1 min

Salty tears

Fate deals Fung cruel blows

LOVE & DEATH. Richard Fung's short film Sea In The Blood is eloquent and deeply moving. Credit: Xtra files

Local artist Richard Fung’s Sea In The Blood is an eloquent, deeply moving and profoundly sad look at two of Fung’s closest relationships: with his late sister Nan, who succumbed to thelassaemia (a rare blood disorder – its literal translation gives the piece its title) in the late-1970s; and his partner Tim, who has been living with AIDS since the early ’80s.

Nan’s death provides the emotional centre. Fung brings her uncannily close to the viewer through his deft use of old photographs, 8mm home movies and his mother’s commentary. The closeness of brother and older sister while they were growing up in Trinidad and Tobago is palpable. And Fung’s strange experience – living close to illness with the constant expectation of death – can be seen shaping his worldview.

Fate deals cruel blows, and Fung is quick to see the irony.

First, Nan’s illness worsens and she dies while Fung is travelling Europe and Asia – and falling in love – with Tim. The pain which arose from his failure to return home before his sister’s death is made all the more harrowing in that it remains essentially unspoken by Fung himself. Instead, it’s obliquely constructed through commentary by Tim and Fung’s mother.

Then, shortly after Nan’s death, Tim exhibits his first AIDS symptoms.

There is a lot of joy here, however. There is no mistaking the strength that Fung has gained through these two relationships. And Fung finds a beautiful image to express this: underwater shots of Richard and Tim in the sea, swimming between each other’s legs.

The final shot – Fung emerging from the water, a giant grin on his face – says it all.

Screening at the Reel Asian International Film Festival (Thu, Nov 23 to 26), Sea In the Blood is part of the closing night program at 7pm on Sun, Nov 28 at the Royal Theatre (606 College St). All screenings are $8; call 703-9333.