Queer Cinema in Asia

Key information

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Module code
FHEQ Level
South East Asia Section

Module overview

This module explores the proliferation of films in recent decades representing non-normative sexualities and genders from a number of Asian countries. The module will draw on mainstream film, independent film and webseries to investigate the complex issues at stake in discussing the notion of queer cinema in Asia.  Film examples watched during the module will all come from across Asia, while secondary sources, both theoretical and examples of film analysis will draw on both Asian and Western contexts. While knowledge of one or more Asian languages is of module useful it is by no means essential, and all key films will be subtitled. Any any un-subtitled clips screened during lectures will be accompanied by detailed viewing notes.

The module is divided into two parts, The first five weeks will use examples of screen media from South East Asia to explore key theoretical ideas related to the understanding of  non-normative sexualities and genders in Asia. Key topics for exploration will include thinking about terminology in the Asian context. Particular   sensitivity to specifically local manifestations of sexualities and genders in the region will be encouraged, while at the same time screen images will be contextualised in terms of transnational circuits of queer knoweldge and related arguments for and against the notion of global queering. Specific topics for investigation will include the notion of 'positive' and 'negative' images of lgbt and queer identities, and the relevance of homonormativity and notions of the queer unwanted to the study of films from Asia. Other key topics will be AIDS and HIV in Asian film, the representation of transgender identities, and possibilities for resistant responses. The module will also explore LGBT and queer film festivals in Asia and the success of certain LGBT/queer films in Western film festivals; alternative images in independent film, web series and NGO produced screen media in contrast to mainstream film, as well as documentaries.

The second half of the module will focus on specific examples from across Asia (e.g. India, Philippines, Japan, Korea, China) in classes led by specialists on the country or cinema in question. These classes will give students the opportunity to explore the applicability of theory introduced earlier on in the module to specific films and cinemas. Finally, the module will conclude by returning to questions asked at the beginning of the module, questioning how and in what circumstances it might be useful to talk in terms of a Queer Asian cinema. In their final essays students will be encourages to apply  key theoretical ideas explored during the module to a film or selection of films from beyond those watched over the term.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be expected to be able to:

  • reflect on some of the key theoretical ideas related to notions of queer identity in Asia
  • use primary cinematic sources to discuss key ideas related to representation of sexuality and gender in Asia
  • theorise correspondences between films and extra-textual historical and cultural phenomena
  • produce critical writing that is theoretically-informed and substantially grounded
  • exercise time management in the conception, formulation, substantiation and revision of an argument


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 4 hours per week. Two hours of film screening, a one hour lecture and a one hour seminar.

Scope and syllabus

  1. Non-normative genders and sexualities in Asian cinema, and notions of global queering
  2. The question of 'negative' and 'positive' Images, and possibilities for resistant responses
  3. Transgender identities
  4. Homonormativity and the queer unwanted, AIDS and HIV in Asian film
  5. Queer film and internet: web series; LGBT and Queer film festivals; LGBT/Queer issues in documentaries
  6. Regional film example and lecture
  7. Regional film example and lecture
  8. Regional film example and lecture
  9. Regional film example and lecture
  10. What is queer about Asian Cinema?

Method of assessment

  • 50% - Essay (1,500 words)
  • 50% - Recorded Visual presentation (12 minutes) or Essay (1,500 words)
  • The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page

Suggested reading

  • Altman, D. 2001a. Global Sex, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  • Benshoff , Harry M. Queer cinema, the film reader. New York London: Routledge, 2004.
  • Binnie, J. 2004. The Globalization of Sexuality, London: Sage.
  • C. Berry, F. Martin and A. Yue (eds) Mobile Cultures: new media in queer Asia, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Boellstorff, T. 2007. A Coincidence of Desires: anthropology, queer studies, Indonesia, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Grossman, Andrew (ed.) 2000, Queer Asian Cinema: shadows in the shade, New York: Harrington Park Press.
  • Halberstam, J. 1998. Female masculinity, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Martin, F. 2003. Situating sexualities : queer representation in Taiwanese fiction, film and public culture. Hong Kong:: Hong Kong University Press
  • Murtagh, Ben.  2013. Genders and sexualities in Indonesian cinema: constructing gay, lesbi and waria identities on screen. London, UK: Routledge.
  • Warner, M. 2000. The trouble with normal : sex, politics, and the ethics of queer life. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,


  • Arisan! (The Gathering, dir. Nia Dinata, 2003).
  • Conq Episodes 1-5 (2014 dir, Lucky Kuswandi), webseries available online
  • The Wedding Banquet (dir. Ang Lee, 1993).
  • East Palace: West Palace (dir. Yuan Zhang 1996).
  • Akulah Vivian: laki-laki jadi perempuan (‘I am Vivian: the man who became a woman’, dir. Endraatmadja, 1978).
  • Happy Together (dir. Wong Kar Wai 1997).
  • Dostana (dir. Tarun Manshukhani 2008).
  • Macho Dancers (dir. Lino Brocka 1988)
  • Iron Ladies (dir. Youngyooth Thongkonthun 2000)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules