In his latest short, Square Dance Story, gay Asian filmmaker Jason Karman not only tackles his first film about a straight relationship but does so without words.
“There are some peripheral characters that are same-sex couples but the main characters are straight,” explained Karman.
Telling the story of an outsider who tries to infiltrate a square dance troupe and his advances on one of the female square dancers, for Karman Square Dance Story is not only a romantic film, but he also sees it as a metaphor for gender equality and inclusiveness.
“When I was researching the film, I spoke with Anne Uebelacker, who is a lesbian square dance caller. In my discussions with Anne she said that in square dancing they don’t care about your sexual orientation or anything else, they just want bodies. She told me that no other dance brings all sorts of people together like square dancing. They don’t care where you are from, what your gender is, they just need those eight people to form a square.”
Perhaps an unusual subject for a film, Karman says that his inspiration comes from his fascination with dance a movement after taking a dance workshop a couple years ago. Square Dance Story also gives him an opportunity take risks by creating this as a silent film.
“I’m always pushing myself into new areas so I can see if I can do things differently, take artistic risks,” he explained. “The most poignant moments in a film don’t require words – it’s just behaviour. I’m also aware that I don’t have full mastery of the English language and things sometimes get lost in translation. I was looking for alternative ways to tell a story without words.”
A regular at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival – Karman received the Gerry Brunet Memorial Award at this year’s Festival for his film I’m In The Mood For Love – this is not his first film to be screened as part of the Vancouver Asian Film Festival. Asked about the differences between having his films shown at a LGBT festival and a straight one, Karman is convinced straight festivals view things a bit more academically.
“At the Vancouver Asian Film Festival the audiences tend to be a little more analytical and as a result their responses are muted,” he said. “The queer community is more gregarious, more out-going. It could be the history though. The queer community has seen it all, experienced it all – the Asian community tends to be more reserved.”
But one thing Karman knows for sure, whether queer or Asian, the need for each of these communities to see their stories reflected on the screen is the same.
With Square Dance Story making the Festival rounds right now, Karman is back on a more comfortable queer footing with his next project, a Christmas drama about a son who returns home for the holidays and must make the choice between family and his new boyfriend, and who tries to make amends for not being there when it mattered the most. With a release date of Christmas 2012 though, looks like we’ll be waiting a couple of years for it to reach the Queer Film Fest.
Square Dance Story
Screens as part of the Vancouver Asian Film Festival’s Vancity Shorts
Sunday November 6, 2011 @ 1:00pm
Cineplex Odeon International Village, 88 West Pender Street, Vancouver
Visit http://www.vaff.org for tickets and information.