Singaporean filmmaker Sun Koh's short film Dirty Bitch (Tu Nu [兔女], 2009) was inspired by a violently censored VHS copy of Claire Denis's Nénette et Boni (France, 1996) found by the director at the Singapore public library. While the film can be read as an homage to a well-known French female auteur and to her provocative exploration of youthful sexual identity and fantasy, Koh's condensed-form queer interpretation circulates more productively as part of a burgeoning queer Asian cinema. Unlike New Queer Cinema, which was gradually co-opted by the mainstream as US independent filmmaking gained popularity, queer Asian cinema still exists primarily as a festival category representing a collection of films produced outside of particular national and industrial contexts. The limited scholarship on queer Asian cinema reflects the dominance of a national critical approach. Such an approach ignores the active exchanges—sometimes explicit, sometimes subterranean—taking place among filmmakers and their films across Asia. The contributions to queer Asian cinema of women filmmakers, many of whom have had long careers in television and documentary and short-film production, have not been as visible as those of their male counterparts unless or until they break onto the scene with a feature film. This essay seeks to examine the short film format's importance to an understanding of women's contributions to queer Asian cinema. It shows how qualities unique to the short film format allow women filmmakers to actively engage with each other's work within and across the region, and how this minor transnational network is redefining how we might come to understand the figure of the individual auteur of women's filmmaking.

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