Today’s Doodle, illustrated by Taiwan-based guest artist Dyin Li, celebrates Taiwanese filmmaker and activist Mickey Chen, who focused on telling stories from people that belonged to disenfranchised communities. On this day in 1999, his film Boys for Beauty became the first LGBTQ-themed documentary to be screened at a movie theater in Taiwan.
Chen, fascinated by cameras from a young age, started creating movies in college. At 30, he made his directorial debut with Not Simply a Wedding Banquet (1997), a documentary about the first gay couple to have a public wedding in Taipei. It explored the struggles that members of the LGBTQ+ community faced in Taiwan.
In 1999, Chen released Boys for Beauty, an eye-opening exposé that followed the lives of three gay teenagers from Taipei. The film took a bold stance against gender norms and showcased the societal pressures each subjects’ relatives endured. It was a box office success and a pivotal achievement for Taiwanese cinema.
Boys for Beauty won countless awards and film festival placements, most notably the Audience Award at the 2000 Taiwan International Documentary Festival. Chen gave an inspiring acceptance speech that praised the LGBTQ+ movement and invited several directors to join his on stage in an act of solidarity.
Chen wrote and directed many more documentaries such as Memorandum on Happiness (2003), Scars on Memory (2005), and Fragile in Love (2007). He also published Taipei Father, New York Mother in 2011, a book about family tragedies that occurred during his youth. Throughout his career, Chen documented significant moments of LGBTQ+ history in Taiwan and opened the eyes of the public to them and Taiwan’s progressive LGBTQ+ societal views are a result of trailblazers like him.
Guest Artist Q&A with Dyin Li
Today’s Doodle was illustrated by Taiwan-based guest artist Dyin Li. Below, she shares her thoughts behind the making of this Doodle:
Q. What were your first thoughts when you were approached about working on this Doodle?
A: I couldn't believe it! I had always dreamt of drawing a Doodle. Additionally, when I learnt that the Doodle was celebrating director Mickey Chen, I was thrilled. As a supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, I was really glad to have the opportunity to work on this project.
Q. Did you draw inspiration from anything in particular for this Doodle?
A: I knew that I had to get to know Mickey better to depict who he was and what he did in a small image. To do so, I watched his films, interview videos, and read his book about his family history. I took note of scenes in the films and quoted some of his words about the connection between a director's identity and being gay as inspiration. It's worth mentioning that I also read the recommendations in his book, most of which were written by Mickey's friends. These words helped me understand his personality more deeply. As a documentary film director, it might not have been easy for him to present himself in his films, but these recommendations offered a unique perspective on who he was.
Q. Did you learn anything surprising or noteworthy while researching for this Doodle?
A: I was deeply touched while watching the films Mickey directed. They initially focused on some LGBTQ+ individuals, their partners, families and friends, eventually capturing precious memories and pieces of the entire society. The first film he directed was in 1997. I was impressed by how the LGBTQ+ community has experienced significant changes while also continuing to share similar experiences and struggles over the decades.
Q. Can you tell us about your process?
A: After researching and brainstorming, my aim was to capture both the LGBTQ+ theme and the essence of Mickey Chen's work - 'crossing the line.' In the process of recording people's life stories, he longed for light in the darkness and captured the glimmering light in people's hearts - that was the atmosphere I wanted to present in this Doodle. To achieve this, I decided to use a dark background with light rainbow colours passing through the frames.
For the portrait, I aimed to depict Mickey's career as a documentary director and showcase his bright personality. Initially, I drew a small handheld camera, but after a discussion with the art director, we decided to replace it with a HDV camera on a tripod to emphasize his profession in the initial impression of the Doodle. Additionally, I included a depiction of him wearing a flower in his ear at an event to convey a sense of bravery and beauty. Furthermore, I made several adjustments to enhance the clarity of the 'Google' and the portrait, taking into account screen sizes. This experience provided me with valuable insights, and I would like to express my gratitude to the art director for her help.
Q. Any other thoughts you'd like to share?
A:I am glad to have learnt more about Mickey through creating this Doodle. I hope that someone who sees it will be inspired to watch his films and read his book. After Mickey's passing, Taiwan has legalised same-sex marriage. But we still have a long journey ahead towards love-wins. Mickey's films show us what the world was like years ago, but what lies ahead for us?