Thursday, July 1, 2021

Best Sisters Forever, the new short from the director of Your Name Engraved Herein, gives "lip-syncing for your life" a new meaning

Best Sisters Forever, the latest title by Patrick Liu, the creator behind Taiwan's highest-grossing LGBT film of all time, Your Name Engraved Herein, will be making its exclusive premiere via GagaOOLala, globally on 2 July 2021. A first for both Liu and GagaOOLala, the partnership between the Taiwanese director and the platform explores the rising ‘drag’ culture within the queer landscape of Asia with Taiwan at the forefront of the LGBT rights and movement in the region. The film offers an authentic glimpse into the drag sisterhood in Taiwan and contains real-life performances by Taiwanese drag queens in the nation’s most famous gay destination, the Ximending district of Taipei.

The plot of the film centers on the graceful Xuerong (Heng-Chi Kuo) and the fun and frivolous Yihong (Ta SU), two gay best friends ‘sisters’, who get into a heated argument over questions concerning promiscuity and eventually decide to go their separate ways. A terrible misunderstanding leaves the once inseparable ‘sisters’ estranged for several years. However, a tragic turn of events suddenly reunites the two. Knowing their days together are numbered, the pair, then, set out on an adventure hoping to gain lost opportunities and make fond memories. Along the way, they gradually make important discoveries about life, love, friendship, and family, with a long-lost dream ultimately coming true for the life-long duo.

Two of the leading names in the Taiwanese entertainment industry, Heng-Chi Kuo and Ta SU take on the roles of Xuerong and Yihong as the main protagonists in the short film. A man of multifaceted talents, Heng-Chi Kuo, who has previously worked as an established singer, director, songwriter, and composer for the likes of Faye Wong, Stella Chang, and Jacky Cheung, makes his official on-screen debut as an actor through Best Sisters Forever. Likewise, the production also stars the Golden Bell Awards winning aboriginal actor, Ta SU, who has had a decade long run in the Taiwanese showbiz, with several hit films and series (Tale of the Lost Boys, Magic Showdown, iHero 2, Your Name Engraved Herein) under his legacy. Best Friends Forever marks Ta Su’s as well as Heng-Chi Kuo’s first time playing drag characters for a film, an experience both of them collectively, described as being “highly entertaining yet challenging, a special project that has been worth pursuing, especially for its profound cause and the much-needed drag advocacy.”

Besides playing Xuerong, Heng-Chi Kuo also lends his voice and artistry to the official theme song of the film titled, “Don’t Rub Salt on the Wound”. An emotional track seeped with feelings of nostalgia and regret and a parting message of glimmering hope and faith, the song was originally composed by Heng-Chi Kuo in 1999 for A-Mei, a Taiwanese indigenous singer. Often referred to as the ‘Queen of Mandopop’, A-Mei has forever been a gay icon and an LGBT and indigenous rights advocate throughout the Mandarin-speaking world and was most recently featured on a digital billboard in Times Square for Spotify EQUAL, a global campaign by the streaming giant voicing equal rights for women across the world.

Best Sisters Forever is director Patrick Liu’s latest film after Your Name Engraved Herein, the epic romantic gay drama that went on to win two Golden Horse Awards (Best Cinematography and Best Original Film Song) and quickly became Taiwan’s most popular LGBT film making it the only gay-themed movie to have surpassed the NT$ 100 million mark at the Taiwanese box office. Having premiered in Taiwan on 30 September 2020 with a wider international release via Netflix later, the film has helped bolster Taiwan’s global reputation as Asia’s most LGBTQ+ friendly country and the leading queer content creator in the region. Finding its origins in Liu’s 2019 play Noises Off, which is inspired by a farce performance that Liu and his classmates put up thirty years ago, Best Friends Forever is Liu’s attempt to bring ‘drag’ and the sistership within the community into the spotlight. Liu states, “What has always fascinated me is this special sense of bond or sisterhood that exists among members of the gay community but is rarely talked about or discussed in the mainstream. So, this is where I kind of wanted to play with this idea of ‘sisterhood’ and create a story around it specifically in the context of drag.”

With the meteoric rise of RuPaul’s Drag Race especially in the past half a decade, drag culture has gained worldwide popularity and a universal fandom that now extends to every nook and corner of the globe. Thus, in borrowing from the culture’s success, Best Friends Forever is an earnest effort to shed light on and champion the drag spirit of Taiwan, thereby reflecting over the issues of identity, empowerment, bonds, and sisterhood within the flamboyant community in the island nation. For this, the film features original performances from some of Taiwan’s most famous drag queens in Taipei’s most iconic LGBT location, the historic Red House of Ximending district.  

Best Sisters Forever is the third installment in GagaOOLala’s 2021 anthology ‘Queer Up The Volume’, a collection of original queer stories, each with its own title song and music video, aiming to portray the different facets of the contemporary queer community and its wide-ranging issues. The Queer Up The Volume project is officially supported by Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture for which it received a subsidy from the Bureau of Audiovisual and Music Industry Development. Besides Best Sisters Forever, other upcoming titles in the anthology include the highly anticipated second season of GagaOOLala’s hit Thai-Taiwanese BL co-production series, Call It What You Want 2 which is set to premiere on 23 July 2021, Light, director Adiamond Lee’s (HIStory, Dark Blue and Moonlight) short film showcasing the realities of the gay sex workers in Taiwan on 13 August 2021 and Fragrance of the First Flower, the lesbian mini series by director Angel Teng (Bao Bao), first prize winner of GagaOOLala’s Pitching Sessions 2020. 

The short film will be available for streaming on GagaOOLala globally on 2 July 2021.

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