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3 Mar 2010

The Chi Heng Foundation gala showing of ‘A Single Man’

Fridae.com's Hong Kong correspondent Nigel Collett was at the Hong Kong gala premiere to see Tom Ford's new film. 

Hong Kong’s LGBT community was out in force on the night of Saturday, 27 February at Broadway Circuit’s Palace IFC Cinema in Central, where Sundream Pictures had provided the films for the first public showing of Tom Ford’s new film, A Single Man, in a gala benefit for the Chi Heng Foundation, the Hong Kong-based NGO. Founded by Chung To and others back in 1998, Chi Heng works to foster an 'equal, harmonious and healthy society' in China and Hong Kong, supporting equal opportunities in areas such as sexual orientation, discrimination and fighting HIV. It currently cares for over 8,000 AIDS orphans in China and works to educate mainstream society about HIV and sexual diversity. The gala event was aimed at raising funds for this work.

Chi Heng is well known here for its links with Hong Kong cinema, being one of the regular sponsors for the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (which runs in the autumn of every year), and over the years has supported the work of some of Hong Kong’s gay film makers. This is not the first gala it has held here; you may remember the premiere of Milk which Chi Heng chose for its gala fund raiser in February 2009. Chung To is a very well known figure in Hong Kong’s cultural circles, and on this occasion he introduced the film. Seconding him was media personality Doug White, of social media marketer Prosperity Research, who acted as MC for the evening. Doug, a prominent member of Hong Kong’s gay scene, also handled the online publicity for the gala. 

On Saturday, Chi Heng took over three cinema halls at the IFC for a late night showing. Tickets for the film and the after party at Kee Club cost a cool HK$400 (US$52), but this deterred none of the committed or the party goers. Chi Heng estimates there were about 350 people at the film, more at the party, some of them having come from out of town specifically to be there. The tickets had been underwritten by event organiser HX production, which is famous in Hong Kong for the mega parties – Decadence, Redemption, Sanctuary and China Pride – they have thrown since 2002. HX have given heavy financial support to various parts of the LGBT community over the years, especially to organisations fighting HIV, as well, of course, as giving the boys here a good deal of pleasure. 

The dress code for the gala was black and white, which gave a lot of scope for some amazing hair and blinding contrasts in costumes that echoed the dark suits with thin ties worn by Colin Firth’s character in the film. The already rather sharply dressed crowd was made even more glittering by the arrival of some of the celebrities who had decided to give Chi Heng their support. For those who knew whom they were looking at there were singers Chita Yu, Nam Yick Pong and Dennis Ng; models Vanessa Yeung, Jacqueline Chong and A. Lin; and celebrities Kam Kwong Leung, Yu Dik Wai Alton and Michelle Lo. These joined the party goers at the Kee Club around midnight and made it way into the small hours, helped along by performances by Hong Kong’s two notorious drag artistes, the outrageous Coco Pop (Dimsum’s very own Bryan Chan) and the extraordinarily pretty (if you like very tall girls) Fabiola Asustadiza (in real life the still very sexy James Gannaban, co-impresario of Mr Gay Hong Kong). As always, Kee Club Maitre D, Marc-david Nathan, had pulled all the stops out for the gala and the place was so packed that it was just possible to dance, if only just. If there were any tears remaining on the faces of those who had watched the film (and there was a fair proportion of the audience in tears at some stage during it) Marc-david made sure they vanished pretty soon thereafter.

Chung To, founder and chairperson of Chi Heng Foundation

Nan Wong, the General Manager at Sundream Pictures, who was responsible for providing Chi Heng with the copies of the film, let it be known that she had admired Chung To’s achievements in the past and wanted to do something concrete to support Chi Heng’s work in combatting HIV. She and Sundream specifically wanted to use A Single Man to present a positive image of the gay community, and the way the film does this by making gay partnership seem so utterly ordinary is what also attracted the Chi Heng Foundation, which thinks the movie perfect for its mission to counter discrimination. The film opens in Hong Kong cinemas on 11 March. 

I went to Sundream Picture’s press preview two weeks ago and so was able to review the film for Fridae.com (A Single Man). In my review I made it pretty clear that I had fallen in love with the film. This time around, I went to the gala deliberately looking for things I didn’t like about the movie. Had I got it wrong first time? I hadn’t. I found nothing I wanted to criticise adversely. I will watch it again. Go see it for yourself, but take some tissues!

Chung To tells me that he is delighted that the event was sold out and the party packed. The gala night raised over HK$70,000 (US$9,000) for the Chi Heng Foundation. A classic film, a fun night and all in aid of a great cause.

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