce women, Lister’s fourth-wall breaks in the series seduces the audience, charms them with her wit, and most importantly of all – remind lesbians that we have always existed. In-between 200 years ago and now where our lives have been violently annihilated by virtue of homophobic cruelty, we always have existed, and we continue to exist.

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Seattle International ’19 Review: ‘Long Time No Sea’ Fails to Capture the Heterogeneity of Indigenous Culture

Taiwanese director Heather Tsui’s debut film, Long Time No Sea (只有海知道, 2018), may have intended to bring awareness to the indigenous Tao people of Orchid Island, but it drastically falls short by focusing on their struggles through the perspective of the mainland. Continue reading “Seattle International ’19 Review: ‘Long Time No Sea’ Fails to Capture the Heterogeneity of Indigenous Culture”

Seattle International ’19 Review: ‘A Family Tour’ Mourns the Price of Political Dissidence

Chinese director Ying Liang is perhaps most well-known for the personal price he paid for producing When Night Falls (2012), a docudrama which sealed his permanent exile from his homeland. A scathing critique of China’s totalitarian regime, When Night Falls focused on the death of Yang Jia, a man who was arrested and horrifically beaten by the police for riding a bicycle without a license. After repeated harassment from the authorities, Jia eventually stabbed six policemen to death and was given the death sentence. When Night Falls, or its Mandarin translation I Still Have Something to Say (我还有话要说), is focalised from the perspective of Jia’s grieving mother. By directing this docudrama, Liang was viewed to be sympathetic towards political dissidents in China and hence, was forced to pay the price with exile. He now lives in Hong Kong.

Acting as a follow-up to When Night Falls, Liang’s A Family Tour (自由行, 2018) works as a semi-autobiographical film on the consequences his exile has had on his loved ones who still reside in China. If I Still Have Something to Say is a testament to his legacy of active political dissidence, A Family Tour is a quietly devastating rumination on whether this dissidence is actually worth the personal sacrifice. With Liang’s latest film, there is a very real sense that there is nothing left for art to say. If the artist has to lose their loved ones in the name of a futile activism, there comes a point when art becomes a purely selfish endeavour rather than a heroic one.  Continue reading “Seattle International ’19 Review: ‘A Family Tour’ Mourns the Price of Political Dissidence”

Why Lisa McGee’s ‘Derry Girls’ Should Be Our State of Mind Too

Lisa McGee’s Derry Girls does everything right by teenage girls. More importantly, it fills our screens with the sheer abundance of life itself – unbridled optimism, the courage to regret, all while cognisant of the violence which defined 1990s Ireland. Set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, Derry Girls focalises its evocative, and starkly honest portrayal of this era through the lives of five working class Catholic school girls (including James). Continue reading “Why Lisa McGee’s ‘Derry Girls’ Should Be Our State of Mind Too”

Tribeca 2019 Review: On Reconciliation and Hope in ‘This Perfect Day’

In her short film This Perfect Day (2019), Australian-Chinese Director Lydia Rui paints an intimate, and quietly moving portrait of isolation, longing and reconciliation. We begin with a young adult, Jules, (Michelle Keating) who nervously braces themselves in a car before entering a music store, while their girlfriend (Hannah Koch) assures them that there is a reason why they are here today. They enter the music store and look around anxiously, as if suggesting to the audience that a robbery is about to happen. However, what happens next is a profoundly empathetic study on the desire to reunite with the ones we love, even when there is so much that can no longer be salvaged. Continue reading “Tribeca 2019 Review: On Reconciliation and Hope in ‘This Perfect Day’”

‘Santa Clarita Diet’ Season Three Perfects The Genre of Comedy

This is a largely spoiler free review.

Nothing about Santa Clarita Diet is supposed to work out logically on television. It is absolutely ludicrous, absurd, and simply downright unbelievable. A woman turns into a cannibal and is worshipped as the messenger of God. Organs grow their own legs and murder people. Somewhere along the way in this season, we have ancient knights fitting in perfectly in a white, suburban, and soccer-mom-dominated neighbourhood. We have characters questioning the point of existence, as if that even matters when cannibals are accepted as the de facto state of affairs in the show. However, not only does Santa Clarita Diet manage to find a coherent logic amidst the chaos, it also shows us that the comedic medium does not need to thrive on bigotry in order to question what it means to live in a world so horribly broken. Continue reading “‘Santa Clarita Diet’ Season Three Perfects The Genre of Comedy”

What ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ Teaches Us About Ethics and Faith

Content Warning: Mentions of trauma, bombings, violence, and death.

Marguerite Duras’ and Alain Renais’ Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) has been most famously celebrated as one of the pioneering films of French New Wave. Two strangers meet wholly by chance, and spend the next twenty-four hours ruminating on the poetics of loss, suffering and memory. Of course, the title itself alludes to the bombing of Hiroshima, which immediately situates the film within the challenging politics of re-presentation. Can we ever do justice to the atrocities of war? Is it crude to talk about Hiroshima through a lover’s discourse? How to talk about Hiroshima? How can we not talk about Hiroshima?

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