Posts Tagged ‘LGBTQ’

Flee (2021)

Dir: Jonas Poher Rasmussen | With: Daniel Karimyar, Fardin Mijdzadeh, Milad Eskanderi, Belal Faiz | Denmark, Animated drama, 90′

Based on real events, this noirish gay awakening story blends new beginnings and past trauma in an involving and surprisingly poetic way, the delicately drawn animations notching down the rawness of a harrowing escape for the central character whose real identity is kept confidential.

Director Jonas Poher Rasmussen calls his friend Amin but only discovered the true horror of his backstory years after they met. Amin is a refugee from Afghanistan who escaped Kabul during the the 1980s and is now safely settled in Denmark in a relationship he never dreamed possible.

Rasmussen recounts his friend’s adventures through a series of animated events and interviews in a way that draws us into his world as we experience the horrors from Amin’s own perspective. The conflict that caused his family to leave their home and suffer at the hands of the authorities on their way to Europe is not news to any of us but it is brought to life here in an alarming way that brings a sobering perspective to the refugee crisis that’s still unfolding every today. Being gay was a further hurdle that Amin had to overcome in this bracingly tense adventure. MT


The Christine Jorgensen Story (1970)

Dir: Irving Rapper |  US Drama 98′

Described by David Thomson as “possibly the most bizarre departure by any director once in steady work”. The Christine Jorgensen Story that explores identity confusion, is virtually a remake by Irving Rapper, the veteran gay director of Hollywood ‘women’s pictures’- then in his seventies – of his 1942 classic Now, Voyager.  Yet Bette Davis looked far more butch in her Warner Bros. prime than John Hansen ever does here.

Rapper was doubtless equipped to empathise with what was troubling his confused young ‘heroine’, and it shows in the film; although the Danish ‘heroine’s transformation is here brought about by surgery, rather than psychoanalysis and a makeover by Perc Westmore and Orry-Kelly.

Based on Jorgensen’s autobiography the film feels like a TV movie of the period, complete with a 50’s-style piano & violin score by the veteran team of Paul Sawtell & Bert Shefter, but with the addition of words like ‘clitoris’ and ‘testicles’ to the script, and a glimpse of a penis in a shower-room sequence (was this a Hollywood first?). With women today clamouring to be taken seriously as footballers and for basic training for the armed forces, young George’s dislike for these activities and preference for wearing dresses would not necessarily today be seen as evidence that he’s ‘really’ a woman. The discovery by Professor Estabrook (Will Kuluva) that George’s glands are secreting more oestrogen than testosterone curiously leads him to recommend cutting them off altogether rather than simply injecting him with testosterone. So off to Denmark it is, where the operation he is about to undergo is described in quite some detail by Dr.Dahlman (Oscar Beregi).

We finally meet Christine about two-thirds into the film, when Hansen is transformed into a better-looking version of John Lithgow in The World According to Garp rather than the elegant and articulate woman Jorgensen actually became. That his father is discovered to be waiting for ‘her’ at the airport upon her arrival back in America provides a genuinely touching conclusion. Jorgensen declared herself satisfied with the result; as well as relieved that it didn’t end up as another ‘Myra Breckinridge’ @Richard Chatten


Five Films for Freedom | BFI Flare 2021

During the FLARE LGBTIQ+ BFI’s annual celebration of all things gay five festival films have been selected to screen free internationally from 17-28 March

Five Films For Freedom 2021 sees filmmakers exploring emerging sexuality, trans-activism, homophobia and genderless love at a time when people may have been adversely impacted by the pandemic.

In a new twist for 2021, audiences will be invited to nominate their Five Films Favourite via a British Council web poll, the winners will be announced via British Council social media channels prior to 28 March. Voting opens 17 March via the #Five FilmsForFreedom homepage.

The FIVE FILMS FOR FREEDOM campaign has been going since 2015 and over 15 million people from more than 200 countries have engaged with it particularly in places where homosexuality can be prosecuted and, in some cases, punishable by death.

Five Film For Freedom programme 2021:


Bodies of Desire (India/Dir. Varsha Panikar & Saad Nawab/3 mins), directed by Varsha Panikar and multi-award-winner Saad Nawab, uses Indian poet Panikar’s work as the basis for a visual, poetic film capturing four sets of lovers in a sensual celebration of genderless love and desire.

Land of the Free (Sweden/Dir. Dawid Ullgren/10 mins) – Ullgren’s tense Swedish drama follows the fictional David and friends as they celebrate his birthday with a nightly swim at the beach. The good mood swiftly changes after two straight couples walk by and laugh – was the laughter directed at them, or something else? Who owns the truth of exactly what happened?


Pure (USA/Dir. Natalie Jasmine Harris/12 mins) is the fictional debut from 2020 Directors Guild of America Student Film Award winner Natalie Jasmine Harris, centring on a young Black girl grappling with her queer identity and ideas of ‘purity’. The film is written, produced and directed by Harris – a filmmaker passionate about the intersection between filmmaking and social justice.

Trans Happiness is Real (UK/Dir. Quinton Baker/8 mins) – a moving documentary from first-time filmmaker Quinton Baker – sees transgender activists take to the streets of Oxford, England to fight anti-trans sentiments using the power of graffiti and street art.

Victoria (Spain/Dir. Daniel Toledo/7 mins) follows a bittersweet reunion between a trans woman and her ex, sparking tension and long buried resentment. Directed by award-winning filmmaker, Daniel Toledo, Victoria also features acclaimed trans actress, writer and director Abril Zamora (The Life Ahead, The Mess You Leave Behind).

All films will be available to view from 17 – 28 March 2021 via the British Council Arts YouTube channel as well as being part of the BFI Flare digital programme on BFI Player and associated platforms.

Patrick (2019) *** San Sebastian Film Festival 2019

Dir/Wri: Goncalo Waddington | Cast: Hugo Fernandez, Teresa Sobral, Carla Maciel, Alba Bapista | Drama, Portugal 103′

Who would have thought the name ‘Patrick’ would be the title of two features this summer? The first was Belgian director Tim Mielants’ offbeat comedy that premiered in competition at Karlovy Vary. The second is this enigmatic post abduction story that fails to catch fire despite its visual allure and edgy atmosphere. Waddington’s enigmatic approach leads to a drama that drifts around uncomfortably but is easy on the eye.

Patrick works on a similar premise to The Imposter without the same gripping storyline. Waddington establishes young Patrick’s hedonistic lifestyle in the fleeting opening scenes: sullen and rather keen on himself, the 20-year old Belgian native (played by a terrifying Hugo Fernandez) is living in Paris where he takes good care of his body, despite suffering disfiguring acne. He is a violent and abusive misogynist – we see him in a nightclub asking a woman her age before moving swiftly on. Although he appears to be emotionally in control, a telephone call reveals the reverse. He shares a swanky apartment with another man who is not his boyfriend despite their physical closeness.

These frenetic opening scenes soon give way to a calmly observational second act where Patrick is being interviewed by police after a drug-fuelled incident at a party where he has apparently supplied the narcotics. It emerges that he is also running a porn site, abusing underage girls, and is in fact called Mario: Twelve years earlier he was the victim of an abduction from his home in the Portuguese countryside. The shock seems to have affected his ability to speak the language. And when Mario goes home to his mother, the film takes on an enervating stillness that seems to suit the narrative torpor, but fails to clarify the past.

His earthy mother Laura (Teresa Sobral) makes no real attempt to confront his about his crime; his kindly aunt Helena (Carla Maciel) and 17 year-old cousin Marta (Alba Bapista) just treat him as part of the woodwork – or the tile-work – it’s Portugal, after all. His violent past now seems forgotten in this placid rural idyll, as the women gently surround him with their feminine energy and peacefulness, hoping that Mario can heal if things go back to normal. He is left to go off into the  countryside with his cousin, who talks about her life in Brazil, amid a beguiling ambient score. They swim in a limpid lake and Mario cuddles an endearing baby fawn, with the haunting words “this is our dinner”. He later lashes out at Marta, while talking about a man who used to hang around during sports training, and insisted on calling him ‘Patrick’. But there is no explanation as to why his anger is exclusively directed towards women His father eventually makes an appearance (a fabulously moody Adriano Carvahlo) mumbling about having to go away again. His parents seem decent and loving, despite his father’s frequent absence.

So was ‘nature or nurture’ Waddington’s angle on Mario/Patrick’s violent condition? Seemingly the former, but we have to wait until the final scenes, by which time we really cease to care about this hostile narcissist. His abduction clearly unleashed a vicious anger that could have been a bi-product of depression due to his being abused. The finale sees him driving off into the city again where he finally gets his revenge. MT

San Sebastian FILM FESTIVAL | 18-28 SEPTEMBER 2019


Aniara (2018) ****

Dir.: Pella Kagerman, Hugo Lilja; Cast: Emilie Jonsson, Blanca Cruzeiro, Anneli Martini, Arvin Kananian; Sweden/Denmark 2019, 106 min.

This Swedish dread-fuelled sci-fi debut feels like Solaris directed by Ingmar Bergman.

Adapted from an epic poem by Swedish Nobel prize laureate Harry Martinson Aniara is both unsettling and beautiful to look at, embued with the melancholy of its original author who committed suicide after learning that he would have to share his Nobel Prize with his countryman Eyvind Johnson (both were members of the prize giving Swedish academy). Martinson had rather a dim view of humanity: a staunch progressive, his first wife left him “because he lacked political engagement” – hardly a reason for divorce, but something that was clearly vital for the success of their marriage.

Aniara is a slow burner in many ways: having watched it, one is satisfied, but not overwhelmed. But the film stays with you, the audacity and originality dawning slowly as you cast your mind back. A space transporter ferries wealthy Earthlings from our own now uninhabitable planet to a docking station somewhere in the firmament whence they will be transported to Mars. Alas, the three week  journey is interrupted in the first few days when the Aniara, a sort of luxury mall, has to dump all its fuel to avoid a collision. The only chance of getting back on course is to locate a celestial body. Captain Chefone (Kananian) promises this for the near future but a wise, old astronomer (Martini) tells her roommate Mimaroben (Jonsson) that this will never happen. Mimaroben (or MR) is in charge of MIMA, a sentient computer system which allows humans to see viral images of the old Earth, by way of using the memories Earth-dwellers. After the astronomer is shot for “spreading panic”, MIMA shuts itself down, and MR and her lover Isagel (Cruzeiro), a pilot, are put in prison. They are released when the Ariana encounters a foreign body and Chefone hopes that the object will contain fuel. When this turns out to be wishful thinking, the space voyagers are filled with doom and gloom. Cults and anarchy reign, and Isagel becomes pregnant during a ritual. It falls to the two women to raise the child, and for a time, this nuclear family promises a sort of future.

Divided into chapters, Ariana is a slow descent into night. Visually this is a stunning endeavour and credit is due to DoP Sophie Winquist and PDs Linnea Pettersson and Maja-Stina Asberg. Instead of spending vast sums on interiors, the team make use of   local malls, office blocks and amusement parks, Winquist always finding new angles to conjure up the passengers’ sheer terror at seeing their surroundings vanishing bit by bit. The ensemble acting is really convincing, with Martini’s cynical astronomer (“I was never impressed much by humans”) outstanding. There are no monsters populating Ariana – just talented humans beings. AS       

ANIARA is released in Cinemas and on Digital HD from 30th August

Tell It To The Bees (2018) ***

Dir.: Annabel Jankel; Cast: Anna Paquin, Holiday Grainger, Gregor Selkirk, Emun Elliot, Steven Robertson, Kate Dickie, Lauren Lyle; UK 2018, 105 min.

Annabel Jankel’s literary adaptation of a popular fifties novel is strong on historical detail but much weaker on cinematographic potency, coming across as a rather tame affair, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Jankel (Live From Abbey Road) and her scriptwriters Jessica and Annabel Ashworth (Killing Eve) have already worked together in TV: Tell It To the Bees makes ideal family viewing and marks Flare Festival’s mature progression into programming decent drama for a sexually inclusive audience, not just a LGBTQ one.

When Dr. Jean Markham (Ana Paquin) comes home to small-town Scotland to take over her late father’s surgery, she is greeted with mixed feelings. As a teenager she had caused a bit of a scandal with her ‘inappropriate’ behaviour. But she settlers down striking up a friendship with Lydia (Grainger) a young mother of who husband Robert (Elliot), has gone off with another woman. Lydia’s wages in the local mill are not enough to even pay the rent, and when her son Charlie (Selkirk) becomes the victim of bullying at school, Dr Markham offers them board and very soon, a great deal more. Elsewhere, the town’s gossip monger Pam Krammer (Dickie), subjects her daughter Annie Lyle) to a botched abortion rather than bear the child of her black boyfriend, George. Meanwhile, Robert has become violent towards Lydia, and so Charlie is forced to come to her rescue. A muddled finale on the station platform accompanied by grown-up Charlie’s voice-over commentary is symbolic of this rather cack-handed adaption of its much superior novel. It feels like Jankel is aiming for the stoic fatalism of the adult voice-over in Joseph Loosey’s Palme d’Or winner The Go Between. But it doesn’t quite come off: Jankel is no Loosey, her story-telling is dictated by a TV norm. feeding the viewer impressive snippets, while losing a conceptual frame work.

DoP Bartosz Nalazek emerges with some credit: his images, shot from Charlie’s POV, show A boy being overwhelmed by adults. And the magic realism in the form of the bees, come across as artificial and unconvincing. There is no passion in this postwar village, just a rather limp romantic longing. AS




Sauvage (2018) ***

Dir.: Camille Vidal-Naquet; Cast: Felix Maritaud, Eric Bernard, Marie Seux, Philippe Ohrel; France 2018, 99 min.

Felix Maritaud blazes through this stunning sortie into the life of young rent boys in Strasbourg, focusing on their aimless, dangerous and lonely lives. The harsh psychological realism is complimented by explicit sexual encounters, which often border on the abusive.

He plays Leo a rent boy in his early twenty who lives purely for the moment, using drugs, clients, petty crime and lots of day-dreaming to get through each day. That changes when he meets Ahd (Reinard), a fellow male prostitute and falls in love with him. Leo is not worried that Ahd is actually looking for a ‘sugar-daddy’ long term, and asks Leo to do the same: “That’s the best that can happen to us”. But Leo is stubborn, chasing Ahd down and endangering his relationship with an older man. After being sexually assaulted by two others who cheat him out of his money to boot, Ahd does Leo a last favour, beating up one of them and stealing his money, which he shares with Leo. But all the stress has taken its toll on Leo’s health, and a female physician (Seux), one of the few women in the feature, consoles him with maternal affection. This scene stands out in contrast to the film’s opener, when Leo is examined by a ‘doctor’, who turns out to be a client working for the IRS, who enjoys the role play. After Ahd has left for Benidorm with his lover, Leo finally follows his advice- after a particularly brutal (off-screen) encounter with a client known for his sadistic tendencies. His middle-class ‘protector’ Claude (Ohrel) wants to take him to Montreal for a new start in life – but does Leo really wants to be saved?

Leo shows all the symptoms of emotional regression due to neglect: he is a doleful child looking for love in all the wrong places, because society has marginalised him. Sauvage is not just about sex: it also shows the tenderness in a gay relationship, particularly when Leo goes with a man old enough to be his father: Leo cuddles him, both men getting more out of the encounter than penetration alone would have provided. But Leo is already a very fragmented character: he spends hours alone in the woods near the male gang’s pick-up place, and then over-compensates with hectic behaviour at parties and in dance clubs. His day dreams of emotional security are shattered in reality – and he has himself to blame. Solitude is his way back into childhood, while his waking hours are a nightmare of humiliation and deception. Leo doesn’t know how to connect these two selves, and the lack of concurrent identity makes him alien to himself.

SAUVAGE is an impressive first feature for writer and director Camille Vidal-Naquet. DoP Jacques Girault contrasts Leo’s dual existence with nightmarish images of the time spent with his clients, the aimless wandering in the streets, and the haven of tranquillity in the sunny woods. Vidal-Naquet is always non-judgemental, avoiding sentimentality at all costs. The result is a rather melancholic walk on the wild side. AS


The Boys in the Band (1970) **** Bluray release

WDir: William Friedkin | Writer: Mart Crowley | Drama  | 118’

Fifty years ago, this milestone in Queer cinema The Boys in the Band was considered highly controversial, although in retrospect it’s seems rather quaint with Mart Crowley’s priceless dialogue making it all worthwhile (apart from the groundbreaking use of the C-word), particularly Leonard Frey’s Harold gets some caustic remarks.

William Friedkin would go on to make The French Connection a year later, and The Exorcist just after that (in 1973) but this is a beast of another colour and sees a group of gay men grow increasingly antagonistic after enjoying an alcohol fuelled party in a spacious Upper East Side apartment, especially after Harold arrives.

Based on Crowley’s play, and featuring the original cast, it stars a sterling selection of gay actors Kenneth Nelson, Peter White, Cliff Gorman and, of course, Leonard Frey. The play premiered off-Broadway in 1968, just as the gay rights movement was gaining momentum and aimed to portray a candid view gay life, although it sparked mixed reactions amongst the gay community for its negative stereotyping of limp-wristed and bitchy victims of their sexuality. William Friedkin’s faithful 1970 screen version, has become a cult classic. But when all is said and done, LGBTQ equality has pathed the way to a better acceptance of what went before, and the piece can now be appreciated for it depiction of an oppressed group of any kind, and is by turns brutally amusing, compelling and dark.

The film plays out as a chamber piece echoing its original scale. Led by the single Michael (Nelson), a Catholic alcoholic from Mississippi and set in his ostentatious bachelor pad. Michael is throwing a birthday party for his difficult friend Harold (Frey), who eventually turns up high, with a brilliantly bombastic monologue: “What I am, Michael, is a 32-year-old, ugly, pockmarked Jew fairy — and if it takes me a while to pull myself together and if I smoke a little grass before I can get up the nerve to show this face to the world, it’s nobody’s goddamn business but my own.”

Other guests include Donald (Combs), Michael’s ex who comes back to NY to visit his shrink.  Hank (Luckinbill) is a bisexual teacher  (Tuc Watkins), who’s now with photographer Larry (Prentice) although the relationship is strained by Larry’s promiscuity. Bernard (Reuben Greene) is the token black guy and seems the most brooding of the group. Into the party drops Michael’s straight college friend Alan (Peter White), who is on the verge of tears over his own failing marriage. His reluctance to leave nods to an ambivalence in his own sexuality, and hints that he might be hiding an uncomfortable truth from himself.

According to Friedkin, this was “one of the few films I’ve made that I can still watch”. Released 50 years after its Broadway debut – a year before the infamous Stonewall Riots – The Boys in the Band still has the power to shock. MT

NOW ON BLURAY FROM 11 FEBRUARY 2019 with interviews with Mark Gatiss, and commentary from William Friedkin himself | COURTESY OF SECOND SIGHT 


BFI Flare Film Festival | 21 March – 1 April 2018

London is the setting for the UK’s longest running LGBTQ film event which began in 1986 as Gay’s Own Pictures. Since then it has also become the largest LGBTQ film event in the UK with this year’s edition boasting 56 feature films, an expanded industry programme, selected films on BFI Player VOD service, and a series of special events and archive screenings. With its partner fiveFilms4freedom it offers LGBT short films for free across the world and promoted through the British Council’s global networks.

Opening the festival this year is Talit Shalom-Ezer’s poignant lesbian love story MY DAYS OF MERCY written by Joe Barton, who scripted TV’s Troy, and featuring Kate Mara and Ellen Page. The European premiere of moral fable POSTCARDS FROM LONDON is the closing gala, telling a revealing story of a suburban teenager (Harris Dickinson) arriving in the West End where he falls in with a gang of high class male escorts ‘The Raconteurs’. Set in a vibrant, neon-lit, imaginary vision of Soho, the film works as a beautifully shot homage to the spirit of Derek Jarman and a celebration of the homo-erotic in Baroque art, and is Steve McLean’s long-awaited follow-up to his 1994 Sundance and Indie Spirit-nominated drama POSTCARDS FROM AMERICA. This year ‘Second Chance Sunday offers the opportunity to watch the on-demand repeat screenings of the audience festival favourites.

Other films to look out for are Rupert Everett’s Oscar Wilde-themed passion project THE HAPPY PRINCE in which he also stars alongside Colin Firth and Emily Watson. Robin Campillo’s rousing celebration of AIDS activism 120 BPM. MAURICE, a sumptuous restoration of the 1987 adaptation of E M Forster’s gay novel starring James Wilby and Rupert Graves. THE WOUND, an illuminating South African story of initiation in a rural village.

On the documentary front it’r worth seeing TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS that explores how a transgender Alzheimer’s patient deals with the harrowing inevitable, and ANTONIO LOPEZ 1970 a compelling and vibrant portrait of the bisexual illustrator who changed the fashion world. 

Avant-garde Berlinale Teddy feature HARD PAINT presents a startlingly cinematic look at how a college drop-out deals with his needs, and Locarno favourite, a saucy Sao Paolo-set vampire drama GOOD MANNERS approaches its love story with hand-crafted tenderness and visual allure.

There will also be another chance to see Francis Lea’s Berlinale awarded GOD’S OWN COUNTRY; Billie Jean King’s thrilling account of her fight for equality in women’s tennis BATTLE OF THE SEXES and the one of the best films of 2017 CALL ME BY YOUR NAME. 




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