TRACEY is the story of a father named Tai-Hung who has a “normal” life. He has a wife and two grown kids, has a stable business. Internally though, Tai-Hung is holding a deep secret. One days, he receives a phone call informing him that his friend, Ching, has died. After he learns of Ching’s death, Tai-Hung begins to slowly reveal his true identity with the help of Ching’s spouse, Bond and an older friend who he used to work with. But with the secret finally coming out in the open, will his family and friends accept him for who he really is.
While interviewing Jun Li, the director of the film TRACEY, he mentions that 如風(fate) was the reason why this project came into his hands and one can see why. Before making his feature film directorial debut with TRACEY, he was a journalism and gender studies major. While pursuing journalism, he wrote on the case of W in 2013 and reported on the community. “I went to different people and support groups. That was when I first had my connection with the community. And we stayed in contact throughout the years. Then I did gender studies and made more connections. When Kei Shu approached me with this project, he asked ‘Are you familiar with LGBT issues?’ So we hit it off right away with that meeting.” Not only does he have a background in gender studies, but he won the Fresh Wave Hong Kong competition as well. “I won the short film competition called Fresh Wave Hong Kong and that is when Mr. Shu knew me. He invited me to have tea with him and then he invited to be on board with this project. The short film I did was about sex workers and when I presented my project, it was a very sex positive. You feel who I am through the film. “
While the film does play it safe in presenting the story in queer cinema terms, it still is powerful film and one of the first and one of the first in Hong Kong to have a transgendered character in the lead role. Jun Li and the producers had a mission with this film. Jun says,“ We want the audience to sympathize or identify by anyone who has does not have any knowledge of our community. Who have never in their life encountered someone who is a sexual minority.”
TRACEY does accomplish it’s mission. You do feel what Tai-Hung is going through, you do sympathize with him and feel the emotions when he comes to his friends and family.
Phillip Kueng, a cisgender actor, plays the lead of Tai-Hung/Tracey and it is a role that feels like he was meant to play. There has been a lot of controversy lately about cisgendered actors being cast as transgendered roles (Scarlet Johansson most recently got flacked for being cast as a transgendered man in the film RUB AND TUG). When asked about this, Jun had this to say, “I don’t have a problem with actors who play sexual minorities. It’s about the characters for me as a director. I would not choose an actor or actress who would change the nature of my characters and to cast a straight person, I don’t change the nature of that character. To restrict ourselves for transgender characters to be limited to transgendered actors, it is itself a restriction for the actors and the directors.”
TRACEY will be released in Hong Kong cinemas on November 22.
Words: Russell Boaz