This piece first appeared around the Good Vibrations Magazine.
The trailer on the new Singaporean film 'When Hainan Meets Teochew' was enough to steer me that I were forced to watch it. The movie was premised as being a romantic comedy from a 'manly' woman, plus a 'womanly' man, rather than the usual Hollywood cliché certainly where an handsome man meets an attractive lady and so they fall in love with some complications are overcome.
The synopsis read: “One day, a brassiere drops on Teochew. He immediately wins the lottery and decides to maintain it. Hainan begins an arduous seek out her precious underwear, distributing a huge selection of missing posters around her neighbourhood. Teochew sees one on the posters, and his awesome curiosity is piqued. Bumping into Hainan some day, he asks around the brassiere, although he's no aim of returning it. Unfortunately, he lets slip greater than he should, and Hainan becomes suspicious…”
For individuals who are unaware, the Hainanese of Singapore are descendants of immigrants from Hainan, China's southernmost island province. Teochews are descendants of these from the Chaozhou region of Guangdong, China. Hainanese men're reputed to produce the best husbands, while Teochew girls supposedly make prettiest wives. (I am Teochew but alas, I cannot speak the dialect well.)
As a sexologist, I am obviously considering all media portrayals of gender roles and sexual orientation, particularly in Asia. I went in planning to like the film, but I had my doubts. Would the movie be contrived, further reinforce negative gender stereotypes and misconceptions, or why not be downright distasteful? Would the filmmaker, Han Yew Kwang, who also wrote your production, be capable of pull off a very unlikely storyline?
Having watched it, I have to point out that Han accomplished it splendidly. Here are some explanations why:
1) The movie is entertaining. It elicited laughs even through its 'cruder' elements, such as tussle with the main characters spanning a bra, and also delivery of slapstick humour, mainly inside the Mandarin language, with Hainanese, Teochew, Tamil and English mixed in. This approach is incredibly welcome, as I imagine it will website help alleviate the discomfort the Singaporean audience could well be experiencing with all the film's controversial subject.
My western friends who have been with me cringed at what they have to perceived as 'overacting'. As a local, my was different. The seemingly over-the-top acting are perceptive portrayals of how some natives do indeed behave in person. Contrary to public perception, Asians is very vocal when aggravated. In short, I was sold within the acting though I found it tough explaining why to my girlfriends.
2) Neither Lee Chau Min (Hainan-boy) nor Tan Hong Chye (Ms. Teochew) are professional actors. I liked the leads were cast as strong individuals. I could perceive this because I had already worked using the male lead (Tan Hong Chye) in the past. He would have been a costume designer for just a theater production during which I was working backstage. Later, in the Q&A as soon as the screening, the filmmaker, being friends while using two leads, shared he had consulted together with the actors throughout the scriptwriting understanding that essentially the three of which came up with all the script. Hence, the actors were liberated to give authentic responses and even more or less played themselves inside film – they're neither more butch nor more effete compared to they are in everyday routine.
3) The movie, probably for the first time from the lives of several members from the audience, ensures they are ask tough queries about what it way to be woman or man. Is it dependant upon one's behavior, looks, or just their genitals? What is normal? The fact how the actors also make inquiries along those self same lines of 1 another and themselves only helps it be more honest. That, therefore, allows us feel liberal to ask those questions.
Actress Yeo Yann Yann plays Hainan's ex-girlfriend. Her sudden appearance propels the narrative, leading Hainan and Teochew to confront their feelings for every single other. Hainan and Yann Yann share a full-on lesbian kiss on-screen in a flash-back scene. This raises more questions with the difference between one's sexual orientation versus their sexual preference. Could Hainan have been in the lesbian relationship, yet even be romantically serious about Teochew who's a feminine-looking man? Does it really matter, anyway?
The question of what is 'normal' is further emphasized because of the portrayal of Teochew's Indian landlord. The landlord looks 'normal' by any standards externally but is engaged in a very daily routine of conversing with a children's doll. In comparison, Teochew and Hainan are in all probability more well-adjusted persons.
Overall, 'When Hainan Meets Teochew' is often a unique Singaporean movie that tackles some serious gender and sexuality issues in the light-hearted manner. It isn't going to take itself too seriously and, consequently, can be a wonderful sex education movie. Their Facebook page will be here.