Four gay men of different generations are searching for love, and much more, one cold winter’s night in Philadelphia and this is the story of how their paths cross until the morning breaks.
Brian is a 30-something-year-old writer who is at the end of his tether as he has been unable to write a single word since the successful publication of his first book of poetry. He seeks solace in a local bar in which he is the sole drinker until Chris comes in and immediately hits on him. Chris fesses up to have a girlfriend back home in the burbs but just feels an urgent need to get some hot man-on-man action. Which is exactly what he gets back at Brian’s apartment but the moment their very passionate lovemaking finishes, Chris freaks out, and leaves a stranded Brian desperate to know what he had done wrong.
He shares his insecurities with his ex roommate whom he wakes up in the middle of the night insisting that they discuss his problems there and then. Dan is straight but he too had once shared an emotional and physical connection with him and now Brian wants to know why that ended if it was all as real as Dan claims.
Whilst all this is going on, in another part of town super-hot 22 year old model Jim is being very energetically fucked by Drew his older lover on the bench of his workshop. Drew is a successful famous artist who considers Jim his muse, but a disgruntled Jim just believes he is being treated as a kept boy and threatens to leave and move to NY.
After he storms out of the house in a huff, he encounters Brian, and they hook up, and after more even hotter sex, he quickly abandons needy Brian who is now getting a serious complex about the men who just cannot leave him fast enough. Jim meanwhile gets picked up by elderly Bob who has been cruising the streets all night in a big white limousine drinking heavily and looking to get lucky.
He doesn’t but others do when this intriguing wee film neatly comes to a climax and it is almost a case of all’s well that end’s well, but not quite.
Written and directed by Joseph Graham (‘Strapped’) this edgy and very sensual and unsentimental movie is by no means perfect but it’s forthright take on contemporary gay life ….. well, sex anyway …. is both refreshing and extremely entertaining. Evidently based on a true story, it has a good script which was very stylishly shot and with some rather excellent performances from newbie actor Brian Sheppard (Brian),hunky Zach Ryan (Jim),comedianGrant Lancaster (Dan)and established local actorColman Domingo (Drew).
It’s Christmas Eve in Tinseltown and Alexandra has just blown her last couple of dollars on buying Sin-Dee her best friend a pastry to celebrate her return after a 28 day stint in Jail. The mood quickly changes as these two transgendered prostitutes are dishing the dirty and Alexandra lets slip that Sin-Dee’s boyfriend/pimp Chester has been been dating a ‘fish’ (their slang for a biological female). An enraged Sin-Dee storms off in a huff determined to find this usurper and ‘sort her out’ once and for all .
Alexandra sets out in pursuit of her friend but then quickly gets embroiled in her own dramas. She is trying to hustle up some of the other working ‘girls’ on the block to attend her debut performance at a Bar later that night, but is distracted from that when a ‘john’ in a car asks her for a ‘quickie’. When he refuses to pay up because he cannot get aroused, Alexandra shows her mettle by attempting to beat the crap out of the man in order to get her money.
This is just another day on some of the meaner streets of the underbelly of a city which is the home turf of these very tough sharp-tongue lady boys who make their living selling sex and whatever else they can lay their hands on. They are fearlessly fabulous and rule the roost of these few blocks between Highland Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard where straight ‘johns’ cruise to get a fix.
As the two manically rush around town separately Alexandra comes across Razmik a middle-aged Armenian cab driver who is a regular client of most of the ‘girls’ in the area and he is overjoyed to learn that Sin-Dee is back on the beat. She tells the cabbie that Sin-Dee will be at the Bar later to watch her perform, and he promises to meet them there in the hope of scoring a ‘date’ with her. However nothing ever works out as planned and Alexandra ends up plaintively singing to an audience of one, so tonight is obviously not going to be when she gets the break to go legit that she pines for.
The plot gets messy from there when it takes a farcical turn, but frankly it is really not that important anyway. This whole movie is much more like a bizarre reality show with its the high voltage of energy that its cast of larger-than-life characters bring to it that is the essential ingredient of this wonderful big-hearted frenetic street drama. The fact that filmmaker Sean Baker shot the whole thing on IPhones adds a real frisson plus the performance of his two lead transgendered newbie actors Kiki Kitana Rodriquez and Mya Taylor made such compelling viewing. Baker credits the actors for drawing on their own personal experiences that gave such a authenticity and vitality to all their unstoppable bad-mouthing which is such a sheer delight to watch and listen too.
When this rather audacious indie movie premiered at Sundance Film Festival audiences leaped to the feet at the end, a reaction that I feel will be repeated quite often whenever it is screened.
Greg Louganis is an American Hero. The sad thing is that it has taken such a long time for many people to truly acknowledge that. Despite him being a four-time US Olympic diving champion whose many records remain unbroken today, he never always got all the acclaim and rewards that other sportsmen got just because he was gay. In this new documentary that covers focuses mainly on his more recent past filmmaker Cheryl Furjanic paints an affectionate and stirring portrait of a remarkable man who has survived more his fair share of trauma and who has come through it all with a big smile on his face.
The film starts with Louganis trying to keep the Bank off his back as financial troubles have left him somewhat high and dry (we find out at the end of the movie that it all works out very well). The film then cuts back and forth covering his early diving days to his first days of retirement from the sport when the drama really seemed to get worse. What is remarkable is that right through all this from his abusive father to the blatant homophobia that dogged his career to the people in his life who just took advantage of him, a sanguine and honest Louganis shows no sign at all of anger. A few regrets maybe. Even dealing with the messy and bitter collapse of his relationship with Jim in the 1980’s who had contracted Aids, there is no hint of even a harsh word. Almost broke and now HIV positive, Louganis still supported Jim until the day he died.
Even though the Diving community shunned their greatest athlete for decades until the 2012 Olympics when he was invited to be a Mentor to the US Team, there were a handful of people like Ron O’Brien who never ever wavered in their support throughout. O’Brien coached Louganis through the years of his Olympic years and was present on the fateful day when Louganis cut his head open on the diving board with blood spilling into the pool. It was an incident that filled the closeted diver with dread especially as the doctors providing emergency care had no idea about Louganis’s condition and did not protect themselves.
It was a very emotional Louganis who told this story to Oprah on national TV years later when his memoir (a NY Times Bestseller for weeks) ‘Breaking The Silence’ was published in 1995 and his sexuality was made public. Equally moving is when at a recent reunion he presented O’Brien with the Gold Medal that the Coach had helped him win that day.
What we see on screen is a healthy and happy 50 year-old-man. His health had deteriorated rapidly in the late 1980’s until the introduction of life-saving protease inhibitors, and his new found happiness came to him via Match.com who provided with a rather wonderful husband. Plus he has his dogs
Louganis is a disarmingly charming man but most of all he is a hero, and it seems only fitting that ‘Back On Board’ reminds exactly why.
Jenni is a misfit and a nerd. She is so clumsy that she breaks most of the plant pots at the nursery where she works and that really pisses off her boss. Her self-absorbed roommates all but one ignore her, and she is totally friendless. It gets even worse after she is hospitalized and loses both her job and her home. Clutching one cardboard box of her worldly possessions she makes tracks to the nearest park and sets about hanging herself from a tree.
Even this does not go to plan as she is cut down and rescued by Sam (short for Samantha) a feisty lesbian with a buzz cut and ripped jeans and a great big grin. ‘This’ she tells a downcast Jenni ‘is the face of a nice person’. Something she feels the need to point out after listening to the miserable girl pour out her tale of woe as it seems likely that she has never encountered a nice person ever before in her life.
Part of the story is Jenni’s father who she hasn’t seen since she was brought to the city and dumped there when she was very little. He is still in Los Angeles. Maybe. Jenni is very sketchy about details, but that doesn’t deter Sam who declares that they will set off for LA in search of him immediately. Even the fact they do not have a car, or even the faintest idea where in the vast city he will be, is considered irrelevant by the overly optimistic Sam.
Their road trip is littered with characters that Sam just shrugs off, but which wind up Jenni even more. When they arrive in the city and the search for the father starts, Sam has a detour when she runs into an old fling who invites her …. and Jenni ….. to a wild party. Whilst Sam goes off to make out with her Ex., wide eyed Jenni ends up tripping on a psychedelic cupcake and getting into some bedroom action that she didn’t didn’t count on. She freaks out and then as she has angered the owner of the house as well, runs off into the city and is really on her own now. The question is will she survive, and will she find her father ? Even more important will we have lost interest just like Sam does?
Broken Gardenias is billed as a dark comedy and is the work of first time director Kai Alexander whose bio states that he spent his childhood with his parents who were part of a Travelling Circus which may account for the bizarre roster of characters the two women encounter. The script is by newbie writer Alma S. Grey who also plays Jenni.
The sole bright spot of this film is the performance of Ashley Morocco as the bubbly Sam as asides from this the movie just simply fails to really engage, and for a comedy, it is painfully unfunny.
Szabolcs (nicknamed Szabi) and his teenage German teammates do everything together. They get matching tattoos and even ‘relieve’ themselves in unison when they are watching straight porn on the TV. However the camaraderie is quickly strained when they get thrashed in an important football match, and Szabi their captain is blamed for the loss. A fight breaks out during their post-game shower between Szabi and his best friend Bernard, which results in a hasty retreat early next morning with an angry Szabi sulking back to his native Hungary.
Instead of heading home and having to face his disappointed father who has all but coerced him into becoming a professional football player, Szabi instead makes tracks to the dilapidated farmhouse in a remote corner of the country that he has inherited from his grandfather.
He is woken up one night by the sound of his motorbike that is about to be stolen by Aron a local village lad. When Szabi sets off in hot pursuit and captures him, the embarrassed young man stays on to help repair the roof as a way of apologizing. These two lonely young men very quickly become firm friends, and when they end up drinking a little too much schnapps one night, Szabi takes advantage of the situation and of his new friend too, by attempting to take their relationship up a level or two. It’s clear that although Aron is enjoying being aroused by his friend, he is also confused and ashamed by the feelings he is experiencing and so later on in a moment of panic he confesses all to his needy religious mother.
As Aron has a sometimes girlfriend he escapes the beating that the local homophobic youths inflict on Szabi when word gets out that the two are more than platonic friends. Whilst Aron now keeps a wide berth of the farmhouse, Bernard turns up from Germany and professes that he has always had a secret crush on his best friend. As Szabi is now coming to terms with his sexuality he is more than happy to embrace this news and Bernard too. When word gets around the village about Szabi’s new houseguest, a very jealous and somewhat chastened Aron quickly reappears and soon the three young men become a romantic idyllic triangle. It is doomed to failure however as it is inevitable that these three un-worldly innocents will be unable to deal with either their own feelings of jealousy, or the external forces that they quickly encounter.
The beauty of this very tender movie of gay self-discovery from Hungarian filmmaker Ádám Császi is the very sensual and somewhat sad way that rather unsentimentally deals with these boy’s experiences in this rather harsh environment. Császi captures Szabi’s struggle not just with his sexuality but his whole desire for a simpler way of life rather than following the path his father has insisted of mapping out for him.
It is daringly sensuous and although this tender and touching tale is both erotically and emotional charged, for a refreshing change it avoids any temptation to develop into a cliché melodrama. It is helped by the three very talented leads who give extremely compelling performances of young men finding their own way of dealing with who they really are, and also by the fact that they just happen to be hot as hell too.
It is unquestionably one of the very best new coming of age movies, and even more remarkable when you appreciate that it is also Császi’s debut feature too.
Alice and Frank have been married for 18 years and are moving with their three children (and Taski their pet rabbit) to a new apartment in the Swiss countryside. From the outside they seem like the perfect nuclear family but as they arrange their furniture and settle into their new home, Alice notices that her husband seems far from excited about being there and is in fact positively distracted. When she prods him about this, Frank simply denies that anything is wrong but she is far from convinced with his protestations.
During the next week when she is at home working on the computer the whole family share, an unfamiliar window suddenly pops up on the screen. It’s a ‘welcome back’ message from a gay cruising site for men to meet men. An alarmed Anna nervously questions Robert her teenage son about the site and his sexuality, something which he just laughs off and tells her categorically he is 100% straight. When she questions Frank if it was him who had been on the Site, she got the answer that she had expected but certainly didn’t want.
Frank confesses that he was simply curious about other men, but Anna is not happy to leave it there, and over the next few weeks she continually chips away at him, until he eventually admits he has met a man and they have fallen in love with each other. Shocked and horrified Anna tries almost everything to understand her husband’s sexuality. Initially she is calm and overly considerate, but then after they go out on a ‘date’ together she sets about physically seducing Frank which totally backfires and she is devastated when he rejects her sexual advances.
The no-turning back point comes courtesy of the computer again when Anna is viewing the photographs she has downloaded from a family trip when she accidentally comes across a video that someone has obviously shot on Frank’s phone. It shows her husband dancing with Pablo his boyfriend amongst a crowd of other men and it is very clear that he is radiantly happy in a way that he has not been with her since they first get married.
Frank by now is staying out late most nights but although he still has very genuine feelings with Anna, the real reason he continues to come home is that their 7 year old daughter dotes on him. When one final attempt at seducing him back fails, Anna demands that he leaves for good.
Bereft of the husband and feeling isolated in the country apartment a rather confused and depressed Anna dramatically takes to her bed crying her eyes out and refusing to eat for days on end. Her two teenage children take charge of both her and their young sibling, until Anna finally realizes the helplessness of refusing to accept the change that has been heaped upon her. When she does take that on board, repaints the apartment, buys some new furniture, get a more contemporary hairstyle, and most importantly gets laid again, then life can finally move and everybody can happily ever after. Almost.
This taut wee Swiss drama neatly tackles the age-old problem of a marriage trying to survive when it becomes obvious that one of the partners should never had said ‘I do’ in the first place. It’s hard enough for women to accept that men in their life can be gay or bi-sexual but when they discover that their own partner is suddenly questioning their own sexuality after being married for so long, its usually quite devastating. Although newbie director and co-writer Claudia Lorenz says nothing new about this scenario, her take on this is compelling and very real, thanks mainly to her very talented cast.
‘Sometimes its the people no-one expects anything from who do the things no one expects’ is the oft repeated mantra in this compelling adaption of Andrew Hodges’s biography on Alan Turing the tortured soul who was the British genius who shocked everyone by cracking the Nazi’s infamous Enigma Code which changed the whole tide of World War 2.
Using a series of flashbacks this very classy period drama showed a teenage Turing being bullied at boarding school for being different. The difference in this case being his homosexuality and a streak of autism. The action moves forward to the outbreak of the War and in one of the wittiest scenes in the movie, 26-year-old Turing, already a Fellow at Cambridge University, is being interviewed by a Navy Commander for a top secret wartime job. Well, it was meant to be secret but Turing shocks the Commander by revealing that he knows its about trying the crack the Germans top secret code, and without even a hint of conventional modesty goes on to insist that he is the only person in the world capable of undertaking this nigh on impossible task.
Set to work in a team under in the leadership of fellow cryptologist, an arrogant Turing totally lacking in any social skills and a complete loner, quickly alienates both his colleagues and his boss, and then totally frustrated at not being able to get his own way writes a letter to the Supreme Commander, none other than Winston Churchill the Prime Minster. The movie doesn’t explain why, but Churchill himself himself known as quite a maverick, puts Turing in charge of the whole project and he thus gets to start building the expensive machine that he alone is convinced is the only option to crack the code that will enable them to decipher all of the German High Command’s secret messages.
Now that he is in charge, Turing persuades the Head of MI6, the British wartime Secret Service, to allow him to fire some of the classically trained cryptologists and employ some more unusual mathematicians who are also skilled at solving puzzles very fast. One of the new intake is Sarah Clarke who turns out not just to be as good as her male counterparts but in fact much better, but Turing has to persuade her strict middle-class parents that this male-dominated work away from home was suitable for a young woman.
Clarke and Turing make a great pair both thinking out of the box and on the same wave length and when down the line she announces that her parents want her back home and married, Turing desperate to keep his brightest colleague, instantly proposes to her himself. His homosexuality was a well-kept secret not just because of the nature of his highly-classified work but the mere fact that it was illegal to be so in the UK.
That’s not the only dark secret that he must keep as when he finally breaks the Code the news is kept not just from the public but most of the British Military High Command to ensure that word of their success doest leak back to the Germans. It in effects means playing fast and loose with peoples lives as decisions have to be made to which of the German attacks the authorities should allow to proceed in order not to tip them off that their secret transmissions are no longer secret.
The movie starts and finishes after the war when in 1952,Turing back at Cambridge University as a Professor has his house burgled. The Police Detective sent to check out the robbery thinks it strange that nothing has been stolen and he is also intrigued by Turing’s laissez faire attitude to the incident. On a whim he decides to investigate further and a red flag is immediately raised when he discovers that Turing’s classified (highly secret) war record on file is totally empty. When he looks deeper he does in fact discover that Turing is not a Communist Spy as he had suspected, but he is in fact gay.
At the subsequent Trial the Judge gives Turing the option of a two year jail sentence, or undertaking a case of hormone therapy instead of prison which has been likened to male castration. A year later, at the age of 41, the brilliant man commits suicide.
It takes a Norwegian filmmaker Morten Tyldum to capture this quintessential British story of this single-minded manic zealot who could crack the most difficult code in the world but could never fathom out the simplest form of human interaction. Genuinely uninterested, and for the most part unaware, of his ability to converse with anyone he considered intellectually insignificant, it gave first-time scriptwriter Graham Moore great scope in making such mundane incidents like ordering lunch into wonderfully funny scenes. Whilst Turing rose to the challenges of being baffled by the intricacies of breaking the Code, it seems like he never wanted to fathom out anything beyond this, and his life outside of work contained no joy at all.
Benedict Cumberbatch gives a tour-de-force career best performance as the troubled genius. He is a sheer joy to watch as the man driven by the insatiable knowledge that he is right, and so has no time for social niceties that he feels just impedes his progress. We come to like Cumberbatch’s Turing way before his Bletchley Park colleagues do because we can see that there is no hint of malice in his actions at all, and under all that bluff exterior he is quite the charmer. Cumberbatch is nothing short of electrifying.
There is a stellar supporting cast with Mark Strong as the sly manipulative Head of MI6; a stalwart Charles Dance as the Navy Commander who is determined to crack Turing before he can crack the Code; Mathew Goode as the lead cryptologist who ends up being the closest male friend Turing eventually makes; and Keira Knightly as Sarah Clarke who’s happy enough solving problems rather than making out with Turing.
There is a wonderful old-fashioned feeling to the whole piece resulting in a crowd-pleasing movie that will delight more than just the members of the Academy Awards.
P.S. 50 years after the War the news of Turing’s success was finally made public. In 2009 the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a Public Apology on how Turing had been treated, and in 2013 The Queen granted him a posthumous pardon. The machine that Turing created to break the code was the first of what we now know as computers.
Seventeen major Hollywood movies may have included characters that identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) last year, but there’s still work to be done in terms of representing the community fairly and equally, a new report has found.
With many of those 17 films limiting LGBT characters to minor roles or cameos, GLAAD’s 2014 Studio Responsibility Index also found that many of these portrayals were “outright defamatory” representations, pointing to movies like “Pain And Gain” and “Riddick,” officials said.
The 17 films represented 16.7 percent out of 102 major Hollywood films released over the course of 2013. According to GLAAD’s statistics, 83.3 percent of those 102 movies did not feature any LGBT characters.
The report, which maps the “quantity, quality and diversity of images” of LGBT people as seen in movies released by Hollywood’s seven largest studios each year, found that the motion picture industry “may be doing more harm than good” when it came to a global understanding of the LGBT community, GLAAD’s CEO and President Sarah Kate Ellis said in an email statement.
“These studios have the eyes and ears of millions of audience members, and should reflect the true fabric of our society rather than feed into the hatred and prejudice against LGBT people too often seen around the globe,” she added.
None of the seven studios received an “excellent” rating, but Sony Columbia came in on top with a “good” score, thanks to movies like “Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” which also nabbed a GLAAD Media Award. Meanwhile, Universal and Disney were among the studios to receive an “adequate” grade, while both Paramount and Warner Brothers were considered outright failures.
Meanwhile, to assess individual films, GLAAD officials developed the “Vito Russo Test,” which examines how multidimensional a LGBT character is, as well as how significant he or she may be to the plot of a specific movie. Seven out of the 17 major studio films featuring LGBT characters passed the test this year, according to the report.
The theft of a pair of headphones are the start of an unusual and extremely volatile relationship for a refined conservatory student and an animalistic street thug in Winter Journey (Zimney put), the directorial debut of Russian actors Sergei Taramajev and Liubov Lvova.
The controversial title, which has attracted attention because of its inclusion of gay characters in a time when gay “propaganda” is forbidden in Russia, has only been screened at a few smaller festivals at home (it was turned down by the major Russian film events), has now started to screen abroad and has reportedly finally been cleared for release in Russia sometime this spring with an 18+ rating.
Western viewers will probably find the whole controversy a storm in a teacup, since the film contains all of one same-sex kiss and no nudity or sex. That said, the camerawork of Mikhail Krichman, the cinematographer of Andrey Zvyagintsev’s The Return and Elena, and the fully inhabited performances of lead actors Aleksei Frandetti and Evgeniy Tkachuk, ensure that Winter Journey is worth seeing, even if the ending doesn’t exactly make the film the feature-length equivalent of an It-Gets-Better video.
The title, sometimes translated as Winter Path in English, refers to the Winterreise cycle of Schubert songs that Erik (Frandetti), a conservatory student, is preparing for an all-important audition. After his teacher has told him he’s useless and needs to focus and work harder, the day gets even worse when, on the bus ride home, a vagrant ruffian, Lyokha (Tkachuk), simply takes Erik’s headphones and phone. The aspiring singer is too stunned and probably also too scared to do anything, though when law enforcement officials chase Lyokha when the bus stops, Erik finds himself in the possession of the criminal’s key hanger.
Taramajev and Lvova, who make their debut here not only as directors but also as screenwriters, quickly establish that Lyokha is as ferocious and dangerous as Erik’s refined and non-aggressive. Though his teacher recommends a steady diet of sleep, walks and Schubert, Erik feels lost and frustrated and instead hangs out with his sort-of boyfriend (Vlamidir Mishukov) and decadent gay friends until the boozy early morning hours (these scenes’ll feel like something from decades ago for Western audiences).
Not disturbed in the slightest by his criminal ways — one actually gets the impression the mugger is quite proud of how he manages to scrape by — Lyokha uses Erik’s stolen cell phone to get hold of Eric and ask him to return his key hanger, which is a kind of talisman. This brings the two together again and initiates an uneasy dance of sorts in which both characters start to realize they might be attracted to the other or at least want to spend more time in each other’s company, probably exactly because they seem to be polar opposites.
The writer-directors don’t push the two into a relationship but instead linger on the strange, sometimes magical and occasionally disturbing moments before their only kiss might take things to the next level. Among the best scenes is a playful, almost child-like frolic in the snow and Erik’s final audition, three days later, with Lyokha waiting in the hall, clearly moved by the singing of his new, sort-of friend but at the same time disturbed by admitting to himself he has these feelings at all. It’s also clear from the get-go that their their attraction is as much based on their contrasting backgrounds and class differences as on their shared loneliness; the fact they are both men almost feels incidental.
Krichman’s roving handheld camerawork is the opposite of his precisely composed images for Zvyagintsev and his images here suggest that the amorphous quality of the men’s rapport is so shapeless the camera has to constantly roam around them, on the frozen and wintry streets of Moscow, in order to try and capture it. The beautifully performed Schubert songs are the other highlight of this low-budget film’s technical credits.
Tashkent-born theater actor Frandetti has a striking face on which his character’s troubling thoughts are effortlessly projected, while Turkmenistan-born rising star Tkachuk (The Edge) is a frightening presence with an imposing physicality who slowly seems to mellow but who finally remains an enigmatic and unpredictable person even for himself.
“Winter Jouney” will be shown at Frameline 38 San Francisco International Film Festival Monday, June 23 at 9:55 p.m. at the Victoria Theatre. Go to www.frameline.org.
The first Venezuelan film to win the Goya Award for Best Latin American Film in 2013 hit screens for the first time on November 27, 2012. Since then, Ferrari’s directorial debut has won over audiences and critics alike for its unique and diverse portrayal of the Venezuelan middle class.
“My Straight Son” follows young and successful Caracas based photographer Diego (played by Guillermo García), whose same-sex partner Fabrizio falls into a coma following a homophobic attack. To make matters worse, while Diego struggles to come to terms with the situation, he must take care of his estranged and bitter teenage son, Armando (Ignacio Montes) who’s visiting from Spain.
Both must adapt. While Diego attempts to find common ground with his straight son, Armando tries to come to terms with his personal insecurities, his father’s sexuality and Diego’s surrounding LGBT lifestyle.
Meanwhile, Diego’s friend, transgender Delirio Del Río helps Armando learn to dance tango in a bid to win a girl’s heart and Perla Marina attempts to break free of her abusive boyfriend.
Over the years Venezuelan movies have not been a huge global success story due to their recurring primary focus on poverty and crime. “My Straight Son,” on the other hand, strays away from the norm, highlighting other issues such as discrimination, familial relationships, domestic abuse and hate crimes in the country. Drawing on socially embedded insecurity, intolerance and the fragile positions of those facing daily threats of violence, which is both a local and global problem, “My Straight Son” hits home with audiences everywhere.
LGBT rights are largely ignored in Venezuela and though same-sex sexual relations are not illegal, same-sex couples and households are not eligible for the same legal protections as opposite-sex couples and it remains illegal to change your legal gender on identification papers. Despite a somewhat thriving LGBT community in the country, hate crimes and social homophobia subsequently remain a prominent unaddressed issue. For that reason Ferrari’s film is one to break down more than just the traditional Venezuelan movie theme. He also addressed a currently unaddressed issue.
However, despite being an LGBT themed movie, Ferrari was able to capture far more diverse and complex range of Venezuelan mindsets and lifestyles than just the LGBT community.
Ferrari uses a simple yet complex approach to portray the diversity and importance of love, whether friendship, family or romance, which helps encapsulate the realities of Venezuelan society today. He also addresses the brutality of hate crimes and the relationship between father and son, even further complicated by Diego’s sexuality.
With a beautiful musical score, composed by Spanish pianist Sergio de la Puente, the film takes us on a loving, heartbreaking and often hilarious journey through the characters’ relationships, as they navigate personal struggles while also finding ways to help one another.
The film is both a protest against discrimination and a celebration of diversity and love.
The strongest character, both comical and courageous, was Del Río (played by Hilda Abrahamz) whose loud-mouthed boldness got her in and out of trouble and kept the audience on their feet throughout.
Hugely likable, Del Río broke through the traditional transgender roles in films, transforming her suffering into empowerment through acts of bravery and optimism. Del Río was Ferrari’s greatest triumph: both a tribute to the transgender community, whose voice remains largely restricted in film and society alike, and a voice of hope for those searching for a better future.
“My Straight Son” will be shown at Frameline 38 San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival at the Victoria Theatre Saturday, June 28 at 4 p.m.
In today’s conservative, predominantly Catholic Poland, an open homosexual relationship is more likely to trigger gay bashing than gay pride; so it is in Tomasz Wasilewski’s sophomore feature, the feel-bad coming-out drama “Floating Skyscrapers.” Although the lead character is something of a lout as well as an emotional and intellectual cipher, this artfully shot, sexually provocative feature nabbed the Karlovy Vary fest’s East of the West competish kudo and is making the festival rounds.
Buff, macho, bantam-sized, twentysomething Kuba (Mateusz Banasiuk) has been training as an elite swimmer for the past 15 years. He spends most of his time working out and having hot sex with his pretty blonde girlfriend, Sylwia (standout Marta Nieradkiewicz), who lives with him and his attractive, controlling mother, Ewa (Katarzyna Herman, star of Wasilewski’s first film, “In a Bedroom”). The relationship between the two women is tense, exacerbated by Sylwia’s inconsiderate behavior and Ewa’s calls for her son to rub her back while she’s in the bathtub.
Otherwise, Kuba seems to have few responsibilities or interests, apart from being a dab hand in the kitchen and indulging in wordless sexual encounters with men in bathroom stalls at the gym. When Sylwia drags Kuba to an art opening, he ungraciously decamps to a balcony, where he shares a joint and a long conversation with effeminate-looking college student Michal (Bartosz Gelner). Glimpsing the two men from across the room, Sylwia glowers at the way they seem to be really into each other. She soon has a lot more to scowl about, as Kuba abandons her and their plans every time Michal calls.
A subplot addresses Michal’s relationship with his parents. His mother (Iza Kuna) sympathizes with his sexual preference, yet still encourages him to date girls. His father (Miroslaw Zbrojewicz), however, plays deaf when Michal tries to come out publicly during a family dinner.
One of the weaknesses of the film is that while Kuba convincingly comes across as a closeted, self-loathing gay man, his sudden declaration of love for Michal at the one-hour mark seems out of character. Indeed, their relationship is shown to revolve around physical desire; we never get to hear their conversations or find out what makes the not particularly likable Kuba tick.
As evidenced by his debut feature, Wasilewski is interested in provocative sexual behavior and has no problem getting his actors to play intimate, graphic scenes. However, he’s less successful when it comes to creating appealing characters in which the audience can take a rooting interest. Nevertheless, “Skyscrapers” marks a big step up from the low-budget “Bedroom” and showcases the director’s flair for composition and intelligent use of sound.
The acting is strong, with the actresses managing to suggest more about their characters than their male counterparts do with theirs. Eye-catching widescreen production design makes interesting use of water motifs, while sophisticated soundscapes leave some sexual activity to the imagination.
“Floating Skyscrapers” will be shown at Frameline 38 San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival at the Victoria Theater Saturday, June 21 at 9:30 p.m. and at the Roxie Theater Thursday, June 26 at 9:30 p.m. Go to www.frameline.org.
Argentinian director’s Rodrigo Guerrero’s second feature is an insightful and charming tale about a one night stand that may change a young man’s outlook on life and love. We first see 22 year old near-naked Fede at his laptop on a chatline talking to Franco The conversation soon gets very intimate and graphic and in case we don’t get where this is leading too, Guerrero has inserted some very short clips of gay porn films. Franco is in his early 40’s and partnered and when all three men agree they like the look of how this hook-up is progressing they invite the young man over for dinner and more.
There is no ambiguity to the invitation and over the course of the meal, the three men chat at length about their backgrounds, their families and their lives so far. It is all very innocent and so completely friendly in such a way that it actually seems like the couple are looking to adopt the younger man rather take him to their bed and sexually ravish him. But this is what happens once desert has been served but as the action is photographed mainly from the waist up it is more sweet and somewhat wholesome than salacious. There is a lot of grunting and groaning and smiling and then some penetration.
Next morning the men leave for work and the boy leaves for college after they all say their fond farewells and promise to repeat the night very soon. The closing credits roll as we see young grinning Fede day-dreaming in Class his mind still on the events on last night as if he had just lost his virginity. (Not true).
“The Third One” is cleverly-scripted, well-directed, and features wonderful performances by the actors who portray the only three characters in the movie. It’s refreshing to watch a film that tackles it’s subject completely in such a pared down manner. The tidy film also offers up the optimistic notion that sometimes online hook-ups can be like a fairy tale after all.
“The Third One” will be shown at Frameline 38 San Francisco International Film Festival at the Victoria Theater Saturday, June 28 at 9:15 p.m.
The lazy summer is over and Leo and his best friend Giovana are back in High School for the new term when curly headed new boy Gabriel joins the class for the first time. Suddenly the cosy closeness of the two old friends is threatened when Giovana discovers that the newcomer will not be her longed-for first romance, and that in fact he will usurp her major role in Leo’s life. Leo has been blind from birth and lives with his overprotective parents in their very comfortable middle-class home in suburb of Rio, and Giovana has played the part of his ‘seeing eyes’ for years. His mother almost suffocates him by insisting on controlling his every movement and she is reluctant to leave him alone for one single moment. Gabriel’s arrival seems to coincide with Leo’s quest to finally break free and see if the school-exchange problem will also accept him so that he can live and study in another country. The news of this sends his mother into a fit, but his more amenable father is at least open to considering the idea which he tells Leo in one of the most touching of scenes in this very gentle coming of age story. Leo’s quest for independence is part of his journey about discovering who he really is, and he seems totally surprised when he realises that part of this is his attraction for Gabriel. As the boys friendship grows into something much deeper, neither of them can trust their judgements in revealing their feelings to each other, even after a stolen peck on the cheek after a drunken party. There is nothing at all extraordinary in the plot-lines of this wee movie, but somehow it has the most endearing quality that makes it so immensely enjoyable. There is a remarkable innocence to this group of young people who all seem never to have even been kissed, and even the inclusion of Leo’s taunting by the bullies in his class has no hint of any real hatred. There are some really nice touches of humor and tenderness, none more so than when Gabriel insists that Leo learns how to dance. What does make it all so compelling is the captivating performances of the three young lead actors, particularly Ghilherme Lobo who was so pitch perfect as the blind boy.
This very cute debut feature from Brazilian writer/director Daniel Ribeiro was based on his award-winning short ‘Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho’ with the same actors, and has gone on to, quite rightly, win two major accolades from the Berlinale : the FIPRESCI Prize and The TEDDYfor Best LGBT Feature. It is about to hit the Film Festival circuit where it will so easily win over a lot of hearts too. Especially the closing scenes.
“The Way He Look” will be shown at Frameline 38 San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival at the Castro Theater Monday, June 23 at 6:30 p.m.