Category Archives: Boston LGBT Film Festival

“NEUBAU— Coming to Terms with Life

“NEUBAU” (“NEW BUILDING”)

Coming to Terms with Life

Amos Lassen

Markus (Tucké Royale) lives with his two grandmothers Sabine (Monika Zimmering) and Alma (Jalda Rebling) on an Ostrich farm far from the big city life in the Uckermark. He willingly helps them wherever he can but he yearns to leave and start a colorful, more active life in the queer community in Berlin. When Markus falls in love with Duc (Minh Duc Pham), Markus is faced with the question of where and how he would like to shape his future life.

Markus is a trans man whospends the summer jogging to the swimming pond, drinking beer and listening to music. Duc, a television technician, spotted him at the pond but it takes a while for the two men who are watching each other to approach each other. When Alma dies, Markus is faced with the question of whether to stay or go.

“Neubau” directed by Johannes Maria Schmit is set in the northernmost part of the state of Brandenburg and is a post-gay story in which homosexuality and gender identification do not play a primary role. We see urge for self-determination and self-realization and the obligations in conflict with the young man’s ideal future visions. The film is a conciliatory portrait of the main actor and author Tucké Royale’s own past.

In the Uckermark, time moves slowly and stagnation makes for a kind of captivity. Not only Markus feels it, but so do we, the audience. Here is the captivity in the longing to belong and the free development and the queer attitude to life which is part of Berlin is inaccessible. His soul never rests completely and searches for fulfillment. Markus imagination leads him into the colorful life that is missing for him. His love affair with Duc is unspectacular and puts Markus in an awkward position and the decision for Berlin becomes difficult.

Grandma Alma and her friend Sabine have been Markus’ family since childhood. He never met his father and his mother died early and she was never able to find out that her daughter had become a grown son. When Markus visits grandma and Sabine, Sabine needs him more than Alma, who is still half mentally there but drifts away.

When Markus wanders around aimlessly, with a beer bottle in hand, longing for company, he only stands alone in the meadow on the outskirts and see his personal sacrifice. His new friend Duc, who has Vietnamese roots, seems, unlike him, is able to live his idea of ​​home in the provinces.

The film clearly questions whether his new partnership alone can reconcile Markus with the place where he lives in a queer homeland.

“BEYTO”— Love, Self-determination and Freedom

“BEYTO”

Love, Self-determination and Freedom

Amos Lassen

Beyto (Burak Ates) makes his parents proud. He has good grades, does not cause any problems and helps out in his parents’ kebab shop in Switzerland. His great passion is swimming and as long as his education doesn’t suffer, his parents accept it. Beyto’s immigrant family from Central Anatolia makes one thing very clear: their son should have it better than they do themselves. However, this hope is suddenly ruined when Beyto falls in love with his trainer Maik (Dimitri Stapfer).

Even though Beyto is keeps his relationship with Maik a secret from his parents, rumors begin. It becomes clear to his parents that Beyto must be straightened out. They a wedding with Seer (Ecem Aydin), Beyto’s childhood friend and Beyto finds himself in an unexpected triangular relationship and has to decide between freedom or tradition, love or family.

The film looks at the search for identity in exists in tension between two cultures but this is a heavy topic and the dialogue is often too constructed causing us not to get to know the characters well even though the chemistry between the actors is excellent.

“KISS ME KOSHER”— Unlikely Lesbian Lovers

“KISS ME KOSHER”

Unlikely Lesbian Lovers

Amos Lassen

Writer-director Shirel Peleg’s “Kiss Me Kosher” is a vey funny romantic comedy about unlikely lesbian lovers.  Maria (Luise Wolfram) is a reserved German botanist whose earnest parents are about peace and love and  angry about the Holocaust. Shira (Moran Rosenblatt) is an extrovert Israeli with a  supportive but opinionated large family. The film takes place over a week or so in Israel as Maria is introduced to her fiancee’s family. Her parents also arrive.

Both families are completely supportive of their daughters being gay and wanting to marry. The issues come from the prejudices they carry outside of homophobia – whether the Israeli grandma Holocaust survivor (Rivka Michaeli) who wants her daughter to marry an Israeli (while at the same time hides her relationship with an Arab man) or the American Jewish father (John Carroll Lynch) who has the zeal of the convert and wants Maria to convert to Judaism so his grandchild will be Jewish. The German parents are upset about the fact that their soon to be daughter-in-law’s little sister is in the Israeli army because they believe in peace and the two-state solution.

The film never avoids the real prejudices and obstacles facing a young couple who are deeply in love. The fact is that when you marry you also marry the family and no matter how far Shira tries to shelter Maria from the complications, they will always be there and are captured for posterity by her aspiring film-maker kid brother. The question is whether Maria is willing to accept it all even though they are meant for each other.

Shira’s Israeli parents are stereotypes – a mother and a right wing racist father. Her grandmother seems fine on race since she’s having a hidden relationship with a Palestinian doctor after all  but she draws the line of her precious granddaughter having anything to do with a German.

Shira’s younger sister wears an army uniform because it gets her discounts at most museums and her brother is a bit of a joker who follows the couple around with a camera for a film project for school. He is delighted to make a film about lesbians, Jews and the Holocaust.

Maria’s family is liberal, apologetic, and make the mistake of wanting to visit a refugee camp on the second day of their visit. When Maria is able to begin a friendship with a local Palestinian shepherd boy, her parents are able to bring forth the unthinkable.

“Kiss me Kosher” tries to combine comedy with serious discussion, but it often gets the tone wrong. The film is not offensive but it often makes the same mistake of trying to be light hearted where there’s not much to laugh at.

Not everyone is delighted that Shira and Maria are gay, but aside from an Orthodox Jew in an early scene, everyone accepts that this is just how they are. There is also some critique of Israeli settlers, although it does seem that mentioning a Two State Solution may be a little bit too radical.

There is a happy ending. Three couples end up pledging their love despite having shown differently suspicious feelings about marriage earlier in the film. What starts off as a depiction of how difficult families can be ends up seeing no alternative to happy families.

Perhaps the queer romance is meant to enhance the comedic conventions or subvert them, but instead we get an uneasy mix of awkward dialogue consequences that don’t really matter. The film is at its best when exploring how generational differences interfere with modern relationships.

“PLAYDURIZM”— A Black Comedy

“PLAYDURIZM”

A Black Comedy

Amos Lassen

Demir (Gem Deger) wakes up in a fancy apartment with no idea how he got there or who he really is. He just feels he doesn’t belong there and thus wants to leave. He runs into Andrew (Austin Chunn), who claims this is actually Demir’s apartment and he’s Demir’s roommate. He also claims Demir has suffered from amnesia before. Even though it doesn’t sound quite right, Demir accepts Andrew’s explanation because he feels weirdly drawn to Andrew. Andrew’s girlfriend Drew (Issy Stewart) does not agree with Demir’s amnesia-story. She thinks Demir just wants to take her man for himself and once Andrew’s out, she tries to stab Demir. However, during the  struggle she gets hit on the head and is knocked out. That evening, Drew overdoses and dies, which doesn’t bother Andrew too much, and he and Demir hide her body inside the couch. From then on, Andrew tries to fulfill each and every of Demir’s wishes and romance between the two men begins. Demir starts to remember how he got here  and the story is not wonderful.

This is a very strange film bring together black comedy, thriller and horror elements as well as surrealism and the bizarre. The setting feels unreal yet everything works because of a clever screenplay and fine direction.  

 

“EVERYTHING AT ONCE”— Thirty Years Together

“EVERYTHING AT ONCE”

Thirty Years Together

Amos Lassen

Paco and Manolo are two Catalan photographers from the outskirts of Barcelona, who have been together for thirty years. They each have managed to work as a single photographer and have captured their imagery in Kink magazine, a very personal photography fanzine with a Mediterranean homoerotic aesthetic.


Their style involves the use of natural light, abandoned places and simple rooms and they record the sex appeal of the working class through an unprejudiced mix of aesthetics that goes from Caravaggio to Pasolini.They are discreet witnesses of the morbidity and intimacy of those men who contact them (through Social Networks) and desire to be portrayed naked of all prejudice. The clothes come off, the bodies are freed and the souls are captured by the lens of the two photographers.

 

 

“BOY MEETS BOY”— Opening Up

“BOY MEETS BOY”

Opening Up

Amos Lassen

Junior doctor Harry (Matthew James Morrison) is in Berlin for a weekend break and meets Johannes (Alexis Koutsoulis), just as his weekend of dancing and casual sexual encounters is coming to an end. With hours left before his flight home, Johannes agrees to show Harry the sights of Berlin as the two men open up to each other about their lives, loves and relationships.

“Boy Meets Boy” chronicles the potential lovers as they take in the atmosphere of the city and debate about everything from the benefits of finding sex on Grindr and Tinder and whether Eurovision is “gay revenge for the World Cup”. The two build a real connection that neither is used to. Harry has been looking for his calling in life and used to finding happiness through casual sex. He has prepared himself for not wanting to have sex with the same person more than once. Johannes believes in the power of forming a bond with another in a traditional relationship.

The topics that the two men talk about are both insignificant and important and this leads them to better understand each other while at the same time deciding if their connection could lead to  something more than their short time together allows. Directed and co-written (along with Hannah Renton) by Daniel Sanchez Lopez, we see  two, often opposing, viewpoints of the young men, their cynicism and prejudices laid as they reveal how they both think they should be finding their ways in terms of modern queer relationships. Both actors are excellent in their roles and have great chemistry with each other.

The film doesn’t ignore the harsh realities of modern love, sex and relationships and is  frank and often emotionally raw film..

When Harry realizes that he has been partying for 48 hours and has just 15 hours left until his flight home to London and he still hasn’t seen Berlin. Johannes who is both carefree and careless offers to show him the city and help him print his boarding pass. They spend the day together wandering through the city and talking about their lives, values and truths. They make a deep in just 15 hours.

The script is filled with wit and wisdom. What begins as a fleeting romance becomes intellectual and challenges the changing concepts of relationships in modern society. Romance is modernized making the film relevant.

“WOJNAROWICZ” A Documentary

“WOJNAROWICZ”

A Documentary

Amos Lassen

“Wojnarowicz” is a portrait of downtown New York City artist, writer, photographer and activist David Wojnarowicz. As New York City became the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, Wojnarowicz used his work to wage war against the establishment’s indifference to the disease until his death from it in 1992 at the age of 37. The film has exclusive access to his breathtaking body of work – including paintings, journals, and films and these reveal how Wojnarowicz emptied his life into his art and activism. There are also rediscovered answering machine tape recordings and intimate recollections from Fran Lebowitz, Gracie Mansion, Peter Hujar and other friends and family.

The film examines the life David Wojnarowicz, using his own words, imagery, and music. Director Chris McKim brings us a rich and riveting work that captures Wojnarowicz’s unapologetically queer spirit as well as serving as a testimony to the enduring power of art. Wojnarowicz began keeping audio journals in 1976, which along with recordings of his phone conversations which McKim uses so that the late artist can narrate much of the documentary.

Although we hear some present day interviews on the soundtrack, with the exception of a brief and touching epilogue, and a few flashes of Donald Trump, McKim keeps the film visually within Wojnarowicz’s own lifetime, giving us an immersive time capsule. We’re taken back to the Manhattan of the late 70s, 80s and early 90s with the World Trade Center; the drugs and guns on the streets of the Lower East Side; f legendary downtown hangouts like the Pyramid Club; and the city’s gay sex venues like the Bijou on East 4th Street, where Wojnarowicz met the man who became his boyfriend, Tom Rauffenbart. It was Wojnarowicz’s knowledge of the gay cruising playgrounds of the abandoned West Side piers that led him to create a guerrilla communal art space there, along with Mike Bidlo, and here is some fascinating footage and audio recollections about the use of those colossal vacant spaces before the structure was torn down. 

We see the artist’s childhood growing up in New Jersey with an abusive father and then later we see him channel some traumatic episodes from that time in a film he collaborated with writer-director Richard Kern. At 11 he moved in with his mother in Hell’s Kitchen, spending the rest of his youth running away often, living on the streets, and hustling in Times Square. We hear his recollections of his experiences with some of the men who picked him up. McKim shows how intrinsically linked Wojnarowicz’s personal life and his work were, and the film never feels purely biographical since it shows the artist’s experiences and what they later inspired. We see the link between the personal and the political with his art becoming more potent and urgent once he was diagnosed as HIV positive. “

Before his work began to be shown in galleries, for a period Wojnarowicz’s canvasses were the lampposts and doorways of the Downtown streets where he plastered surfaces with his distinctive militaristic imagery of a burning house, planes and figures. It was out a recognition of his work as street artist that led to his first inclusion in an exhibition. The film creates a sense of the alternative Downtown cultural environment that Wojnarowicz began working in and we sense that it seems to be like is a million miles away from the SoHo and Uptown commercial art world.

We also hear some of David’s music tracks recorded with his band 3 Teens Kill 4, formed with his fellow busboys from the city’s iconic Danceteria after it was raided and temporarily shut down in 1980, and fellow artist Julie Hair with whom Wojnarowicz collaborated with on what they called “uninvited installations”. The music is described as “a film for your ears…a cacophonic barrage”, which incorporated samples, such as we see in video footage of one performance. artist. 

The film explores Wojnarowicz’s intimate long-standing friendship with photographer Peter Hujar, who at one point convinced him not to discard his work and to kick his heroin habit. Some of the best observations come from author and public speaker Fran Lebowitz, with her take on the endurance of art in contrast to the recurrence but impermanence of bigots holding the reins of power, and the era of sexual liberation in New York before an awareness of AIDS.

Wojnarowicz’s life was cut short by AIDS. He died in the East Village aged 37. The documentary opens in 1989 at the height of the epidemic with Wojnarowicz reacting to the news of his diagnosis with his work, before returning to that period later in the film. He says that “as each T cell disappears from my body it’s replaced by ten pounds of pressure, ten pounds of rage.” His rage at the US government’s indifference and inaction continued after his death. He was given the first political AIDS funeral marked with a protest march. His activism both on the streets and with his art had been hugely impactful, “IF I DIE OF AIDS – FORGET BURIAL – JUST DROP MY BODY ON THE STEPS OF THE F.D.A.”

This is a continually insightful, essential documentary that captures Wojnarowicz’s mastery an artist, as well as his uncompromising spirit, while offering a touching sense his relationship with his brother and sister. By taking a substantial amount of time to cover Wojnarowicz’s life at the height of the crisis, conveying his fury and artistic responses, the film gives us a powerfully moving perspective of the personal and political joined together tracingthe emerging conflict of political consciousness between Wojnarowicz’s success and his rejection of the elite capitalist gallery system.

The film ends with touching footage of Rauffenbart and other intimates previewing the Whitney show, titled “History Keeps Me Awake at Night.” Wojnarowicz is very much still present.

“SAINT NARCISSE”— Mythology, Religion, Self-Obsession and Sex

“SAINT NARCISSE”

Mythology, Religion, Self-Obsession and Sex

Amos Lassen

 Bruce LaBruce’s “Saint Narcisse” brings together mythology, religion, self-obsession and sex in in 1970s Quebec. He takes the myth of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection in the water, seems like quite an obvious move and filters it as a 1970s cult movie and adds to it with a pair of lesbian lovers who have gone off the grid; a young monk who is a cigarette-smoking, volleyball-averse lookalike of the protagonist; and an abusive gay priest who is obsessed with Saint Sebastian. LaBruce balances retaining the anarchic, B-movie-influenced aesthetic of his earlier films with “a new level of finesse in terms of how everything has been put together.”

The film opens with a shot of the Dominic (Felix-Antoine Duval) the  protagonist’s crotch. He’s at a laundromat and after taking a bra out of the drier, he begins talking with the only other customer there, a beautiful young woman explaining to her that the piece of lingerie is his grandmother’s.  to whom he apologetically suggests the item is his grandma’s. The two have sex almost immediately after this as people on the street watch what is going on in the laundromat. At the end of the scene, we see that Dominic is confused, thinking that he saw someone who looks like him in the group of watchers. LaBruce has suggested something about his main character’s inner state.

When Dominic goes home, we see that and he lives with his French-speaking grandmother (Angele Coutu). She is the starting point for a series of revelations about Dominic’s family that leads him to the Quebec countryside, where he meets two women (Tania Kontoyanni and Alexandra Petrachuk). They are lovers and also a key to unraveling Dom’s family history.

Dominic also meets another attractive young guy named Daniel, who looks just like him (Duval and some body doubles). He’s tied up in the family tree, too, though he’s had a very different upbringing. Daniel grew up in a monastery run by Father Andrew (Andreas Apergis), who is obsessed with both Saint Sebastian and Daniel.

The film’s  use of mythological and religious allusions and recent props like the camera that draws a line from Greek mythology all the way to the present without breaking the early 1970s illusion. Dominic is self-obsessed and the film suggests that self-obsession has always been there and that it is quite normal that people want to know who they are and where they come from.  We begin to wonder how much obsession with oneself is too much and whether there should there be boundaries. We do get something of an answer to these in the film’s final scene.

The film cuts back and forth between places and timelines without ever losing the viewer and we realize that we are on a journey that is a lot of fun and intellectual at the same time. LaBruce manages to have twins (or doppelgangers), incest, a cabin in the woods, nuns and/or monks, a motorcycle driver, lesbians living in the wild, and a sexually abusive priest all in one movie. “Saint Narcisse” is an homage to 70’s Quebecois cinema is LaBruce’s most traditionally narrative and dramatic film to date.

LaBruce has said that “Narcissism has obviously become the default psychological state, the ideological white noise of the new millennium, evidenced by selfie culture and social media solipsism. So I thought it was high time for a more contemporary reinterpretation of the Narcissus myth.” What he gives us is a bizarre drama that reveals a family secret, forbidden love and a long-lost twin brother who Dominic discovers has been raised by a twisted monastery ruled by the domineering Father.

“NO ORDINARY MAN”— Rewriting the Past

“NO ORDINARY MAN”

Rewriting the Past

Amos Lassen

Directors Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joyntrewrite the past by correcting the story of jazz musician Billy Tipton through voices he inspired. 

The film confronts the often-circulated but incorrect narrative that Tipton was a woman who passed as a man to enjoy a musical career during the 1940s and ‘50s. The film honors the musician’s life and music by reminds audiences that Tipton was a transgender male who took a courageous path while pursuing his passion. We see the importance of considering the duties and responsibilities entailed within telling a story that is not one’s own.

Interviewees reflect upon Tipton’s story, their own transitions, and the pervasive erasure of transgender experiences from the mainstream. Audition scenes let the diverse cast members perform an idea of Billy Tipton and further expand the boundaries for trans-masculine representation. Ironically, by queering Tipton’s story the film straightens out the past.