New Asian Currents Special Invitation Film [TAIWAN]

Boys for Beauty

- TAIWAN / 1998 / Taiwanese / Color / Digital File (Original: SD) / 63 min

Director, Photography, Editing, Sound, Narration: Mickey Chen
Music: Chen Chan-chie
Source: Backstage Studio

This multi-part work depicts the social realities and inner struggles faced by three gay teenagers. Xiao-yu decides to break up with his boyfriend before going abroad to study in the US—we see his relationship with his mom now that he has come out to her. Morgan, an overweight student struggles at his elite high school, after coming out to teachers and classmates. The beautiful Xiao-bing speaks of his increasing success working as a drag queen. Three stories that brim with both tears and laughter. Shown in memory of director Mickey Chen, who came to Yamagata in 2011 as a New Asian Currents juror.

[Director’s Statement] Being a queer documentarist in Taiwan, I try my best to figure out a way of survival. Getting grants, persuading people to come out to show gayness and lesbianism . . . a lot of hard work forces me to become very very independent. Boys for Beauty is a great relief for me, as it allows me to return to the innocence of queer youth. I learned a lot from these flaming kids and got to know more about documentary—the genre that empowers me these years.

Fifteen years ago, a queer high school kid like me in Taipei couldn’t speak up, didn’t have any gay or lesbian role models. We had no queer visions. At that time, I had so many queer brothers and sisters who loved the “wrong” one, I mean, those straight people who wouldn’t love them in return. Many of us even tried committing suicide at that young age. Many years passed by; finally, I grabbed my camera to explore the new generation, the brave new queer world.

Boys for Beauty turned out to be a box office hit in Taiwan in 1999. The whole queer community mobilized and put a lot of effort in making this documentary a legend. Furthermore, we can say there’d been a golden decade of documentary in Taiwan, created and circulated by the persistently hard-working documentary group Full Shot. With such a beautiful heritage, we young filmmakers will continue our voyage of making more and more diverse and outspoken documentaries.

—from the YIDFF ’99 official catalog

Mickey Chen

Chen produced documentary films in Taiwan that address issues surrounding queerness and gender. In 1996 he co-directed his first film entitled, Not Simply a Wedding Banquet (1997). Boys for Beauty was shown in New Asian Currents at YIDFF ’99 and brought Chen to Yamagata for the first time. This film also achieved box-office success during its theatrical release in Taipei and won Chen the Independent Spirit Award at the 1999 Taipei Film Festival. Afterwards, Chen directed multiple films, including Memorandum on Happiness (2003) and Scars on Memory (2005), which was shown at the Tokyo International Film Festival. His works have been screened at various gay and lesbian film festivals, Asian-American film festivals, and documentary film festivals. In 2011, Chen published his best-selling semi-autobiography Taipei Dad, New York Mom, which won the Taipei International Book Exhibition Prize and was adapted for the stage. Chen’s second visit to Yamagata was as a juror for the New Asian Currents in 2011. He passed away suddenly in August 2018.