Director Koichi Imaizumi's 2007 offering Hatsu-Koi (First Love), a feature film that chronicles a high school boy's journey as he discovers desire, love, friendship and coming out in Japan. The film was selected to open the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival last month.
First Love will be screened alongside the director's other works Naughty Boys (2002, 76 min), Angel in the Toilet (1999, 33min) and a collection of short films by Koichi and various directors as part of the First Love of The Happy Prince showcase presented by Agnès b. CINEMA! at the Hong Kong Arts Centre from Dec 29 - 31.
Victor Chau speaks to director Imaizumi, music composer Hiroki Iwasa and actor Hiroshi Murakami who's also an editor of Badi, a Japanese gay magazine, about First Love, coming out, and being gay in three different generations in Japan when the trio were in Hong Kong.
æ: Why did you make a movie about First Love? And what was your first love like?
Koichi: It is a movie for the younger gay generation. It is something that gay teenagers can relate to, for example, they face problems about being gay and coming and I hope, through First Love, they could find help and answers. But for those who have already come out, they can also think about their future [i.e. gay marriage]. On a more personal level, I wanted to revisit my first love, which was a bit vague - I just remember liking someone, but in fact it was hard to define which was the first one!
æ: How was the movie received in Japan?
Koichi: First Love first premiered in Osaka in July this year. The audience thought that I was being too optimistic about gay marriage. Although that scene might look a bit clichéd, I think it is important to show the audience a gay marriage as it is still illegal in Japan.
æ: There does not seem to be a father figure in the film. Why is that?
Koichi: I feel that when people come out, the mother is usually the first person they come out to in a family - the father is usually second. Whether coming out to the father very much depends on the mother's reaction. The father represents the society and connects to the outside world. If he does not accept his son being gay, the son would inevitably detach from the father. Therefore, it's more important to show the mother's acceptance within the family.
æ: Would you say Hiroki and Shinji, the gay couple who Tadashi met in a train, are the teen's gay role models?
Koichi: Yes definitely. They are more like Tadashi's guardian angles, or fairy godmothers! They lead him to a whole new world. In fact, young gay guys need gay friends more than a boyfriend.
æ: Coming out seems to be one of the main messages of the film. How difficult is it to come out to your family in Japan?
Koichi: It all depends on different individuals. In fact, Iwasa, Hiro and I represent three different generations. I am now 42 and when I was younger, I was quite effeminate and so my friends called me names like okama, which means faggot in Japanese. In fact, the word "homo" that Tadashi's schoolmates use a lot, is derogative in Japanese too. I did come out to my parents but I'm not sure if they didn't get the idea of gay or just keep denying that I'm gay. When I was in my 30s they worried that I'd be single but now the matter is never discussed again.
Iwasa: I am not out to my family and I just turned 30. However, the last 10 years I have observed a lot more gay characters on the soap operas on TV. I haven't got any pressure from my family to get married.
Hiro: Being the youngest, it was easier for me to come out. I come from a Catholic family and I was 21 when I came out. My mother was a bit shocked and was in tears. She believed that it could be fixed. They do get the idea of being gay but sometimes they would ask me "Do you want to be a girl?" We don't actually talk about it anymore.
æ: What is the main message of your film?
Koichi: I don't want to give a set message to my audience. I want them to come up with their own message because everyone is different after all. I think I have a very varied audience too - gay, straight and bisexual. And I want straight people to know that gays are actually everywhere around them like everyone else.
æ: Is First Love in anyway autobiographical?
Koichi: Not really. In fact, I think First Love is closer to what I didn't do in my life. It's more like my projection of fantasy into reality.
æ: Tell us your age, job and who would you fancy if you' were straight.
Koichi: I'm a 42-year-old male and a filmmaker; actress-model Mikako Ichikawa.
Iwasai: I'm 31, male, and a music composer; UA, a famous Japanese singer.
Hiro: I'm 22, editor of Badi (a Japanese gay magazine); actress-singer;Aya Ueto.
First Love of The Happy Prince
Programme One: Hatsu-koi (First Love)
Programme Two: Naughty Boys
Programme Three: All About Queer Boys & Girls
Venue: Agnès b. CINEMA! Hong Kong Arts Centre
Multiple screenings from Dec 29- 31, 2007
Tickets: $50 Available at URBTIX outlets
Ticketing Enquiries & Reservation: 2734 9009
Telephone Credit Card Booking: 2111 5999
Internet Ticketing: www.urbtix.hk