Phnom Penh Gay Pride Week art exhibition and film festival at Metahouse, May 10-17, 2011.
The Cambodian men portrayed in Taing Sothea's paintings don't have faces for a reason. The figures in his works lack faces to reflect how difficult it is for gay men to be open about their sexual orientation in Cambodian society.
"They're afraid to show themselves. They feel like hiding," Taing Sothea explains about the men in the 10 paintings that are on display this month at Phnom Penh Gay Pride 2011, an exhibition of gay-themed films and paintings at Meta House from May 10-17.
Taing Sothea, who is gay, is trying to spread the message to other gay men in the Kingdom that they don't need to be afraid of being open about their sexuality.
"When I was younger I felt afraid," he recalls.
Taing Sothea, who has a day job as an architect, originally had his work on display at a gay-oriented hotel in Siem Reap.
"The main point in my artwork is that it's a kind of sexual and humorous work between man and man, so that's why I decided to call it 'Don't be Shy.' It's a message to all viewers -- male, female, gay or straight -- just let themselves enjoy and open their mind with my work and my creation," the artist says.
Phnom Penh Gay Pride 2011 will also feature films from Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and China.
"They're gay-themed films with an Asian focus," says Nicolaus Mesterharm, founder of Meta House. "So we're putting a focus on gay themes in Asia."
The exhibition and film festival, which is being held for the third year in a row, will also feature art and films by international artists and filmmakers. While not all of the artists and filmmakers are gay, all of the work on display will have gay themes, Mesterharm says.
Films will be shown every evening beginning at 6:30 pm.
One of the highlights of the week-long event is a special showing of the feature film "Insects in the Backyard" by Tanwarin "Golf" Sukkhapisit, which will be screened Monday, May 16, at 7 pm. The Thai drama tells the story of a transvestite father, played by Tanwarin, whose teenage son and daughter have a confused sense of their own sexuality. Both children find themselves entering the sex trade.
Authorities in Thailand banned the film because it was deemed a "disruption of national order and public morals," according to Article 29 of the Film Act 2008. The filmmaker will be in Phnom Penh and will hold a Q&A at Meta House after the screening of the film.
Mesterharm isn't gay himself, but he's had a lot of exposure to gay-related issues as he grew up in Berlin, Germany, which he points out has a strong gay pride movement.
"We have a strong gay community in Berlin. I grew up with them," he says.
The gay community in Cambodia, on the other hand, isn't so strong because of the conservative nature of Cambodian society. "There's a gay community here but they're not empowered," Mesterharm said.