A Chinese-American restaurant worker falls in love with an 18th century Qing dynasty god who visits him at night and leads him on a journey of sexual awakening and self discovery.
Writer/Director: Andrew Thomas Huang
Producer: Sara Nassim
Teddy Lee (as “Matt”)
Jeff Chen (as “Tu’er Shen” aka The Rabbit God)
Cinematographer: Rina Yang
Production Designer: Stella Deng
Hair Makeup & Adornments: Tanya Melendez
Costume Designer: Stephanie Strate
Sound Designer: Nathan Ruyle
Editor & Original Music Composer: Andrew Thomas Huang
Colorist: Gregory Reese at The Mill
Executive Producers: Sara Greco & Natalie Difford
Production Company: Collider
Made with support from Cinereach & Nowness
In 2018 I was asked by London-based culture platform NOWNESS to create a film on the theme "Define Sex." As a queer Asian filmmaker I had yet been tasked with the challenge of representing my sexual identity on screen. This challenge was a loaded one. Having grown up with a deficit of queer Asian visibility onscreen along with the frequent stigmatization and devaluing of Asian male bodies in Western visual culture, being asked to create a piece centered around queer Asian characters became a dauntingly personal journey for me to unpack these issues, while also crafting a story that I felt enriched our collective imagination of what queer Asian male love, sex and intimacy could aspire to be.
On a trip to Mexico City, I encountered an exhibition on Xōchipilli, the Aztec god of flowers and patron of gay love. The story of Xōchipilli inspired me to redirect my lens toward my own Chinese heritage, through which I found the Qing dynasty story of Tu'er Shen, 兔兒神 , known as the Rabbit God. Written by 18th century poet Yuan Mei, the myth of Tu'er Shen traces a Fujianese soldier who was sentenced to death for professing his love to another man. In death, the soldier was ordained The Rabbit God and became the patron deity of gay love. Today, Tu'er Shen is still worshipped at a temple dedicated to him in New Taipei City, Taiwan where religious ceremonies are performed for gay couples.
This research led me to craft a narrative about a Chinese restaurant worker who encounters Tu'er Shen as a ghostly visitor. Nightly visits from the god blossom into a tryst that empowers the boy to release his sense of trapped invisibility and embark on a journey of sexual awakening and discovery. Interweaving my personal family history in the Chinese restaurant business with the richness of Chinese mythology, "Kiss of the Rabbit God" is a confession and a love letter to my queer Asian community and tells the story of a lover's quest for self-possession to own one's desire and unlock sexual intimacy through spiritual embodiment.