Pride and Resilience: Exploring Southeast Asia’s LGBTQ+ Cinema

By the Cinemata Curatorial Team

Through a combination of documentary, short fiction, and experimental works, this selection of award-winning films aims to shed light on the experiences, struggles, and defiance of LGBTQ+ individuals in the region.

This collection includes classic and contemporary films from Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Cambodia, exploring themes of coming out and the protagonists’ defiance of conservatism in societies where acceptance of LGBTQ+ people continues to be challenging.

This is Not a Coming Out Story” is a short fiction film from the Philippines that portrays a young man’s struggle to embrace his sexuality in a predominantly patriarchal and conservative society. As he forms a friendship with another young man, the film delves into the complexities of his journey.
In “She’s My Son,” a powerful documentary from Malaysia, we witness Sugania’s transformation into her true self as a transwoman. Despite facing criticism, she navigates life with the love and acceptance of her mother, highlighting the resilience of LGBTQ+ individuals in a predominantly Muslim country.
Sensitive content: Sexual scenes
Palugid (Margins)” presents a deeply personal narrative as a gay man shares his first sexual experience and the loneliness he encountered while searching for connection within the margins of Philippine society. This documentary sheds light on the realities faced by LGBTQ+ individuals in their pursuit of love and intimacy.
From Indonesia, “[MA]CHO” focuses on the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community in a society still working towards acceptance. This documentary follows the story of a masculine lesbian aspiring to have a child, capturing the fears and hopes of the community for a more inclusive future.
Self-Portrait,” a captivating documentary from the Philippines, invites us into the filmmaker’s introspection as he reflects on his fears and struggles of revealing his identity to his father. Through their shared memories, this film poignantly explores the complexities of acceptance.
Sensitive content: Self-Harm
Talking to My Best Friend,” a documentary from Vietnam, explores the enduring bond between two transgender women who have overcome societal challenges to embrace their true identities. Their story is a testament to the strength and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community.
The program also includes two inspiring documentaries from Cambodia. “Black Balloon” follows the journey of Vorn Vireakboth, a queer dancer who finds solace in the arts as he overcomes a difficult past. “Love Across Time” tells the story of two older women whose love has endured numerous challenges, reflecting on the debates surrounding same-sex love in Cambodian society.
In “Solo,” set against the backdrop of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines, Ronnie, a talented dancer, grapples with his identity in a world where individuality is reduced to mere numbers. This short fiction film offers a poignant exploration of self-discovery and love amidst the chaos.
Sensitive content: Substance abuse
To conclude the program, “Kemikal Romance” takes us into the clandestine world of “Chemsex” in Manila, Philippines. Through the stories of three young men, this film exposes the discrimination, HIV epidemic, and Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs that impact LGBTQ+ individuals in the country.

These ten films from Cinemata, a video platform for social issue films, celebrate the resilience, strength, and diversity of the LGBTQ+ community in Southeast Asia through these remarkable films. Their stories are a testament to the power of love, acceptance, and the pursuit of equality.

For links to unlisted films, kindly email us at [email protected].

Cinemata is a video site for social and environmental films in Asia-Pacific. It is managed and developed by EngageMedia as an open-technology platform. The curatorial team behind Cinemata highlights important yet often overlooked stories, which helps filmmakers reach a wider audience and have a greater impact.

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