Coming out to our family is probably one of the scariest experiences that many of us have undergone in our life.
While some of us have open and accepting parents and siblings, others have to battle homophobia and ignorance right where they thought they would feel the safest and most loved.
In a gripping short film titled To Mum (Love, Me), a young woman and her mother were thrown into an emotional turbulence after the mother found out about her daughter’s sexuality.
Directed by Singaporean writer and filmmaker Joyene Nazatul Ismail, the film explores coming out in a conservative Asian household where the idea of family honor and tradition is held with great regard.
The 25-year-old director shared that the film is titled To Mum (Love, Me) because the idea for it started out as a letter to her own mother.
‘My inspiration behind the film came from my own experiences as well as my relationship with my mother after I came out to her,’ she says. ‘It has been tough and I still struggle with it to this day.’
You can watch the trailer here:
Ismail says that the film’s main target audience is actually the general public instead of the LGBT community.
‘Some people may say it’s a cop out or a sell out, that I diluted it for my audience, but they don’t see that my target audience isn’t the LGBT community, but rather their parents or loved ones who are struggling with accepting their children.’
In the end, even her own mother was incredibly touched by the film.
‘I was targeting an older audience and I think it paid off – after it’s first screening at a friends and family screening in school, many parents I didn’t know came up to me to tell me that they were really touched by the film,’ she says. ‘Hell, even my own mother cried watching it. That to me, is my job well done.’
Here’s the 16 minute film:
Ismail explains that she made the film bilingual, in English and Mandarin, despite not speaking Mandarin herself, to show the multifold barriers existing between the two characters.
‘Even though they clearly understand each other, the refusal to speak to each other in the same language is jarring not just for them but also for the audience,’ she says.
The distance between the two only widened when the daughter’s secret relationship got found out.
However, Ismail adds that ‘the mother speaking in English at the end shows the mother and daughter finally being on the same level.’
Though, she comments that acceptance will be ‘another journey for them.’
‘[The mother’s] acceptance is kept vague because while I wanted the ending to be hopeful, I didn’t want it to be so easy.’
There are also plans to expand on the film and turning it into a five part series.
‘The film was mostly structured around the Kübler-Ross model (the five stages of grief) and I would like to turn each stage into a separate film,’ she says. ‘Each film would feature 5 different individuals of different races and also from a different point on the LGBT spectrum. It’s still in the works, though finding the funds to actually produce it is a challenge.’