So Long, Farewell

At first glance, Malaysian-born writer-director Yen Tan would seem to have little in common with his new film, Ciao, the story of grieving Texan Jeff (Adam Neal Smith), who learns that his late friend had an e-mail relationship with hunky Italian Andrea (Alessandro Calza). But Tan's art imitates life in unexpected ways.

BY Kyle Buchanan

December 10 2008 1:00 AM ET


What fascinates you about it? I don't know, I've asked myself that question
many times! I feel like I understand it very well, it
feels very natural for me to tap into. I think a big
part of the reason is because I'm an immigrant, I'm
originally from Malaysia and I came to the States when I was
19. I remember going through a long time of needing to
see my family, missing my life before I came to the
States. I just remember those really intense feelings
of homesickness, and those kind of feelings have been
revisited in my life as of late, even though I do see
my family. Those really intense feelings of longing.
It's kind of a stretch to go from that to the feelings
you have when you lose someone in your life, but for me, I
could take that jump. I feel like it's almost what I went
through that year times 10.

Malaysia is very strict about what films they show;
what was it like to come to the U.S. and see such a wide
breadth of film after growing up there?
Anything that gets shown in Malaysia has to go
through a very tight censorship board. It was, like,
really, really strict, and in some ways ideological
censorship that was happening. I was always exposed to film
through that perspective. I think when I came to the States,
I still hadn't become a complete person yet. It was a
process that took about a year and a half, two years,
before I came to terms with my sexuality, and this was
in conjunction with my discovery of watching films as they
were meant to be seen: uncensored. I think this time
in college where I was coming out and watching and
reading things I wanted to, it was like
self-liberation in a way. In fact, I think those things made
it easier for me to come out in some ways.

Tags: film