Liam Lacey (2002)

Art of the image takes centre stage by Liam Lacey
(Globe and Mail, April 11, 2002)

Oh yes of weary eyes, worn dull by billboards, televisions and multiplex screens – gather at the Images Festival of Independent Film and Video, and awake. The missionary invocation is appropriate for a celebration that’s much more about calling than commerce. As the Images program book repeatedly notes, these films are not coming to a theatre near you. Now in its landmark 15th year, the Images Festival is nothing about piety (they even have an award for bad behaviour) and all about revelation; to show and show and show. Canada’s biggest annual forum for independent film and video (and media) artists opens today in Toronto and runs for 10 days at the Bloor Cinema and Innis Town Hall… The Toronto showcase artist, Richard Fung, is a good example of an artist whose work can be both highly personal and political. The Toronto artist, who has been a prominent video mentor for the past 20 years, uses video, photographs, old-movies, voice-over narration and drama in his literary explorations. This is work strong on critical theory, yet accessible (even educational) and edited with a poetic sensitivity to rhythm.

Among his better known works which will shown at Images is Dirty Laundry, which follows a fictional journalist on a west-bound cross-Canada train, researching an old family photograph. He’s writing a piece for a trendy Toronto publication about Chinese-Canadian assimilation and progress (From Laundry to Limos) but finds himself plunging deeper than he expected. It becomes an exploration into the “bachelor men” society of the late 19th century, and evidence of homosexuality. It also goes to the roots of Canada as a country founded on Victorian principles, when concepts of “whiteness” and “heterosexuality” were seen as standard.

Another Fung work, Sea in the Blood, is more personal, a memory piece about the narrator on a youthful trip through Europe and Asia while his sister, back home in Trinidad, eventually succumbs to a form of leukemia. There’s an emotional link, eventually, between her blood disease and his lover’s AIDS. Home movies, photographs, and images of Fung and his partner swimming in red-tinted water.