“Strange mash-up” influences Aaron Chan’s work

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We don’t know of many 22 year olds that are listed in IMDB, but for filmmaker and pianist Aaron Chan his young career has already garnered him no less than seven entries in his online listing.  And now, adding to his growing filmography, Chan returns to the Vancouver Queer Film Festival with his newest short Stay, as part of The Coast is Queer.

StayLike many of the films we have come across in the shorts programmes at the Queer Film Festival, Chan’s movie is a personal project.  But he isn’t giving much up, hoping the audience won’t go in with any assumptions or guess as to how it will all play out.

“In a nutshell, Stay is about what happens to a young gay Chinese couple when one of them refuses to stay the night.  To be honest, I’m not sure how audiences will react.  I hope at least one person will think, ‘Whoa, that’s my life’ or maybe cry … in a good way”.

Given the reaction to Chan’s 2008 film On The Bus, which has now played at festivals around the world including Canada, the United States, Australia, Czech Republic, Paris, and France, it is probably a safe bet that this rising star has something to say – and people are taking notice.

But Chan is not just a shorts filmmaker looking to tell a story, Chan has also worked on other projects including YouthCO’s Playing It Safe which has provided him with skills that have helped in his own films.

“With some training from folks from the National Film Board of Canada, who co-produced the film, I learned to operate a camera, shoot, and edit documentary shorts that featured street youth in Vancouver and promoted harm reduction,” explained Chan.

Along with the presentation of his movie as part of The Coast is Queer, Chan will also participate in the panel discussion Visible: A Discussion with Artists of Colour.   But despite his participation, he doesn’t necessarily see himself as a visible minority.

Aaron Chan“I think it’s because in Vancouver, there are so many visible minorities that it’s easy to blend in,” reasoned Chan.  “The fact that I was born and raised here makes me feel like a Vancouverite, rather than that I’m Chinese.  In other words, I feel like I fit in because everyone is so different”.

But get him started about being Chinese and gay and that’s a completely different matter as he talks of his very traditional family, the Chinese cultural view of homosexuality and his own view of himself as a “strange mash-up”.

“Despite having raised their children in Canada, my parents are traditional Chinese people, and with that brings up problems,” said Chan.  “It was difficult to come out to them because I never felt like they understood what it was like to be gay or even the concept of it.”

Chan also points to how the “whole subject of being gay is taboo in Chinese culture” making any discussion about homosexuality difficult, not only for others in the Chinese community, but for himself as well.  “So if no one talks about it, how could they understand it?”

But Chan sees himself more than just the colour of his skin.  “I’m a strange mash-up of Chinese, Canadian, and gay, where I feel like there’s a balance of all three.  But at times I feel alienated when I think about the fact there isn’t a community of gay Chinese men like me, which is kind of sad”.

Not one to navel gaze too long though, Chan continues work on his next project with friend Steve Emery on a film about Pride performers, which will be edited into an hour-length documentary plus working on “a whole bunch of scripts lying around in my room, waiting to be realised”.  And of course, sending Stay around the world.

Monday, August 16 @ 9:30pm (part of The Coast is Queer)

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