Category Archives: Boston LGBT Film Festival

“GRIMSEY”— After Breaking Up

 

“Grimsey”

After Breaking Up

Amos Lassen

After breaking up with Norberto who ran away to Iceland, Bruno wants to find him. Arnau, a local tour guide in Reykjavik, helps in his search. Their trip will become a grieving process until they reach the remote island of Grimsey.

The film is set in the gorgeously austere Icelandic landscape, embodying the end of the relationship. This is truly a romantic story and as Bruno searched for Norberto, he also searches within himself.

“Grimsey” is the feature debut of both directors, Richard Garcia and Raul Portero who also star in the film.

The power of the film is in bucking some LGBT stereotypes by telling a universal story without seeking the normalization of his characters.

“FREELANCERS ANONYMOUS”— Her Own Thing

“Freelancers Anonymous”

Her Own Thing

Amos Lassen

Billie (Lisa Cordileone) hates her office job and the only reason she stays at it is because she and girlfriend, Gayle (Natasha Negovanlis) are getting married soon. Then her boss decides to overload her while cutting her hours and benefits so she quits. She is determined to find something better.

As she searches, she meets a group of women who hang around a church hall every day on the pretext of networking for freelance work and Billie think that this is what she s looking for. She convinces the women to pool their talents and create an app that would link prospective employers up with freelance workers.  Billie knows that the idea is not new but sees the value in it.

Gayle stays busy working online to promote her own “Life Is A Cabernet’ wine. She also records audiotapes of soft porn novels. Even though the girls have very little money, Gayle has hired a wedding planner who is arranging a very expensive wedding.

Billie pretends that the new start-up company is paying her a salary but she is actually living off of the funds that by one of the girls gave her for a launch party of the app.  Then when this is discovered, Billie manages to persuade the other girls to continue with the project and suggests saving money, the launch will be at the church Hall on the very same day of her wedding.  All she has to do is keep this from Gayle’s and spend her wedding day running between her marriage ceremony and the investors meeting for the app.

 Spanish Filmmaker Sonia Sebastián has brought together a very fine cast with lots of talent. There are some very good laughs but unfortunately there are too many clichéd stereotypes and a contrived plot. I imagine that it will have an audience.

“1985”— Going Home

“1985”

Going Home

Amos Lassen

Adrian (Cory Michael Smith) is in the opening scene in Yan Ten’s “1985” as he waits for his father Dale (Michael Chiklis) to pick him up at the airport. Adrian is coming back to Texas for the first time in three years. He moved to New York and seldom came home. He has basically ignored his family and their calls aside from the time that his brother Andrew (Aidan Langford) planned to visit him in the big city. Adrian is essentially a ghost yet now he is more visual to his family than to himself since his HIV diagnosis.

His father, Dale, says that he lost weight because of a stomach flu. We never hear the words gay or AIDS in this family and that is because their home is a religious one. Adrian pretends to be having a successful life in New York. He “has” a comfortable ad agency job but the reality is that he’s attended far too many funerals for a man in his twenties and the fact he’s likely going to die soon himself has forced him to go to his hometown to say goodbye. He isn’t alone in his quiet desperation. Dale, a Vietnam vet, doesn’t know how to talk to either Adrian or Andrew, now that the latter has traded in football for drama club. Adrian’s mother (Virginia Madsen) sneaks into his room at night while he’s away. The discontent amongst all of Adrian’s family, as well as Carly (Jamie Chung), a friend from high school who has since moved out of the suburbs herself, is notable because of the way director Tan uses each of the pieces they feel are missing to find the places where they connect, either in a feeling of shared emptiness or the delightful recognition of the person they knew in happier, simpler times. This is what makes “1985” so devastating. The film builds subtly but steadily, with its considerable might being exposed in close-ups, with the full force of the performances of a wonderful cast drawn out by the black-and-white cinematography.

Before you know it, “1985” comes and goes, spanning just a few mostly uneventful days while Andrew is home for Christmas, yet it sticks around far longer in the mind.

Adrian’s conservative family does not know that Adrian is gay, and they certainly don’t know that the AIDS crisis has hit home for their oldest son. Much of “1985” consists of Adrian battling with how much to tell his parents, his brother or even an old girlfriend and Tan emotionally seeks to capture that horrible feeling of when you have a trauma you can’t share with those who love you the most. Prejudices and preconceptions are often more exaggerated than they are in real life. Smith grounds Adrian in an emotional, subtle performance. Of course, a movie about AIDS is not easy to watch and this is one of those. Yet, it is uplifting. I am glad to see that we have not forgotten the epidemic and it is so important that we never forget.

“MY LIFE WITH JAMES DEAN”— A French Comedy

 

“My Life With James Dean”

A French Comedy

Amos Lassen

“My Life With James Dean” is the story of filmmaker Géraud Champreux (Johnny Rasse) who has been invited to a small Northern seaside town of Le Tréport in the Normandy region of France by the local film curator to screen his latest indie film.  His trip gets off to a bad start when a young boy steals his cell phone and his host Sylvie van Rood (Nathalie Richard) is missing and the only two employees at the cinema claim to know nothing about the special screening.

Géraud checks into the local hotel and he is relieved to find out that they are expecting him, although getting the rather eccentric receptionist to help is not easy.

Back at the cinema, the film has been found and the screening goes ahead playing to an audience of just one little old lady.  What she thinks of the very explicit gay film that Géraud has made is never made as to why they are showing such a graphic film in this provincial place.

Next morning Madame van den Rood appears and is apologetic. It seems that her roller-coast love life with her girlfriend took a turn for the worse. Meanwhile, Balthazar (Mickael Pelissier) the very young cinema projectionist who Géraud had spoken with briefly has declared his undying love for the filmmaker.

Life gets even more complicated when the star of the  film also turns up to explain that his relationship with Géraud is definitely over at about the same time, Géraud learns that Balthazar is jail bait, plus the little old lady who has been seeing the movie every night, is none other than Géraud’s estranged mother. Can it get any crazier?

While the plot is both crazy and silly but it has a wonderful level of warmth throughout that makes it such a pleasure to watch. Writer/director Dominique Choisy’s film is irresistibly bizarre, at times dizzyingly romantic and erotic and at other times intense. It is also a love letter to independent cinema in France n that it is a rare film whose constant twists and turns genuinely surprise and grip you – sometimes in laughter and sometimes by the throat – up until the very last moment on screen.

“BIXA TRAVESTY”— Independence and Strength

“Bixa Travesty”

Independence and Strength

Amos Lassen

“Bixa Travesty” has something to say about the gender binary. This is a documentary about the life and times of Linn da Quebrada, a self-proclaimed “tranny fag” born out of a rough neighborhood of São Paulo. She takes on her personal journey in which she reveals and proclaims her insights on what it means to be a woman thus giving us .a new perspective on the definition of the word.

Her performances are loud, abrasive and unapologetic. Through the use radical self-expression, she obliterates heteronormative constructs of gender and asserts that a woman is not defined by her genitals. While many of the performances have a shock value element that can be rather coarse, directors Claudia Priscilla and Kiko Goifman also give us moments of vulnerability that reveal Quebrada’s softer side. We see these in her intimate moments at home and her artistic exploration during her cancer treatment. Informal talk radio discussions with fellow trans woman Jup do Bairro on gender, femininity and the daily struggles faced by trans women in show us a woman on the brink of a revolution. Through her art and ultimately through herself, Quebrada challenges us to think beyond what we believe we know about gender and to become open to up to the possibility of fluidity in our definitions.

Although a powerful statement for Quebrada and undoubtedly for the trans community, “Bixa Travesty” is difficult to categorize. It is a shocking film and we know that shock value is often at the core of many catalyzing moments of change in many movements, and therefore it’s understandable why this documentary is as abrasive as it is. The danger is that if these moments aren’t adequately countered with enough instances that foster empathy, the effect can be isolative.

“LIAM”— Dealing with Death

“Liam”

Dealing with Death

Amos Lassen

While we are alive, we tend to forget that death is a fact of life. When a young person dies, it is difficult to deal with and if it is someone we live, it is that harder to understand. This is what we face in this brilliant new film by Isidore Bethel. Not long after, Bethel graduated from Harvard, he went to France to study film and it was there that he got word that his best friend from childhood, Liam had been killed by a drunk driver.  He was just 23 years old.

Bethel decided to make a documentary film about Liam in the hopes that this would help him through the grieving process. Bethe; had never come out to his folks and did so as he began to work on the film and his parents were totally accepting. Liam’s parents are important to the film because it is basically through them that Bethel explores his own feelings about their loss of a son and his loss of a friend. Bethel’s own parents also play a huge part in accepting the tragedy. All of the characters now must see their futures dramatically changed by Liam’s death and this also includes Liam’s ex-girlfriend who had remained relatively close even though the pair had split up long before Liam’s death.

It was the loss of Liam that was responsible for Bethel’s examination his own feelings in a very public way which would have been out of character for him before this.  He intimately involves his French boyfriend in this self-examination, and learn that their very public declarations of love to each other, was not enough.

This is a very personal movie and at times I felt like I was being intrusive as I watched. Yet, this is a moving look at feelings and I applaud the director for this chance to know him. I have a feeling that we will be hearing a great deal more from him in the future.

“Liam” had its world premier at this tears Wicked Queer, The Boston LGBT Film Festival.

“M/M”— Where the Real Ends

“M/M”

Where the Real Ends

Amos Lassen

Drew Lint is a Canadian filmmaker who is not afraid to push the envelope. “M/M” is his debut feature and it is an edgy experimental thriller that appears to be loosely based on his own life. Matthew (Antoine Lahaie) is a drifting Canadian has moved to Berlin and is settled into a new life. However, he is lonely. One day he meets Mathias (Nicolas Maxim Endlicher), a very good looking German who makes a living as a model for statutes. After their first Grindr exchange, Matthew becomes totally obsessed with the charismatic stranger and starts to stalk him.

This is a metaphysical drama in which there is a blurry line between reality and imagination so we do not really know how much obsession takes place in Matthew’s mind and this is what makes the film so intriguing. Matthias is everything Matthew wants to be.

His intense infatuation takes on a different turn when Matthew starts to copy Matthias in any way he can.  First, he cuts his hair in the identical style, then starts to wear the same clothes, but then after Matthias is hospitalized and in a coma after a near-fatal motorbike accident, Matthew grabs the chance to actually subsume his life.   

Fiction is much weirder than reality, but this is the life that Matthew prefers. Director Lint has said that this film is all about an outsider’s opportunity to embrace any new identity that he feels that he wants, and he has shaped his take on this by being somewhere on the borders between drama,  video art, and music video.  The young talented leads are great to look at and they provide distraction when the plot, despite the infusion of techno music, seems to almost come to a halt at times.

This is an erotic drama that really stretches one’s imagination as well as his patience at times. Matthew’s obsessive power struggle between the two, careens toward brutal passion and violence in a bid for dominance.

This is a film of unique contrasts. We see hot queer bodies entangled together, but against the drab, heavy grey sky of Berlin. We become part of extreme explorations of identity and desire, but with an underlying familiarity. The film is surreal, but completely grounded in truth and naturalism. This is a film that cannot really be spoken about if it has not been seen.

“DIE BEAUTIFUL”— Driven By Dreams

“Die Beautiful”

Driven by Dreams

Amos Lassen

Jun Robles Lana’s “Die Beautiful” is about a man (Paolo Ballesteros) who is driven by his dreams of being able to win a gay pageant. As simple and as familiar its plot is, it embraces itself interestingly to a non-linear narrative that supports to the story and message it wants to express. The film begins with Trisha (the feminine side of Ballesteros) at her funeral, having her makeup adjusted by best friend Barb (Christian Bables).

We do not know the reason for his death and it is a mystery for some of his close friends. But what we learn is that she passed out shortly after winning the beauty pageant, something she had dreamt of since her youth. (yes, the pronouns are confusing).

The back-and-forth between Trisha’s earlier life and his dying state makes for a sense of indulgence and enormity to the overall narrative. Performance-wise, this film is amazing. Paolo Ballesteros gives one of the best acting performances all year so far as does Christian Bables, as Barbs.  Together their chemistry is exceptional and I honestly cannot imagine the film without them.

The film shows us life as a misguided and uncertain series of events to joy. The pursuit to happiness might not happen on the way we expected it to be, but it has already been there when we don’t see it.

There are moments that we least expect to happen and there is death, where beauty wears its strongest suit. I realize that I have not said much but I do hope that it is enough that you will make it a point to see this film.

“ANCHOR AND HOPE”— A Bittersweet Story About Love, Life and Longing

“ANCHOR AND HOPE”

A Bittersweet Story About Love, Life and Longing

Amos Lassen

“Anchor and Hope” is the story of lesbian couple Eva (Oona Chaplin) and Kat (Natalia Tena) whose relationship is put under strain when Kat’s close friend Roger (David Verdaguer) comes to stay. The women live on a houseboat so space is tight. Eva is not best pleased to have the Roger impinging on their space, until she realizes that he can help them have a baby. As the trio embark on a new journey of parenthood, their love and friendship for each other is put to the test.

The film is structured over four chapters with a look at modern love in a fresh way, We watch the three characters as they travel an intense physical and emotional landscape, as the love that binds them together also threatens to tear them apart.

Eva is a 38-year old Salsa teacher desperate to have a child. Her chemistry Kat is totally believable and the way in which she handles her emotions is heart breaking at times. Roger is a serial womanizer who is on a journey of his own as he deals with the prospect of becoming a father. There is also a cameo from Chaplin’s real-life mother Geraldine, who together with Verdaguer, are responsible for the film’s humor.

But what makes this a special film is the screenplay by Carlos Marques-Marcet (who also directed the film) and Jules Nurrish. It takes us on a journey filled with emotions set against a wonderful soundtrack that mixes classics with modern standards. This is a touching film about the things we are prepared to do in the name of love.

The film avoids sweet romanticism as it raises the question not only of what forms today’s families can take, as well as how complicated it is to make decisions when there are two or more people involved. They women talk about having a child without thinking that a decision like this has inescapable consequences for the future, will have major ramifications for these women, because each one has a totally different outlook on life. Family as an institution is questioned here and it is so done without championing of any kind of alternative, free of prejudice and clichés. The director seems to be telling us that the decision to procreate should not be a dramatic one, and that there are no clear answers to the impulses that lie behind parenthood. He doesn’t dramatize the conflict and we see the relationships between his leading trio in a playful atmosphere. “Anchor and Hope” is a small but a very special film.

“Paternal Rites”— A Contemporary Jewish American Family

 

“Paternal Rites”

A Contemporary Jewish American Family

Amos Lassen

Jules Rosskam’s documentary is a “first-person essay on film that examines the aftereffects of physical and sexual abuse in a contemporary Jewish American family, with the filmmaker’s queer and transgender identity at its core”. Filmmaker Rosskam and his partner, Alex, retrace a 1974 road trip taken by Rosskam’s parents and combine photographs, audio recordings, home movies, live action “to evoke the psychoanalytic journey of memory retrieval and trauma recovery”.

This is also a film about the nature of trauma and memory itself: the ways in which trauma works uncannily; the function of speech and narrative in the process of decryption; and the role of film and filmmaking in the practice of healing. In the fall of 2013 filmmaker Jules Rosskam and his partner, Alex, set out to retrace a road trip that Rosskam’s parents, Marilyn and Skip, completed in the fall of 1974 (just prior to his birth and their transition to both suburbia and parenthood. We hear audio diaries that Marilyn and Skip kept during the course of their four-month journey and sees photographs and travelogue footage recorded on Super 8 that is barely perceptible, grainy. Their route included Boston, Mobile, Savannah, Chicago, Portland, Vancouver. 

As we watch, we hear present-day audio interviews between Rosskam and his mother, father, partner, and therapist. The faces of speaking subjects are never seen. Rosskam tries to make sense of conflicting narratives of his childhood, and to find forgiveness for the man who did not protect him. As the director searched for a story about his father, he is confronted with the truth about his brother causing a surprising and shocking conclusion. 

We see images of the American landscape, which tend to haunt the viewer with their banality, and with the layering of still images over live-action footage. There is also the white screen upon which colorful animations are used to “evoke the psychoanalytic process of memory’s retrieval and trauma’s repair.”  

What is really implicit throughout is the filmmaker’s queer and transgender subjectivity, which comes to the surface of the screen when the viewer sees fragments of home movies of his childhood that are amazing in their unremarkable nature and hears audio recordings of contemporary conversations between Rosskam and Alex, who functions as Rosskam’s partner in life as well as in this project. What we really see is how film is able to take us to places we would not ordinarily go.