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Director Barney Cheng's new film seeks understanding for gays

Director Barney Cheng's new film seeks understanding for gays

Taipei, Dec. 30 (CNA) The Taiwanese-American director of Baby Steps, a Taiwan-U.S. produced film that is currently being shot in Taiwan, said Monday that he hoped his film would promote more acceptance of gay and lesbian families. "I want audiences all over the world to understand that love and family come in many different ways. This movie is about a new kind of family," Barney Cheng told CNA on the sidelines of a press conference in Taipei. Written, directed and acted in by Cheng, Baby Steps is about a gay couple living in the United States who want to get married and raise their own child through a surrogate mother. The Taiwanese mother of the character played by Cheng struggles, however, to accept her son's sexuality due to her traditional upbringing. The comedy-drama stars veteran Taiwanese actress Kuei Ya-lei as the mother and Cheng and American actor Michael Adam Hamilton as the couple. It is being produced by Taiwan's Hsu Li-kong and Lan Ta-peng and Britain's Stephen Israel and has received funding from Taiwan's Ministry of Culture. "I hope this movie will entertain the audience as well as make this world a better place for everybody," said the 42-year-old director. "I want to inspire more gay people to come out," Cheng said. "And I want to inspire more acceptance and celebration of different families." He added that he also hopes to let the world know that Taiwan is a "very open-minded" place. "I think Taiwan is the only country in the world that is able to take the risk to make this movie," Cheng said. Baby Steps is Cheng's first feature film. He had previously starred in Woody Allen's Hollywood Ending. As for his view of the recent same-sex marriage debate in Taiwan, Cheng said he was happy that people are having the discussion. "I would love for this movie to lead to more discussion, because I think people should talk about it." To better portray her character, actress Kuei Ya-lei said she met with the woman who inspired the character -- Cheng's mother -- and listened to her talk about her struggles coming to terms with her son's sexuality. "Although it is a very difficult role to play, I love it," said Kuei, who had played a similar role in Ang Lee's 1993 award-winning film The Wedding Banquet. She also starred as a mother in the film, which is about a gay Taiwanese-American man who marries a woman to please his parents. Cheng told reporters that if The Wedding Banquet is about a son's coming out story, then his film is about "a mother's 'coming out.'" "The son wants to stand in the sunlight, but the mother is hiding in the closet and afraid to come out," the director said. Hamilton, meanwhile, said the film is about accepting differences. "Different doesn't mean bad. Different doesn't mean we should get rid of it. ... As a people, as a world, we need to realize that we need to accept the difference, to understand other people, to really make an effort to see what are they going through," he said. Producer Hsu Li-kong said he decided to produce the film because he was moved by the script and the passion of the director. "I hope they (gay people) can live in the sunlight and pursue happiness and basic human rights like us," Hsu said. The film, with a production cost of around US$2 million, will be shot in Taiwan and Los Angeles. It is expected to hit theaters in 2015. Also attending the press conference Monday were actress Yvette Mercedes, who plays Cheng's friend, and Taiwanese actor Patrick Lee, who stars as Cheng's brother. (By Christie Chen)