Hong Kong, 12 June 2020 – Since its early days, Hugill & Ip has been extremely committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace and in the community. The firm wholeheartedly encourages every form of diversity, as we believe in its power to add significant value to the workplace and the community as a whole. Diverse teams make better decisions, and in turn build a better society.
The firm is engaged in spreading awareness for the need of anti-discrimination policies and legislation, as well as actively participating in the fight against stigma based on different grounds, hence the choice to support “Suk Suk 叔叔” has been a natural one. Biases against sexual orientation, gender identity and even age are still rather common in Hong Kong, both in the workplace and in society overall.
Suk Suk is a 2019 Hong Kong drama film written and directed by Ray Yeung. It presents the story of two gay married men in their twilight years, but who are still in the closet. One day Pak – a 70 year old taxi driver who refuses to retire – goes to a neighbourhood park where he meets Hoi, a retired single father who’s a few years younger than him. Despite years of societal and personal pressure, they are proud of the families they have created through hard work and determination. Yet, in that brief initial encounter, something is unleashed in them which had been suppressed for so many years. As both men recount and recall their personal histories, they also contemplate a possible future together. Suk Suk studies the subtle day-to-day moments of two men as they struggle between conventional expectations and personal desires. The film also touches on the need for retirement homes where people of different sexual orientations can feel welcome, a reference to a very current topic of discussion in Hong Kong.
The film has won several awards both in Hong Kong and overseas. Hong Kong filmmaker Ray Yeung’s latest work has quickly become a critics’ favourite since its premier at the Busan Film Festival last year. It was voted best film by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society and Tai Po was voted best actor. It also gained five nominations, including best film, at the Golden Horse Film Awards in Taiwan last November. The film was screened at the Berlin International Film Festival, before having a general release in Hong Kong a few weeks ago. The film recently earned nine nominations for this year’s Hong Kong Film Awards: including best film, best director and best screenplay for Yeung and best actor for Tai Po. The film will be distributed by Strand Releasing in North America under the title “Twilight’s Kiss” and will reach cinemas in late Autumn 2020, kicking off in New York with Film Forum.
After the private screening at Pacific Place, Adam Hugill, Ray Yeung and Travis Kong answered questions from the audience about societal and legal issues, as well as about filmmaking and changing attitudes towards sexual orientation and age-related issues.
Adam Hugill mentioned: “There are four anti-discrimination ordinances in Hong Kong: together the ordinances protect against discrimination on the grounds of sex, pregnancy, marital status, family status, disability and race. Although there has been mounting discussion regarding the introduction of specific legislation to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, and all public surveys have displayed a changing of attitude favouring such legislation, no meaningful steps have been taken by the Hong Kong Government since the introduction of the entirely voluntary Code of Practice: Against Discrimination in Employment on the Grounds of Sexual Orientation 20 years ago. No plan to introduce such legislation is in the pipeline. All progress in prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation has been made in various Court of Appeal and Court of Final Appeal rulings. Twenty years ago, the Government published another entirely voluntary Code of Practice: Practical Guidelines for Employers on Eliminating Age Discrimination in Employment. However, legislation banning discrimination on the grounds of age is equally unlikely to be passed by the Government, despite it being supported by over 70% of Hong Kong’s population”.
Ray Yeung commented: “Today in Hong Kong the LGBT community is generally more open and the society is more accepting of LGBT rights. However, older gay men have not been able to enjoy these changes due to their adherence to strict traditional cultural values and close family ties.”
The film director continued saying: “Many of these older gay men, who had abandoned their own natures and desires to fulfil their duties as sons continuing the family name, have established close and rewarding blood ties to the families they created. For these men, the love from their families is their life’s ultimate goal and achievement. Therefore to ‘come out’ as an older man is a betrayal of their lives’ work and self-sacrifice. For those who dared to come out, their experience in the gay scene was not always welcoming. There are hardly any establishments which cater for their needs. Some elderly men whom I had interviewed told me that they were turned away when they wanted to visit a gay sauna. As we try to fight for equality, we should also pay attention to the inequality within our community where ageism, sexism and racism are common.”
Travis Kong added: “There are an estimated 50,000 to 110,000 older LGBT+ people living in Hong Kong. This is not a small number. Whilst the LGBT community as a whole is quite visible, older LGBT+ tend to remain hidden for two main reasons. First, they are reluctant to “come out,” as they been hiding their sexual orientation since their youth. Second, many of them engaged in a heterosexual marriage when young, making it very hard to come out to family members. What this population shares, however, is the loneliness of being old, single and a sexual minority; the coming out dilemma (particularly challenging for those who are married with children or grandchildren); the longing for same-sex intimacy or to maintain their closeted same-sex relationship; the fear of getting sick; and the frustration of being excluded from the youth-oriented, class-based LGBT community. It is thus important to educate the general public, social service providers, legal professionals and LGBT community to acknowledge their existence and be aware of their specific needs and problems to work towards a more caring, inclusive and tolerant society.”
They also exchanged views on these subjects a few days earlier in Hugill & Ip’s office, as featured in the video attached.
The film is distributed by Golden Scene Co. Limited, a company renowned for its diverse line-up of US hits and local productions. Winnie Tsang, the managing director of Golden Scene, is a veteran in film acquisition, distribution and marketing who established Golden Scene in 1998.
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Born and bred in Hong Kong, Yeung continued his studies in London where he earned a law degree and eventually became a solicitor. Yet his passion for filmmaking got stronger with time and he started reading about different cultures, particularly when he was in the UK. Yeung finally decided to pursue a master’s degree in filmmaking from Columbia University in 2008. He followed that by making a series of short films: Doggy… Doggy (2009); the quasi-coming-of-age tale Derek & Lucas (2011); stale relationship story Entwine (2012); and Paper Wrap Fire (2015). Yeung’s second feature, the New York-shot Front Cover (2015), showed a director taking considerable creative steps while cleaving closely to subjects near and dear to his heart.
Dr. Travis S.K. Kong is a leading sociologist of sexuality with a specialization in Chinese homosexuality and masculinity, prostitution in Hong Kong and China, social impacts of HIV/AIDS, and transnational Chinese sexuality. He is Associate Professor of Sociology and Programme Director of Media, Culture and Creative Cities at the University of Hong Kong, where he teaches gender, sexuality, and media and cultural studies. “Suk Suk” was inspired by his book Oral History of Older Gay Men in Hong Kong (2014), which documents the life stories of 12 elderly gay men, some of whom Yeung met, inspiring him to write and direct the film. The book has been translated into English in 2019 named Oral Histories of Older Gay Men in Hong Kong: Unspoken but Unforgotten.