ACF Asian Cinema Fund

Asian Network of Documentary (AND) Fund

2022 Asian Network of Documentary (AND) Fund

LIST Tens Across the Borders
Category hiblocks Fund
Project Tens Across the Borders
Director CHAN Sze-Wei
Country Singapore, Philippines
Director's Profile Sze (they/them) is a documentary and experimental dance filmmaker who observes alternate histories, identities and social issues as expressed in the body, movement and art. They are also a dance filmmaker, arts journalist, activist, and parent. Sze has received grants from Purin Pictures, Dance Films Association USA and the National Arts Council of Singapore. They have presented projects at the DOK Leipzig Co-Pro market, Docs by the Sea and the Singapore International Film Festival Southeast Asian Film Lab. Mentors include Tan Pin Pin (Singapore), Alex Reuben (UK) and Gabriela Tropia (UK/Brazil). They are a member of the Cinemovement Collective (Singapore) founded by Jeremy Chua and Elysa Wendi.
Synopsis
This film follows the stories of three trailblazers of the underground ballroom scenes in Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines. We witness their journeys to hold on to their ballroom and birth families, their dreams of connection with ballroom′s source in New York City, and the growth of a flourishing community across Southeast Asia.

Sun, Teddy and Xyza’s lives are transformed when they discover the subculture of underground ballroom. The three look up to Black and Latinx LGBTQIA+ people in New York who founded the subculture in the 1970s, naming it after the Harlem ballroom venues, and the dance style after Vogue magazine. To get “Tens Across the Board” is to pass the qualifying round in a ball. There is no ballroom scene in Thailand, Malaysia, or the Philippines, so each trailblazes a new community on their own.
The characters’ stories are interwoven by balls where they compete against and support each other. By the end of the film, the Southeast Asian periphery of ballroom has become a node. At the climax, Teddy visits New York to be born as the child of Omari Oricci, the father figure they have always wanted. Xyza brings her ballroom son Ian to fulfill his dream of walking a ball in New York. In the meantime, the House of Amazon is dissolved, and Sun is again homeless after a life of blended and foster families. The film closes with Sun’s performance art solo, an homage to ballroom and all of his mothers.
Director's Note
In 2017, fellow dancer Sun invited me to document the Asian vogue and ballroom communities. Sun had a dream to build a regional community with his new friends Teddy in Malaysia and Xyza in the Philippines. I was a dance filmmaker and an LGBTQIA+ activist, and I jumped on the opportunity. Together, Sun and I developed the concept for this film with an insider’s eye.
This first feature turns out to be the project that I’ve been preparing for my whole life. I have been a choreographer, dance filmmaker, arts journalist, researcher of Southeast Asia, queer-feminist activist. My histories are my tools to tell this story. I continue to live my own bumpy personal journey and I know what it is to be out of place and fighting for my right to exist. It has always been my found families that have given me strength and literally saved my life.
I am mesmerised by the characters’ tenacity in facing their life struggles. Ballroom has inspired them to become advocates of LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC causes, to join domestic Pride and democracy movements, and campaigns to abolish homophobic laws. These stories have an impact far beyond the individuals’ lives or their communities.
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