Transpacific Film Cities

As “Hollywood North,” Vancouver is known for being a minor filmmaking city whose success has relied on the service it provides for the dominant industry of Hollywood. More recently, there are increasing efforts in the city to also cultivate a closer collaborative relation with rapidly rising film industries in East and Southeast Asia. This project examines how these efforts leverage the city's peripheral position and Asian migrant ties to innovate transnational collaborations across the Pacific. The project will map and analyze recent transpacific screen media initiatives in Vancouver in comparison with those of Hong Kong and Singapore, two cities which occupy comparable roles as minor filmmaking hubs that have pioneered transnational collaborations. Through close-up case studies of Vancouver-based screen media initiatives that traverse this emergent network, the project will map these practices as part of a new transpacific film geography. The project addresses a central challenge faced by minor film cultures in their push towards transnationalization: how to balance between the preservation of local character with the aspiration for global relevance. The project is funded by a SSHRC Insight Grant (2017-2022).

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SFU’s Convocation Mall plays the villainous role of the bio-tech company Antigen in the Underworld series. What roles do we want to see our campus play on screen?
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Vancouver plays Seattle in the sleeper hit from China, Finding Mr. Right, with location service provided by local production company Holiday Pictures/Maple Ridge Films.

Queer Sound On Screen

Cinema and television are commonly referred to and studied as “visual” media. The inadequacy of this description continues to be borne out by studies of film sound and the inter-disciplinary field of Sound Studies. Working within the framework of this rich body of critical works on sound, I explore the question of how we might hear queerness on screen. I revisit a corpus of queer screen classics and study them anew with what Jonathan Sterne calls a “sonic imagination.”

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Chang Cheng’s character in Happy Together likes to listen to the sound of his surrounding.
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The three lovers in Wild Side relate to each other at the edge of language.


Inspired by Richard Fung’s Re:Orientations, this project highlights stories from different generations of queer Asian cultural activism in Vancouver since the 1990s. While current queer media projects explicitly acknowledges a queer lineage from established queer Asian artists such as Paul Wong and Laiwan, other more ephemeral moments from the pre-digital age of cultural activism such as burlesque and drag shows, zine-making, poetry reading, and larger cultural festivals such as three iterations of Lotus Roots have remained largely undocumented. Drawing from interviews with those involved in those projects, this oral documentary project reflects on the continuities, disjunctures, tension, and solidarity of these generational memories. It hopes to bring out the distinctive milieu of Vancouver’s queer Asian cultural scene, its transpacific echoes, and its fragmented but ongoing linkages to queer elsewheres.

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Jimmy Susheel, (Centre) with The Draggin’ Angels and the Brown Brothers Posse at Vancouver’s Lotus Roots 2002.
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Ink Me: Queer Asian Women Speak: a ’zine published in Vancouver, 2000


(co-authored with Audrey Yue)

It is now commonplace to hear the complaint that queer theory is “too Western.” Yet, the very critics who voice such complaints often seem to have little knowledge of a large corpus of queer works on non-Western cultures and communities by critics, activists, and cultural producers based outside of the West. One reason for this contradiction is that non-Western queer works are usually not approached as “theory” but rather as area-specific knowledge. By contrast, the equally culturally specific works of “queer theory” from Sedgwick and Butler through to Halberstam are habitually approached as universal, even by those who challenge the universalist paradigm. Audrey Yue and I set out to explore this conundrum through an analysis of the theoretical significance of a rich body of works on Queer Asia that have remained “area knowledge” outside of “queer theory.” We critically examine the politics of queer knowledge production while proposing an alternative framework of reading and doing queer work. Our aim is not only to provincialize queer theory “proper” but also to deconstruct “area” in favour of border and mobility in framing queer knowledge.