Movie director puts same-sex marriage in spotlight

Staff writer, with CNA

Wed, Jan 01, 2014 - Page 3

The Taiwanese-American director of Baby Steps (滿月酒), a Taiwan-US produced film that is being shot in Taiwan, said he hopes his film will promote acceptance of gay and lesbian families.

“I want audiences all over the world to understand that love and family come in many different forms. This movie is about a new kind of family,” Barney Cheng (鄭伯昱) said on the sidelines of a press conference in Taipei on Monday.

Written, directed by and starring Cheng, Baby Steps is about a gay couple living in the US who want to get married and raise their own child by using a surrogate mother.

However, the Taiwanese mother of Cheng’s character struggles to accept her son’s sexuality due to her traditional upbringing.

The comedy-drama stars veteran Taiwanese actress Kuei Ya-lei (歸亞蕾) as the mother, and Cheng and US actor Michael Adam Hamilton as the gay couple. It is being produced by Taiwan’s Hsu Li-kong (徐立功) and Lan Ta-peng (藍大鵬), and Britain’s Stephen Israel.

The film has received funding from the Ministry of Culture.

“I hope this movie will entertain the audience, as well as make this world a better place for everybody,” the 42-year-old director said. “I want to inspire more gay people to come out, and I want to inspire more acceptance and celebration of different types of families.”

He added that he also hopes to let the world know that Taiwan is a “very open-minded” place.

“I think Taiwan is the only country in the world that is able to take the risk to make this movie,” Cheng said.

Baby Steps is Cheng’s first feature film. He has previously appeared in Woody Allen’s Hollywood Ending.

Asked about the recent same-sex marriage debate in Taiwan, Cheng said he is happy that people are having the discussion.

“I would love for this movie to lead to more discussion, because I think people should talk about it,” he said.

To better portray her character, Kuei said she met with the woman who inspired the part — Cheng’s mother — and talked to her about her struggles coming to terms with her son’s sexuality.

“Although it is a very difficult role to play, I love it,” said Kuei, who played a similar role in two-time Oscar-winning director Ang Lee’s (李安) 1993 award-winning film The Wedding Banquet (囍宴).

Cheng said that if The Wedding Banquet was a son’s coming-out story, then his film is about “a mother’s coming-out story.”

“The son wants to stand in the sunlight, but the mother is hiding in the closet and afraid to come out,” he said.

Hsu said he decided to produce the film because he was moved by the script and the passion of the director.

“I hope they [gay people] can live in the sunlight, and pursue happiness and basic human rights like the rest of us,” Hsu said.

The film, with a production cost of about US$2 million, is being shot in Taiwan and Los Angeles. It is expected to premiere next year.