In 1984, Toronto-based filmmaker Richard Fung released Orientations: Lesbian and Gay Asians, which focused on 14 men and women of South, East and Southeast Asian backgrounds. The film broke new ground in detailing both the increasingly visible LGBT community within Canada and the unique cultural challenges that Asian-Canadians faced both in the LGBT world, their own cultures and the wider national society.
In revisiting his landmark work with this new production, Fung connected with seven individuals that were profiled in 1984 – three of the 14 had since passed away and the others declined to participate in this work. The resulting production offers a mature consideration of how Fung’s subjects underwent an evolving notion of self-identity during a period when diversity and tolerance became more prevalent.
On the whole, the men and women profiled here are more comfortable with their lives in today’s Canada versus the 1984 society, although there is some nostalgic warmth in their recollection how they first became confident in their respective coming out experiences. Some of the participants express amusement in looking back at the earlier film, which they had not seen since its release. There is some conversation on mild racism from within the LGBT world – one Chinese-Canadian man complains that white men immediately assume he is passive because he is Asian – and one participant hijacks his camera time to espouse unrelated political advocacy to what he dubs the “Israeli apartheid” in the Palestinian territories.
Fung brings in several young LGBT individuals that comment on today’s society versus the 1984 world as depicted in his earlier work, but their commentary is not particularly necessary or insightful. Indeed, it might be helpful to see Orientations to understand the journey that Fung and his subjects traveled over the past three decades.