Gay short film Sodom’s Cat (2016) tells the story of 5 gay men. After a climatic orgy party, each of these men goes back to their ordinary lives, facing their own loneliness and sadness. This short film, starring many hunks and featuring an X-rated sequence, took the queer film festival circuit by storm leaving audiences impressed. However, the purpose of Sodom’s Cat is to make audiences think about the unfinished ties and life dilemmas hidden behind sexual pleasure. This time, GagaTai is lucky to have the director, Huang Ting-Chun, to talk about the ideas behind Sodom’s Cat.
Graduated from the Department of Radio and Television Studies at Shih Hsin University, Huang Ting-Chun had already produced many shorts before Sodom’s Cat. He is still not used to be the one in front of the camera, though. He shrugs his shoulders and squints from time to time. He has a very particular smiley look, but when he sits down with us and talks about his work, there is this glimpse of seriousness surrounding his bright eyes. His tone is smooth and steady; he speaks with rationally and emphatically. Yet, during the interview, he hides under the table a couple of times trying to escape from our questions showing a sense of humor. Let’s get into the interview!
Q: Why did you want to do a film about gay men?
During my master degree years, I have focused in many different themes, from school bullying to sexual assault, and even futuristic topics. I like to deal with things that others rarely do.
Currently, Taiwanese LGBT films focus on the same topics on and on: coming out, family, first love, etc., but few people explore strong and controversial topics such as sexual diversity, drugs, and transgender people. So, Sodom’s Cat is about the non-mainstream LGBT culture, and the sexual grey areas.
Q: What is the meaning of the title, Sodom’s Cat?
I don’t know how I came up with this great title. In Marquis de Sade’s erotic fiction, Sodom is a place of sin. Everyone in this city goes through a highly promiscuous period. Except the four main characters, no one can escape from this castle. It is a prison of desire. On the other hand, sex itself has an animalistic quality. The feature that defines cats is that they only get close to others when they have needs. It applies to the characters in this film. They get together because they have emotional or physical needs, but they all solitary people. Sodom’s Cat is the the main character’s online username. It is not related to the original meaning of “Sodom” or “cat,” it can have multiple meanings.
Q: Why did you choose an orgy to present the people’s loneliness?
This screenplay was born in a queer film festival workshop so, in the beginning, it was all for a competition. At that time, there wasn’t any screenplays featuring gay orgies, so I decided to write something controversial to break through this taboo. The screenplay won the competition, and the queer film festival wanted to develop the film but I had trouble looking for actors who dared to portray these characters.
“I want the audience to really feel while watching this film.”
Although Sodom’s Cat has a bizarre opening, eventually, it is all about emotions. It is because of its passionate opening, that I left the last 20 minutes for the characters digest this passion. Compared with sex, that finishes after ejaculating, emotions last and are a hard topic to handle. This is the key point of Sodom’s Cat. I usually asked audiences how they felt after the screenings while smoking a cigarette outside. All of them said they wanted to be alone and calm down.
Q: Have any anti-LGBT protestors commented on the film?
At that time, ticket sales are quite successful, so few anti-LGBT activists can get tickets. But they did bring this film’s poster to protest against Queer Film Festival. They obviously didn’t watch the film, so I just see it as a form of marketing for us. It is awesome! Another time, we screened this film in Kaohsiung, and a mother asked us whether this type of activities cause diseases such as AIDS? We answered that gay orgies are not necessarily related to AIDS transmission. At the session, there was also a lecturer specialized in AIDS-related issues and he quickly gave a thorough explanation to the mother.
Q: Before writing the orgy screenplay, had you done any research?
I had done some research by asking my friends about it. After the screening, some of them told me the scene before the orgy was quite realistic. They also experienced that uncertainty of going to a stranger’s house, and trying to make sure the one in front of you is the one you contacted on the social app. Before meeting your hookup date, your heart will race, and you will keep wondering if you can still have sex with him after seeing the real him, or if you will have feelings for him. I think this is much more interesting than the sex itself. The emotions after sex are also interesting. Should I leave now? Or should I have a little chat with him? Am I impolite? It is those reactions that I want to explore in the film.
Q: How did you design the orgy scene?
Many people asked me why I shot the scene with day light. The reason is that I think late night is the time to deal with emotions, and I also want people to see clearly how the orgy goes on. So, I %*ZYjNYE)Sy=9v#ZeI=xa+pbcWpJE&Nb&_4FVPGvgJgxDBQzrEswitched day and night purposely, using bright lighting to shoot the scene.
Besides, some critics said though the orgy scene makes people uncomfortable, it mainly focuses on kissing and licking. It is not lascivious enough. I did feel that the scene wasn’t strong enough. There aren’t many sex scenes in Asian queer cinema. Originally, I wanted to do some close-ups of the genitals, but I couldn’t find actors who dared to do it. Or the actors weren’t good enough. So, I had to give up.
Q: The storyline of the main character, Sun, is quite special. How did you come up with it?
When I was writing the screenplay, I thought of one of my high school classmates. She and I were very close, we used to hang out together, but now I have forgotten her face and name. So, I was thinking that what if there was a person who I had had a close relationship with or I had deeply fallen in love with, but he had totally forgotten me after several years, similarly to my experience with my friend. How will I feel like? This uneven relationship between two people is quite complicated. Should I get to know him again? Or should I pretend this didn’t happen? So, I wrote this character based on this emotion.
Q: What do you want to convey through this film?
Basically, the film depicts a situation everyone might experience, you may be in a stable relationship, but you still want to look for new adventures. Actually, in this orgy, everyone has a hidden purpose. For example, Sun tries to rekindle his relationship with someone. Duke looks for new emotions, but later he finds out this is not what he wants and goes back to his normal life. L and Uncle meet each other in this party. L falls in love with him, he only goes to the orgy for him. They are a bizarre couple that originated from this strange group relationship. But none of them don’t has the strength to admit it. Roger puts everyone in contact but, emotionally, he is not part of it. Among these gay men, the main character, Sun, is the one who stays in a blurred area. He seems indifferent. After this bizarre encounter ends, he even chooses to get rid of, or forget, the past and his feelings on the rooftop, in a sort of ceremony. These characters’ stories overlap with the audience’s personal experiences in a certain way. With this film, I want to tell people that you don’t have to be scared of the happiness or sadness that this type of experiences brings you. You don’t need to hide your feelings. Instead, you have to feel it, be brave and keep going.