White Elephant Blogathon: Feeding Boys, Ayaya (2003)

Image Source: Lustralboy

Synopsis:In modern-day Beijing, two boys from the same family end up on opposite ends of the same moral spectrum. Xiao Bo, seeking a career that allows him adventure and freedom from commitment while providing enough cash to keep him in designer clothes, turns to a life of prostitution. His brother Dabin is an Evangelical Christian who wants to save his brother from eternal damnation. Scheming to convince the boys of Beijing to reform their ways and find a path to happiness that doesn’t force them to sell their bodies on the streets, Dabin himself gets involved in prostitution when Xiao Bo goes missing. But will Dabin’s outrageous plan to martyr himself to his cause pay off – or will he fall into the same inescapable trap that ensnared his little brother?

This film was assigned to me by another sadistic participant in the White Elephant Blogathon, hosted by Silly Hats Only. Now in its fifth year, the WE seeks to showcase “cinema’s widows and orphans – notorious stinkers, cult favorites, so-bad-they’re-great classics, and movies that time almost forgot.” Check out Silly Hats today and all this weekend to watch the contributions pour in, including a review of the film I submitted, 1984’s Runaway, a futuristic crime drama starring Tom Selleck and KISS frontman Gene Simmons.

I know exactly what you’re thinking. “Hey! We suffered through all those Japanese animation reviews, but then she promised us she’d get back to classic film! And now we gotta read about some obscure direct-to-video Chinese movie from 2003? What gives?!? Is this an April Fools’ joke?”

Well, yes. But it’s not an April Fools’ joke on you – it’s a joke on me.

A “white elephant” is defined as “a possession entailing great expense out of proportion to its usefulness or value to the owner.” It’s almost as if Zi’en Cui, the writer/director/producer of Feeding Boys, Ayaya (which I have been referring to around the house as Feeding Boys, Aye Carumba!), expected his film to become a white elephant, and therefore put as little time, money, and effort into it as possible. It doesn’t really matter if your film doesn’t make any profit whatsoever when you only spent $4 on it to begin with. Then again, it also turns the whole thing into a self-fulfilling prophecy, doesn’t it? Because, at its core, I don’t believe Feeding Boys is a bad film. The premise – about an Evangelical virgin in Beijing who seeks to infiltrate the world of male prostitution only to help its members see the light and reform their ways – is intriguing and original to say the least. But it’s not only the extremely low budget the film suffers from; the filmmakers also seem to lack even a basic understanding of how to make a movie. I wonder if the director has even seen a movie. The camera wobbles constantly, performers are perpetually out of frame – they filmed an entire daytime scene against a plate glass window, for goodness’ sake! I try pretty hard not to blame a filmmaker for things that are out of their control, such as budget and lack of formal training – but really, I’m only human. There’s only so much I can forgive.

This film asks its audience to bring a whole lot to the table – an understanding of Chinese culture and the role of homosexuality within it, for one – which I was just not capable of providing. That’s not anybody’s fault, really; I understand when a film has an intended audience, and I understand when I’m not a part of that audience. Things get lost in translation and it can’t be helped. I’m sure there’s some deeply important message here that I’m just completely missing due to my utter unfamiliarity with the subject matter. I know this because the single positive review on Netflix tells me so:

All are commenting that this movie was horribly made – thats part of the point and you have missed it. This movie was not meant to impress with flashy cinematography or lighting or clever dialogue or subtle symbolism. . . . Do not watch this movie if you are looking to be amused or entertained or impressed by fancy camera work. Not the point.

While I won’t go into the fundamental problems I have with the notion that it’s presumptuous of me to expect a movie to be entertaining, amusing, or watchable, I’d like to flat-out disagree with the idea that I expected to be impressed with “flashy cinematography or lighting.” I never asked for that. What I wanted was cinematography that didn’t make me feel like I was on a boat on a choppy day – which, combined with the droning string instruments overlayed with high-pitched electronic noise, made me feel literally nauseous the vast majority of the time – and some lighting. Any lighting would’ve been fine. But I guess that’s “not the point.”

Fortunately for me, the vast majority of reviewers on both Netflix and IMDb also “missed the point,” and captured the experience of watching this film in ways much more eloquent and accurate than I could ever hope to express:

Deplorably boring film consisting mostly of dialog supplemented with extended waste of film lingering on unrelated scenes of a guy chasing a dog through a park apparently intended to extend length of film to a required viewing time.

. . . the cameraman must get bored (I can relate!) because while two actors are speaking the cameraman pans off them and films a tree. Another time he films the floor.

This film is bad. I don’t normally mind low budgets, but in this film it really hurted me to watch it. . . . This film seemed more like a psychotic experiment. Avoid this film like the Black Death!

Imagine Blair Witch done with a camcorder by a five year old… then change the story to this and you have…well…This.

It does not even qualify as a movie.

If there is a film school out there that needs the perfect example to show in what the pitfalls are in the making of a movie then this is the film to use.

This film has a running time of 80 minutes. Watch this and you’ll swear that time has stood still.

I may just make it my life goal to stop the world from watching this movie, just like the brother tries to stop the young men from prostituting. It would be a noble cause!

I’m giving this film one star: half for the one truly hilarious scene where the Bible study buddy condemns the Evangelical’s idea to become a male prostitute whilst clad in nothing but a zebra-print Speedo – which I couldn’t screencap for you, sadly, as I want to maintain this blog’s PG rating – and the other half to give it the benefit of the doubt. Maybe if I was a young gay Chinese man, this movie would really speak to me. (After all, I don’t think I’d have a lot of other representations in Chinese media to latch onto.) But, no matter what rumors you may have heard, I’m not a young gay Chinese man. I’m just me. And it hurted me to watch it.

Feeding Boys, Ayaya (2003) – 1/5 stars


  1. Rachel

     /  April 1, 2011

    Yikes, well at least you had a movie with some entertainingly bad qualities; I find that easier to write about than those movies that are just one big shrug. As for that positive Netflix review…

    “All are commenting that this movie was horribly made – thats part of the point and you have missed it.”

    Hmm…let’s play with this.

    All are commenting that this food was horrible-tasting – thats part of the point and you have missed it. All are commenting that this solo was horribly out of tune – thats part of the point and you have missed it.

    • And how dare I expect a movie to be entertaining! It’s not like film is a form of ENTERTAINMENT. Only if you’re a snobby snob like me who expects flashy cinematography (read: being able to hold the camera still) or lighting (read: a light source other than a window) or clever dialogue (read: dialog that isn’t all faux-meaningful rambling about how farts are a gift to the world, oh did I forget to mention that line?) or subtle symbolism (read: well I’m stumped here because I assumed the whole film was subtle symbolism that I was just too stupid to get).

      It kind of was a shrug, which is why I chose to focus on how hilarious the user reviews are. At the same time, it wasn’t even the worst movie I saw that day. But to be fair, I watch a lot of bad movies, and I did put on Bio-Dome right after Feeding Boys in order to cleanse my palate with a “well-made movie.” So maybe that puts it in better perspective.

  2. Brandie

     /  April 1, 2011

    Ay yi yi. Sounds like you drew a real stinker.

    P.S. Bio-Dome is a certifiable future classic. I have no doubt that one day it will considered alongside Citizen Kane as a seminal film in Hollywood history.

    • As long as whoever’s certifying these future classics watches Feeding Boys first, I don’t doubt it. After this Bio-Dome was like Shakespeare.

  3. There’s only so much I can forgive.

    You said it, sister. That is my main underlying philosophy of films lately. And this one sounds physically unwatchable, which would be strikes 1, 2, and 3 for almost any sane person.

    I would have LOVED to have gotten “Runaway”! In high school, I was president of the science club and often organized the science fairs, and that movie was a staple in our little lounge area. Everyone loved it. I shan’t mention the time I also rented “Dune”…

    • I would’ve loved to have gotten Runaway, too, which is why I submitted it — it is a “bad movie” which is actually awesome and completely fun. I love those little robots!

  4. Digital camcorders and editing software on your home computer are more common than ever, which has made it much easier to make a movie if you really want to make one. Unfortunately, it also increases the likelihood that someone who has no business making movies will attempt to do it anyway, as evidenced here.

    Good review. Thanks again for participating this year.

    • What’s worse is this isn’t even this director’s first movie. I wanted to compare it to a student film but it was more like an elementary student film.

      Thanks for hosting this blogathon! Even though the movie was bad I really enjoyed it! I guess I’m a bit of a cinemasochist (ha!).

  5. Oh…I am so sorry…I kind of submitted this…

    But I needed to spread the misery! I NEEDED TOO.

    Forgive me, bro.

  6. Boy, that Netflix critique was insulting — if you don’t like it or appreciate it, you just don’t GET it. What a crock! My ex-husband used to say stuff like that — LOL! As Freud said “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” And sometimes a terrible movie is just a terrible movie. Loved your review!

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