Let me introduce you to Kim Ho.
Kim was just 17 when he wrote, and starred in, his short film ‘The Language of Love’.
In the ten-minute monologue, Kim plays Charlie, a young and confused student at Sydney Grammar School, searching for answers in the middle of a French exam. Charlie, you see, is in love with his best friend Sam. But the range of feelings he’s experiencing – fear, shame, pure joy – seem too terrifying to act upon.
The short film is a tender insight into what is actually going through a teen’s mind when they realise they might be in love. Or gay. Or both.
The film has garnered massive interest around the world, and has been shared by Stephen Fry, Dannii Minogue and Ellen DeGeneres.
We were lucky enough to sit down with Kim to talk about the film, and what’s next for the budding filmmaker.
What made you want to create this video? Was there a specific incident, or person, or moment?
I submitted an early draft to a monologue competition run by Australian Theatre for Young People.
The only thematic guideline was it had to be about love in some way. I was hugely inspired by a short film by GetUp! in support of marriage equality. Its message – love is love is love – is just so simple, raw and honest. I burst into tears when I saw it.
I wanted to write a piece that evoked similar emotions, but within my demographic: about a boy grappling with his sexuality rather than adults campaigning for marriage equality.
The speculation around your own sexuality since the film’s release must have been hard! Are you comfortable talking about your own sexuality, or would you rather to choose to focus on the LGBTI plight as a whole?
I was very fortunate that the release of the film changed nothing with my friends and family.
But I was taken off-guard when the first question Michael Cathcart asked me on the Books and Arts Daily radio programme was whether the film was autobiographical. He was among many who made suggestions about my sexuality that year.
I initially found this slightly insulting, in the sense that it assumes the film is ‘merely’ my own story instead of a carefully constructed artwork.
I’ve since realised there’s a power in withholding information about my sexuality. I’ve stayed deliberately quiet about it because the point of the film is that it doesn’t matter.
What was your experience like at school? And how do you think portraying a young, private school boy struggling to accept his feelings will help other boys like Charlie?
My high school, Sydney Grammar School, is secular, and does not enforce any religious morals.
During my time there, I felt very fortunate in this regard. Some of my friends were openly gay, and no one ever bullied me because of the film. Our headmaster allowed it to be filmed on campus and openly supported it.
However, I remember there being no information given to students about sexuality. Grammar has also not signed up to the Safe Schools program. Those who were exploring their sexuality rarely came out to their immediate circle of friends, and many came out immediately after graduating.
Is this because of the teachers, or the students?
Its pastoral care system is randomised, so students could end up in the care of teachers they don’t truly trust. I get the sense that being LGBTI+ is tolerated within the confines of appeasing its conservative patrons – as an extracurricular activity.