CB Yi • Director of Moneyboys
“You have to love and accept yourself in the first place in order to be able to give love and respect to others in return”
by Teresa Vena
- CANNES 2021: The Taiwanese-Austrian director presents a drama about male prostitution in the Un Certain Regard section in Cannes
With his first feature film, Moneyboys [+see also:
interview: CB Yi
film profile], Vienna-based director of Taiwanese origins CB Yi addresses a series of socially relevant topics, focussing on a trio of male prostitutes in Taipei. We talked to him about the inspiration for the film, screening in Cannes' Un Certain Regard, and his artistic approach.
Cineuropa: How did the project begin?
CB Yi: I started working on the idea around eight years ago. Back then, I got to know young actors from Beijng who were training in Austria. One of them told me that he earned money to pay for his mother’s healthcare by sleeping with men. That impressed me very much. This was the starting point for the film. In Taiwan there are a lot of young people who leave their rural home to go to the city. Often they work in the construction business and are very poorly paid. Others prostitute themselves. The Confucian upbringing forces people to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the family. I wanted to talk about this and raise the question of what we live for exactly.
Was it difficult to produce the film in Taiwan and why is it mainly a European production?
I grew up in Vienna and was trained there, actually by Haneke himself. Since my background is there, it seemed just natural and even necessary for the funding to come primarily from there. But we also received financial help from Taiwan and worked with a mixed team. The Taiwan Film Institute helped a lot with finding locations and was very supportive.
How did you go about researching for the film?
I was lucky to be able to rely on a big publication that a Taiwanese LGBT activist has written. He analyses all the aspects of male prostitution, considering health issues and family problems. Through him, I also got to know several “moneyboys” and so, over eight years, the script got richer and richer with details.
What is the most important message you want to communicate with the film?
I wish people like my protagonists would have the courage to be happy. You have to love and accept yourself in the first place in order to be able to give love and respect to others in return. If individuals are not well physically and mentally, they won't be able to help others. Moreover, we need to learn how to leave the past behind. People shouldn't live with shame for the rest of their lives.
Are there any filmmakers that inspired you on a visual level?
There are a lot of filmmakers I admire such as Hou Hsia-Hsien, Ozu, Haneke, Buñuel, Wong Kar-Wai, Kubrick, Bresson or Tarkowsky. As you can see, they are quite different from one another. It is not the work of a single artist I have been inspired by but they trained my eye. I wish to conceive each scene as a big long shot in which there is action that dynamises it, avoiding sequences with many cuts. It is important for me that the viewer, especially a younger one, gets used to this form of storytelling. I don't want to create superficial images that distract, but scenes that allow one to plunge into them.
Would it be difficult to show the film in Taiwan?
No, actually, Taiwan is very progressive when it comes to LGBT rights. Same-sex marriage is allowed, for example. The film has already been praised there and I am looking forward to showing it to a big audience.
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