TIFF isn’t the only game in town this September. The ninth annual Caribbean Tales Film Festival kicked off at the start of the month, with a collection of films that embody various aspects of Caribbean culture. This year, Richard Fung is the featured filmmaker in the festival’s Queer Spotlight, and he spoke with Xtra about his work and queer Caribbean representation.
Xtra: How do both of your projects in the festival reflect the intersection of your queer and cultural identities?
Richard Fung: I think I bring a queer and feminist lens to looking at the migration and transformation of dal puri. For instance, I was struck by how dal puri gave Indian women in the Caribbean the means to use “traditional” skills to gain economic independence. And the doc features my partner, Tim McCaskell, in a casual and normalized way . . . I think it’s good to see a same-sex couple in a film not about sexuality.
Your short film Islands deals with the cinematic representation of Caribbean people and the ways otherness is pushed to periphery. What motivated the creation of that particular project?
Actually, two of my uncles were extras in the 1957 John Huston film Heaven Knows, Mr Allison. My Chinese-Trinidadian uncles played Second World War Japanese soldiers, and Tobago was the setting for a Pacific island. It sums up my complicated relationship to Hollywood cinema: on the one hand, seduced by the cinematic pleasures and the glamour, but [also] resistant to the ideological machine that paints in broad strokes, misrepresents and stereotypes.
Your feature Dal Puri Diaspora discusses the ways recipes travel and evolve as the result of globalization; Toronto is currently in the midst of a cross-fusion culinary boom. What are your thoughts on this movement?
Well, I certainly relish all that cross-cultural mixing. Unfortunately, it’s not always that well done. I notice, for instance, that many Asian restaurants distort their food towards the deep fried and overly sweet. So-called ethnic restaurants also typically represent a limited, codified version of what the cuisine has to offer. I’m not sure if restaurateurs are overly cautious or if Torontonians are actually that conservative, and will only stick to familiar dishes.