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Three years on

Let me introduce you to Kim Ho.

We are very happy to reproduce this interview with Kim, recently conducted for leading Australian news-site Mamamia, by journalist Maggie Kelly

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Let me introduce you to Kim Ho.

Kim was just 17 when he wrote, and starred in, his short film The Language of Love.

In the ten-minute monologue, Kim plays Charlie, a young and confused student at Sydney Grammar School, searching for answers in the middle of a French exam. Charlie, you see, is in love with his best friend Sam. But the range of feelings he’s experiencing – fear, shame, pure joy – seem too terrifying to act upon.

The short film is a tender insight into what is actually going through a teen’s mind when they realise they might be in love. Or gay. Or both.

The film has garnered massive interest around the world, and has been shared by Stephen Fry, Dannii Minogue and Ellen DeGeneres.

We were lucky enough to sit down with Kim to talk about the film, and what’s next for the budding filmmaker.

What made you want to create this video? Was there a specific incident, or person, or moment?

I submitted an early draft to a monologue competition run by the Australian Theatre for Young People. 

The only thematic guideline was it had to be about love in some way. I was hugely inspired by a short film by GetUp! in support of marriage equality. Its message – love is love is love – is just so simple, raw and honest. I burst into tears when I saw it. 

I wanted to write a piece that evoked similar emotions, but within my demographic: about a boy grappling with his sexuality rather than adults campaigning for marriage equality.

The speculation around your own sexuality since the film’s release must have been hard! Are you comfortable talking about your own sexuality, or would you rather to choose to focus on the LGBTI plight as a whole?

I was very fortunate that the release of the film changed nothing with my friends and family. 

But I was taken off-guard when the first question Michael Cathcart asked me on the Books and Arts Daily radio programme was whether the film was autobiographical. He was among many who made suggestions about my sexuality that year. 

I initially found this slightly insulting, in the sense that it assumes the film is ‘merely’ my own story instead of a carefully constructed artwork. 

I’ve since realised there’s a power in withholding information about my sexuality. I’ve stayed deliberately quiet about it because the point of the film is that it doesn’t matter.

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What was your experience like at school? And how do you think portraying a young, private school boy struggling to accept his feelings will help other boys like Charlie?

My high school, Sydney Grammar School, is secular, and does not enforce any religious morals. 

During my time there, I felt very fortunate in this regard. Some of my friends were openly gay, and no one ever bullied me because of the film. Our headmaster allowed it to be filmed on campus and openly supported it. 

However, I remember there being no information given to students about sexuality. Grammar has also not signed up to the Safe Schools program. Those who were exploring their sexuality rarely came out to their immediate circle of friends, and many came out immediately after graduating.

Is this because of the teachers, or the students?

Its pastoral care system is randomised, so students could end up in the care of teachers they don’t truly trust. I get the sense that being LGBTI+ is tolerated within the confines of appeasing its conservative patrons – as an extracurricular activity.

I suspect Grammar is among the most progressive private schools in this respect, and that’s appalling.

When I see that a young gay student could be expelled from some schools for daring to be themselves, it hurts me. Children are much smarter than we generally give them credit for, but they’re not invincible. It breaks my heart to see bullying not only tolerated, but carried out, by the very people who swear to keep children from harm.

If you had the opportunity to meet a young gay man such as Charlie, what would you say to him?

Once you leave school and enter the real world it gets so much easier and so much harder. Easier, because you can find your people, those who respect you and love you for who you are, rather than those who will bully you or merely tolerate you. Harder, because when the homophobes who bullied you in school grow up, often their voices grow louder, angrier. They say heinous things. They commit heinous acts. But with each act of fear and hate, you’ll grow stronger.

You can live your life according to the rules of these people. Or you can live your life on your own terms.

So for the sake of everyone, ASK SAM OUT!

We hear a lot about the Safe Schools program, but as someone younger, smarter, and more in-touch that those making the decisions, what kind of measures do you think could be put in place in high schools to encourage and support LGBTI students?

Unfortunately I doubt religious leaders who are virulently against homosexuality will be moved by slogans or flags when any attempts to promote compassion are howled down as brainwashing. I genuinely believe the key is provoking people, young and old, to walk in other people’s shoes. 

And that’s done really effectively through art. Films like Gayby Baby and The Language of Love and Holding the Man aren’t brainwashing. They’re exercises in compassion. They’re offers of acceptance. They’re challenges to increase your empathetic imagination. A friend told me her grandparents radically altered their views on homosexuality after watching my film. These films have the capacity to create change, as a resource shared openly online, at LGBT+ festivals.

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Why is it so important to do so?

Giving people a sense of the beautiful diversity of sexualities, relationships and family structures out there will help everyone. It will educate children who identify as heterosexual. It will give strength and reassurance to those who don’t.

If we keep celebrating diversity, we will eventually eclipse homophobes, make their irrelevance complete. Already their voices are thin and quavering and carry less and less power by the day. They are lashing out because they know this. They are insecure, anxious people who have gravely and selfishly misinterpreted the messages Jesus espoused – love, compassion, empathy, generosity, caring for those less advantaged than yourself – ironically, many of which feature in The Language of Love.

You can find more information about the film and Kim Ho at ‘The Language Of Love Film’ website.

SAFE SCHOOLS

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Every school should be a SAFE SCHOOL for young LGBTI people, and the more informed young people are about their sexuality and that of their classmates and peers, the safer their schools and our societies will become.

With this in mind, and especially given the terrible events in Orlando, we have created a free, downloadable resource to complement the film to be used in schools, colleges and youth groups by teachers, counsellors and youth leaders.

You can download the resource here (you will need to have a free ISSUU account), which you can see below.

These resources are for general purpose use with classes of students of secondary level (of 13 years and above). Please note they have been prepared by the team behind the film, not by qualified counsellors. We hope we have the balance and content of activities right but as we are not experts, we would greatly appreciate your feedback and suggestions so that we can continue refining the resource.

Teachers  will know the maturity level of their students, the context in which they work, and the appropriateness of the activities for their classes. A general note is that, given the very personal nature of the subject, we have  tired to balance the nature of the activities between group, pair work and individual working.

We would always ask that teachers consider the needs and sensitivities of any LGBTI students in their class as a priority, and for this reason we suggest the section on ‘THE LANGUAGE’ is an individual activity, in which terms of abuse are contemplated rather than discussed openly. This should be also a consideration in the roleplay activities in the ‘IMAGINE’ section.

There is available a Word version of this resource pack to allow teachers to amend, edit and supplement the pack as they see fit. Email us on thelanguageoflovefilm@gmail.com, with RESOURCE in the Subject line.

There is also a high-resolution downloadable version of the film if schools are having problems streaming the film. Email us as above and we will send you a password.

Do pass this info on to organisations, institutions and groups that you think might be interested in using the film. And your comments are welcome.

For support, advice and information for young LGBTI people, visit:

http://minus18.org.au (Australia)

http://www.safeschoolscoalition.org.au (Australia)

http://www.thetrevorproject.org (USA)

http://www.itgetsbetter.org (International)

#safeschools

#Orlando  #Pulse

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Kim on THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE

THE LOVE THAT DID DARE TO SPEAK ITS NAME

Kim Ho, Times Educational Supplement, 13 December, 2013

When Olympic diver Tom Daley came out, his video went viral. But he wasn’t the first: one young Australian’s film on the same subject was already an internet sensation. Kim Ho reveals why he made it.

In late 2012, I started writing a short film called The Language of Love, a boy’s internal monologue about coming to terms with his homosexuality. Few people could have expected it to evolve into an internet sensation.

I feel I should explain my situation before proceeding further. In New South Wales, Australia, our state Anti-Discrimination Act still allows certain independent schools to expel, refuse admission to or otherwise discriminate against students who are gay or transgender. To uphold the values and ethos of their institution, many schools with a certain religious affiliation are prepared to ostracise vulnerable youths.

With considerable pride, I can say that my school – a major selective independent – fosters a non-denominational ethos, promoting acceptance rather than merely tolerance. Even in an all-boys environment, students can be openly gay with very few cases of bullying. Our headmaster allowed my “coming out” story to be filmed and my classmates celebrated the fact that I’d created a work of art – the subject matter wasn’t a problem.

In January 2013, I performed the film to camera with a small team and a tiny budget. In April, we released it online. Before long, Stephen Fry had tweeted it, and later Dannii Minogue and Ellen DeGeneres. The film was featured by The Sydney Morning Herald, The Advocate, The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed and Upworthy, and screened at festivals in Shanghai and Cardiff. Most importantly for us, it received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people around the world. Our little project was exceeding our wildest expectations, which made us wonder what else it might be capable of achieving.

The Language of Love was always firmly rooted in education. As a written monologue, it is part of an initiative run by the Australian Theatre for Young People called The Voices Project, which aims to develop theatrical works written by young Australians that drama students can perform as assessment pieces. However, it quickly became apparent that the work as a film held significant pedagogical value.

I received private messages from gay people saying how it had given them the strength to come out, and heard second hand of a homophobic person reassessing their viewpoint after seeing it. As a result, I believe that film is a very effective medium for social change, and has the potential to profoundly affect the development of ethical mindfulness in children.

Friendship, courage and hope

Unfortunately, I have also observed a subtle, insidious form of discrimination. Boys will use pejoratives like “faggot”, not against gay people but instead to demean or tease their straight friends. Similarly, words like “retard” and “spastic” have also worked their way into schoolyard vernacular. This phenomenon underscores a kind of careless abuse very common in boys my age. That “gay” is now synonymous with “bad” may simply be a representation of thoughtlessness rather than malice. It is human nature to follow other people’s opinions when you have not yet formed your own; it makes sense that this problem would be particularly relevant to young people.

Moreover, I fear that the anonymity afforded on social networks may exacerbate the problem. On Facebook, I frequently see posts known as “frapes”, when someone hijacks their friend’s account and posts an embarrassing status. It is very telling that, among boys, the vast majority of frapes are false confessions of homosexuality, as if it is the most shameful secret imaginable. As an aspiring writer, I despair more at their lack of imagination than anything else, but this strange ritual nevertheless illustrates a new kind of unthinking prejudice.

I therefore maintain that it is essential to start discussions in controlled environments, to initiate thought and reflection on complex issues like these. I don’t profess to be particularly socially minded at 18, but I’ve found it fascinating to observe the reactions of young people towards The Language of Love.

It doesn’t, on the face of it, look as though it should work. It deals with homosexuality, it’s low-budget and surreal, it has an Asian performer who talks incessantly for 10 minutes with an Australian accent – certainly not the type of attention-grabbing content that young people usually consume.

But somehow the film started a discourse. My classmates were very open to talking about the subject matter. They related to the message of friendship, courage and hope regardless of their sexuality and ethnicity. I think the monologue, its form being inherently personal and confessional, became an instructive exercise in empathy.

During class discussions, it’s unrealistic to expect teenagers to be well informed about everything; we all know they have more important things on their minds. A film is an effective way to establish baseline knowledge, but it’s also entertaining. As my monologue mentions, watching French films to inadvertently soak up the language is a lot more enjoyable than studying verb conjugations. How appropriate that my guiding inspiration was a short film promoting marriage equality, It’s Time.

I suspect that the fictionalised nature of The Language of Love creates a special dynamic with the student. By trusting the audience with his innermost thoughts, my protagonist, Charlie, is inviting a comparison between himself and the individual viewer. “What would I do in his situation?” and “How would I react if this were my friend?” are common responses, and I feel they bring people closer to seeing the personal dimension of this particular social issue. Empathy and understanding are surely key to reducing discrimination.

We are fortunate in Western society to be able to express ourselves without fear of persecution, and educational institutions must lead the way. Some will write young people off as impressionable but I prefer to think of them as the most open-minded individuals on the planet. Change is happening, and schools will be the perfect places to nurture a new generation that is thoughtful and considerate, accepting and kind.

Kim Ho, December 2013

PROUD to be in Yangon & online for &PROUD

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We were thrilled to screen at the second edition of &PROUD, Myanmar’s first LGBTI film festival, which took place in late January 2016 in Yangon. And we are equally thrilled now to be able to share the Burmese-subtitled version of the films, thanks to the work of the film festival team (above).

The film was introduced at &PROUD by Australian Ambassador Nicholas Coppel, who had to this to say:

‘I found The Language of Love to be a heartrending and poignant tale, brought to life by its 17-year-old writer and star, Kim Ho. Kim’s portrayal of Charlie as a young man struggling with the conflicting feelings of his love for Sam and the anxiety he feels about coming out was nothing short of touching. It’s a brilliant and very original take on coming out.’

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And on the launch of the film online, with Burmese subtitles, the Ambassador added this:

‘Diversity in all its forms is to be valued. It is my hope that LGBT persons in Myanmar will be inspired by Charlie’s story and will find the same courage to remain true to themselves and be proud of who they are.’

Co-Director of the &PROUD Festival Billy Stewart contacted us late last year with the request to screen the film, following a suggestion by Sydney’s QueerScreen/Mardi Gras Film Festival. Says Billy:  ‘We felt the film, which dealt beautifully with the experiences of young LGBT people and disclosure, was one that would speak to a Myanmar audience.’

THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE, which has been subtitled in Burmese, screened as part of a selection on international LGBTI films, representing Australia alongside films from the UK, the USA, Sweden, The Netherlands and France.

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Writer/star of THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE, said this about &PROUD‘s invitation  when we told him: ‘I’m so proud to be screening in Yangon & be part of the road to equality and democracy – what a time to screen the film in Myanmar!’

Follow us on YouTube and Facebook for more news about the film.

Find out more about the Festival in the short about last year’s first edition, below, while you can see the full program, here.

If you are interested to screen THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE at a festival, event and in schools, let us know, here.

Watch THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE, below.

Coming Out and On We Go

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Today, Sunday 11th October, is Coming Out Day around the world.

Coming out is the biggest decision a young gay person can face, so it’s important that they have the support and advice needed. Fortunately, even those young people living in remote spaces or in isolated family environments can find support online. Check out some of the great sites that provide comprehensive resources below.

http://minus18.org.au (Australia)
http://www.thetrevorproject.org (USA)
http://www.itgetsbetter.org (International)

Meanwhile, THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE continues to be seen around the world, with more than 1.2 millions views to date across YouTube, vimeo and on a number of platforms in China (where it has amassed more than 280,000 views).

We are also still screening at festivals around the world (see the complete list so far on our Festivals page).

In October, the film (사랑의 언어) will be screening in South Korea, at Chung-Ang University’s Feminists Unite with Queers Film Festival, following its screening earlier this year as the closing film at the 2015 Korean Queer Film Festival.

In November, we are playing at the Bibliothèque d’Olivet in France, as part of Le Mois du Film Documentaire, in the program L’Art de la Belle Écriture.

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If you would be interested in screening the film at a festival or an event, do contact us and let us know.

Happy Coming Out Day and do share the film today.

1 million views!

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Thrilled to announce that THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE has just passed over one million views across YouTube, vimeo and China’s Youku and WASU networks.

It’s been two years since we launched online and it’s been an amazing experience watching how the film has reached out to so many people, and hearing the responses viewers have had to the film. Last week alone, the film was seen by almost 7000 people and you can read just some of the many comments people have posted on the film across sites, here.

We are also really pleased that, by commissioning subtitled versions of the films in Chinese, Spanish and French, the film has been able to reach that many more people across the world (we know that 200,000 people have seen the film in China, while a further 130,000 have watched the film in Spanish-speaking countries).You can see all four versions of the film, here.

Thanks, again, for your support of the film, and Kim, who is now studying dramatic writing at university as a result of the success of the film, sends his special thanks.

I got a badge, too. For library. It's gold and shiny....
I got a badge, too. For library. It’s gold and shiny….

#Celebrate Kindness

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‘I know what my mates’d say. One time, we went down to the beach, just laughing and mucking about. But, y’know, ‘Tanning is skin cells in trauma,’ so I offered to put sunscreen on Sam’s back. He just smiled, said it was fine, but the other guys howled me down. Didn’t let me forget how gay I’d acted. ‘Charlie’s a poofter!’ But I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to forget Sam running back from the surf, shaking the water out of his hair. Big grin on his face.’ 

Charlie, The Language of Love

This week is #NoNameCallingWeek in which you are asked to #CelebrateKindness by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in the States.

A fantastic initiative aimed at addressing verbal bullying in schools, #NoNameCallingWeek (#NNCW15) was inspired by the popular young adult novel entitled The Misfits by popular author James Howe.

The book tells the story of four best friends trying to survive the seventh grade in the face of taunts based on their weight, height, intelligence, and sexual orientation/gender expression. The friends create a new political party during student council elections and run on a platform aimed at wiping out name-calling of all kinds. The No-Name Party wins the support of the school’s principal for their cause and their idea for a “No Name-Calling Day” at school.

Motivated by this simple yet powerful idea, the No Name-Calling Week Coalition was created by GLSEN and Simon & Schuster Children’s publishing and now consists of over 60 national partner organisations who, every year, run No Name-Calling Week, one of the largest bullying-prevention initiatives in the US.

You can find out more details about the initiative, including some great teaching resources and information about how you can get involved this year and next, here.

If you are a school or a performer and would be interested to screen or perform THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE as part of this initiative, or as part of a project to counter homophobia and bullying in schools, do let us know. You can read and download the full script of the original monologue, below or here

Two new interviews with Kim

Two new interviews with Kim have been published recently, each with its own particular perspective on THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE.

In the interview for DANIEL, the leading US publication for gay Asian men, Kim talks about the discussions he had with mentor Tommy Murphy on deciding the overall arc of the film, and discovering the piece’s emotion core. He also talks about his current projects and future plans. Read the piece by clicking below.

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The second interview, for PERIL, a magazine exploring Asian-Australian culture and arts, Kim talks about his dual cultural background, and the impact of the film on Asian-Australian viewers.

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Meanwhile, the film has had a fantastic response at festivals in Glasgow, Dublin, New York (see Laura at the Asian American Film Festival, below) and Vancouver, and 8 more festivals have now confirmed they will be showing the film in the next two months, bringing the film to live audiences in Australia, China, Germany, Denmark and 3 cities in the US.  

For the full list of screenings, see here, and if you are interested to screen the film, contact us, here. #spreadthelove

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