Interview With Zero Chou


Photo credit: The 3RD Vision Films

Out director Zero Chou is

one of the few openly lesbian filmmakers in the world, and the only one in Taiwan.

Her first film, Splendid Float

(2004), which was about drag queens, won three of Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards, including

Best Taiwanese Film of the Year. Her second film, Spider Lilies (2007), won the

Berlinale Teddy Award for Best Queer Feature, and comes out on DVD in the United States

on May 6.

Chou’s next film, Drifting Flowers, which premiered at the

Berlinale in February 2008 and will be screening at festivals this year, brings

together three loosely connected stories about sexuality and gender. It stars

newcomer Chao Yi-lan, a Taiwanese acting student who brings an authentic,

natural butch presence to the screen.

Last month, I spoke to

Chou with the assistance of a translator, and we talked about Taiwan’s lesbian

community, her own coming-out story, and her dream — with her partner, Hoho Liu

— to make six LGBT films overall. You started out working as a journalist; what drew you

to making movies?

Zero Chou:
Even though when I graduated from college my first job was as a

journalist, in my heart I always knew I really needed to be creative. Working

with words, for me, was too easy. I wanted to have a much more creative and

challenging career, so somehow I chose filmmaking [laughs].

AE: What drew you to the story for Spider


At that time I wanted to make a movie about young people. So there

would be tattoos, webcam girls — young people were often involved in these

things. … So these two things became the topic of the film.

AE:Was it difficult to get

funding to make this movie, given its subject matter?

ZC: Because this was my

second movie — usually it’s very difficult for young directors to get funding —

I was able to apply and get some government funding. Of course it was not

enough. The government grant covered about 25 percent. For the remaining 75

percent, of course, I had to find a way to get investors.

AE: For the government

grant, did they know about the lesbian story line?

Of course they knew [laughs].

AE: The Taiwan

government is supportive of this?

ZC: This funding is awarded by an

independent review board of experts. The review board decides which screenplay

is good and decides on the merit of the story.

Chou (left) with Rainie Yang of Spider Lilies

Photo credit: The 3RD Vision Films

AE: Tell me how you came to

cast Rainie Yang and Isabella Leong in the movie.

ZC: I first selected Rainie Yang, but

afterward I realized that finding another person who could play opposite her

was very difficult, because Taiwan’s young women are all made up to look very

cute and pretty, but none of them are sexy in a more masculine way. So since I

couldn’t find anyone in Taiwan,

I went to Hong Kong to find someone.

AE: How did they feel about

the lesbian story line when they were cast?

ZC: I asked them to read the screenplay

first, and if they were interested, then we could continue talking. They were

very interested. I felt that it was only in this situation that we could

cooperate and work together. Actually, Isabella had been looking forward to

acting in a gay film.

AE: Oh, why?

ZC: Because before doing Spider Lilies, she had acted in a lot of

rather trashy movies in Hong Kong. She told me

she had been waiting for an opportunity to act in an art movie, and if she had

the chance to play a lesbian role, then she would be very happy.

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