A subtle if layered LGBTQ drama centering on a Chinese family’s past secrets and the persistent problems they have caused in this sensitive and composed feature debut.
Dir. Lisa Xiang Zi
2019 | China | Drama | 107 mins | 2.35:1 | Mandarin
R21 (passed clean) for homosexual theme
Cast: Hua Naren, Ji Nan, Wu Renyuan, Zhang Yinyue
Plot: A Chinese family saga, told in different periods of time, commencing with the wife’s discovery of her husband’s homosexuality. When her adult daughter comes to visit, other secrets slowly come to light.
Awards: Won Teddy – Jury Award & Special Mention, Nom. for Best First Feature Award (Berlin)
International Sales: Granadian
Subject Matter: Slightly Mature
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse
(Reviewed on screener for Love & Pride Film Festival 2019)
This is quite the discovery—a subtle and layered LGBTQ drama from China that captures with delicateness how latent homosexuality can tear an Asian family apart from within. Yet this Chinese family in question continues to be together, out of pragmatic necessity, or perhaps out of spite.
In this feature debut by Lisa Xiang Zi, which won awards at the Berlin International Film Festival, I feel we are very close to seeing a film whose story could also play out in Singapore.
Many LGBTQ films often center on its lead characters, taking them on a journey to escape discrimination and to find love and affirmation from kindred spirits. But in this seemingly nondescript work with some experimental flourishes, the filmmakers do quite the about-turn: the father has been secretly gay for a long time, possibly even before the birth of his daughter, and this to the chagrin of his wife, who refuses divorce and hopes that seeking religious help might just ‘correct’ him.
Told in a non-linear fashion from largely the point-of-view of the daughter at varying milestones of her life, A Dog Barking at the Moon is an intimate and sensitive look at how contesting views toward homosexuality continue to create persistent problems in everyone’s lives.
It is also backed by composed performances by the largely effective cast who manage to create believable characters. Under Zi’s quiet and unassuming direction, the film finds clarity under the surface of a ripple, where conservative Asian values reside—or perhaps hide.