Boy Meets Boy: Korean Gay Films in Review

A few years ago, while watching some trailers of Korean films on YouTube, I came across a short film called Boy Meets Boy by the director Kim Jho Gwang-soo. As the title suggests it’s a homosexual short film about a young schoolboy called Min-soo who loves photography and who is also gay. The film starts off with Min-soo who is trying to put a roll of film into his camera then drops the film down a flight of steps. The roll of film, when it gets to the bottom is stopped by somebody’s foot. The next scene Min-soo is on a bus putting some items away in his school bag when again he drops a roll of film, but this time it starts to roll along the floor of the bus, and then hits the foot of a standing passenger, who becomes the other boy in the story, Seok-yi. I can’t give too much information away, unlike a lot of synopses that give far too much, as that’s unfair for people interested in watching this great little film. It is a short, at around 13 minutes long but, what interested me more than anything was how much was told in this short space of time. The film has no spoken words, apart from a surreal scene with animation, so communicates with us purely by visuals and Min-soo, played by Kim Hye-sung, will please the girls as he’s very good looking and impressed me quite a bit with his acting skills. Kim Hye-sung is quite well known as he’s been in many TV programs such as High Kick! and many films such as Jenny, Juno and a short role in 71 Into The Fire, but if to be fair his performance in Boy Meets Boy is by far the best although he didn’t have to speak. And in truth, this short film has so many better qualities than some of mainstream Korean films that have too much action, sex, violence and less of the meanings and values that we really can connect with. This short film, linked below, started my interest in how homosexuality is portrayed in Korean film, so here I share these films with you along with some thoughts.

Boy Meets Boy is really about Seok-yi, who we learn quite a lot about and his problems with him coming to terms with his sexuality and his peer pressure, as Korea is still a conservative country and homosexuality is still viewed as a foreign issue and many people find it hard to accept it. But this article isn’t just about Boy Meets Boy but about ‘boy meets boy’ in Korean films in general. Kim Jho Gwang-soo is not only a director but also a producer who worked on films such as The Red Shoes, No Regret and Boys of Tomorrow. No Regret is also a gay film that looks into the issues of homosexuality and also into male brothels and about one having to admit his own sexuality by choice. Marry a girl of whom his parents want him to marry or become the boyfriend of the man he loves and to risk his parents never talking to him again, but really I don’t think its anywhere near as good as Boy Meets Boy, which was cute and simple without trying too hard.

Kim Jho Gwang-soo also directed the short film Just Friends? which has camp music at the start, but was again actually a really good short film, about a boy doing his military service and him seeing his boyfriend on his time off from the army at his mum’s house. This short film deals with the issue of coming out to your family and how they can deal with it. Again this film communicates very well in such a short space of time, a lot more than No Regret for example.

However things might change soon because Kim has directed a new full length film called Two Weddings and a Funeral and this looks good. The story is about a gay guy and girl who get married to hide their real sexuality from family and colleagues, often called a lavender marriage. The film looks really funny, a rom-com about homosexuality and looks very camp. Can’t really say much as I haven’t seen it, but time will tell if this film lives up to the standards of Boy Meets Boy, when I get my hands on the DVD which I should think will be out next year (2013) sometime.

But, however good Korean gay films are, I believe Hong Kong produces some of the best gay films. I have watched the film Amphetamine and Permanent Residence by the same director which deal with straight men falling in love with gay men and vice versa with the former examining the limit of passion and the latter about the limit of life, but the films feel more artistic, delicate, sexual and memorable (I can’t link the trailers to these two films though due to the large amount of nudity). Soundless Wind Chime is also another Hong Kong film which was just amazing and very touching and Wong Kar-wai’s Happy Together being just great at everything but then it has Christopher Doyle as its cinematographer, and he is very talented.

So although I prefer Hong Kong gay films, Hong Kong has over time had a better understanding of homosexuality, but Korean gay films have done more for society and homosexuality isn’t as taboo as it used to be and soon there will be a time where it is mostly accepted and not frowned upon. But in terms of artistic value Korean gay films still have a way to go to match those of Hong Kong.

Written by Ed.