Category Archives: GLBT Film

“TEHRAN: CITY OF LOVE”— Three Lonely Characters

“Tehran : City of Love”

Three Lonely Characters

Amos Lassen

Ali Jaberansari’s “Tehran: City of Love” is about three  disenchanted and gloomy people with low  aspirations are low. Hessam Fezli (Amir Hessam Bakhtiari) is a lonely champion body builder who has won three championships. He works in a gym as a physical trainer for ordinary guys and old men. He gets hired for a film with shoot is some time in the future. 

A handsome young bodybuilder, Arshia (Amir Reza Alizadeh), who is disenchanted with his previous trainer, comes to Hessam to tentatively train him for a competition. This is a dream come true for Hessam, who isn’t interested in women. We know that because he gives the brush off to Mina Shams (Forough Ghajabagli), the overweight receptionist at a beauty studio where he goes to get botoxed. When the body builder seems contented with Hessam, Hessam resigns from the film, breaking his contract, to devote himself wholeheartedly to the young man. 

Mina (who is obsessed with ice cream) makes suggestive calls to men on a secret cell phone for only that purpose. She sets up dates using fake pictures in this game of hopelessness that she plays. She attends a life class proposed to her by Niloufar (Behnaz Jafari). Reza who is already a student in the class takes an interest in Mina, inviting her out, not caring that she’s overweight.
On one of their dates, Reza tells Mina that he is married with a young kid. He’s getting divorced, but it is taking a long time. So he’s not really as available as he had let her assume for a while.

Meanwhile, Hessam seems to always be down even  when he’s standing behind his handsome young body builder, guiding his arms in a hard workout. He never cracks a smile. Mina does smile and looks pretty when she’s with Reza, and Vahid gets lively when he’s performing at the parties. Maybe the young aspiring champion body builder feels uneasy with Hessam’s attentions, especially after he’s invited to Hessam’s father’s house. The young body builder tells Hessam a lie to get out of their relationship, claiming that his travel schedule for work just doesn’t allow him time to train and he must give up the idea of the competition (which isn’t true).

The third gloomy person is Vahid (Mehdi Saki) who works  as a singer at religious funerals in a mosque. He’s estranged from  his fiancée which doesn’t seem to upset him beyond having to break the news to his religious parents. His best friend decides the way out of his depression is to start singing happy songs and gets him booked as wedding singer instead.


So Hessam, Mina, and Vahid wind up more or less back where they started. Director Jaberansari finds his perfect final image in Mina with the giant teddy bear that Reza sent her to say he was sorry, Vahid, and Hessam, all sit far apart, alone together, on an empty bus riding home.  

The hopelessness and loneliness of some urban lives is painful to watch but it seems to reflect modern Iranian urban culture, with its severe restrictions on fun.

“STRAIGHT UP”— Intellectual Soul Mates


Intellectual Soul Mates

Amos Lassen

Jams Sweeney’s “Straight Up” is about Todd (who might be gay) ad Rory (who would not let Todd’s sexuality influence their friendship in this romantic-comedy drama with a twist; this is a love story without the thrill of copulation.

Todd (Brendan Scannell) loves the movie “Legally Blonde” and holds very strong opinions about decorative pillows. We meet him while he is experiencing a sexual identity crisis. He has still not met his soulmate while dating men and is afraid he’ll spend his life alone, so he enters the heterosexual dating pool where he meets Rory (Katie Findlay) an aspiring actress who hates cats. Rory has a sharp wit and a great vocabulary. Together they are an intellectual match but can a (probably) gay man and a straight woman be a truly happy couple?

Reminiscent of a Nora Ephron romantic comedy, “Straight Up” is fun to watch as it shake up the genre’s tropes and staples. “Sweeney mines the depths of our collective anxieties around loneliness, relationships, and love for the perfect modern thinking person’s date night movie.”


“I’M FINE”: Season 3 July 25th Premiere on Dekkoo

“I’M FINE”: Season 3

July 25th Premiere on Dekkoo

 The final season of I’M FINE follows Nate and his band of friends as they continue to splinter off into their own journeys as other friendships develop. This season tackles themes of identity, monogamy, shame and the gay generational divide. Jeff progresses in his relationship with Zachary, revealing aspects of a past he was hardly prepared to grapple with himself. Nicole entertains an unexplored interest in women through an alluring new coworker, while Andy and Brian rekindle things with the possibility of a third. Mick continues to unabashedly be himself, figuring out his place in L.A. quicker than most. And lastly, after searching for himself and landing in a place of comfort, Nate gets an unexpected newcomer into his life, an older gentleman who challenges everything he thought he knew about himself and relationships.  Could this force him to make a big decision about his future in a city he finally learned to call home?



Working on I’M FINE has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and it’s all thanks to my creative IM FINE family I’ve been able to cultivate over these past three years.

This series began over a break up, as the cliche now says, all gay web series are about a breakup. And back in 2016, IM FINE was no exception. I used my heartbreak as a creative outlet to create Nate, a fictionalized version of myself brought to life by Perry Powell, who imbued the character with so much unexpected depth that I soon realized this character and this story would go quickly go beyond any real life touch points.

Season one was a project squeezed in on weekends, shooting an episode a day over saturdays and Sundays in the summer of 2016. We were able to move fast thanks to the brilliance of my DP Andrew Ceperley and the exceptional skill and recourses my entire cast & crew brought everyday.

After we threw up the first few episodes on Vimeo, lgbt streaming service Dekkoo soon thereafter took notice and expressed interest in producing further episodes. I was in no position to say no, so I gladly accepted their offer and never looked back.

Now in 2019, we have wrapped post production on season 3 and can look back on years of hard work. The show’s cast and crew, lovingly dubbed the I’m Fine family, grew into a tight knit group of creative collaborators who took on extra responsibilities in the third season.

The first two seasons were largely about Nate, while introducing a colorful and vibrant cast of supporting characters. We expanded on their stories in season 2 while still maintaining Nate as the central focal point of these characters’ lives. And so, for season 3 I decided it was time to move even further past this show’s origin.

Nate became a supporting character in his own story, and the stories of the supporting cast became centerpieces. Their stories were completely independent and didn’t rely on Nate for their importance. As it works in real life with friendships, sometimes as we get older, groups spread apart while still acknowledging each other in their lives. And I wanted to reflect this pattern of friendships coming-of-age in season 3.

And with this also came the most important aspect of all, which was expanding the stories beyond just myself and my perspective. Season 1 and 2 are populated with fictional characters drawn from inspiration of people in my real life. And so with season 3, I opened it up to my collaborators to tell stories. My insanely talented producers wrote and co-wrote scripts, my DP and several actors directed episodes, while I helmed the ship and admired the stories they were bringing to the table.

For this series, it was time for me to take a step back and fully embrace the I’m Fine family, and what we ended up coming up with for season 3, I can’t wait for everyone to see it.    

“I’M FINE is definitely one of our most popular episodic series. The decision to end the series now was a story-telling decision. We let Brandon Kirby tell the story he wanted to tell. He always felt 3-seasons was the proper length for the story.  We couldn’t be more proud of the success the series has had and we’re honored to have it part of the Dekkoo library.”  – Brian Sokel / Dekkoo President



Brandon Kirby is the creator, writer and director of the Dekkoo original series I’M FINE, the third and final season of which releases this year. He also served as producer on the Dekkoo short film FACES and the Revry short film HE DRINKS, with more projects currently in production. Having graduated from Michigan State University, he began his career in L.A. seven years ago and is currently gaining his Master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University. In his spare time, he serves as co-host on the film podcast MOVIES IMO and is involved with fundraising efforts through AIDS/LifeCycle and Outfest.



Frankie A. Rodriguez has worked in television and film for the last four years and can be seen in the guest-starring role of Eduardo on ABC’s “Modern Family” and Dekkoo’s Original series “I’m Fine”.  Now cast as series regular on the Disney+’s “High School Musical: The Musical,” Rodriguez plays Carlos — captain of the color guard and the student choreographer for the show. Originally from central California, when he was five years old, Frankie dreamed of becoming a background dancer for Jennifer Lopez. That same dream still stands today.



After graduating from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television with a degree in acting, Lee Doud began pursuing his professional endeavors in Hollywood. Along with Dekkoo Original “I’m Fine”, Lee’s TV credits include Showtime’s “Californication”, “House of Lies”, “Last Man Standing”, and upcoming thriller “Dark/Web”. On the film side, he can also be seen in SXSW hit “KTown Cowboys”. As a producer, Doud worked on short film “Another Stupid Day”, followed by feature film “The Amateur” with the same team. “The Amateur” can currently be streamed on Amazon Prime. Lee is inspired by storytelling that can help make a difference in the world by representing different points of views or ways of life. 



ULYSSES MORAZAN plays Brain in Dekkoo’s Original series I’m Fine. He can also be seen playing Abel in Somebody Else, an official selection at the 2019 Outfest Fusion’s Festival and last year got play alongside Angela Kinsey in Sherry a 2018 California’s Women Film Festival Selection for best comedy short. Other credits includes BuzzFeed’s “You Do Two” and “Lesbian Princess.”  He currently studies at The Groundlings Theater and School and loves it!  



Perry Powell is a performer and art director based in Los Angeles. He has starred in dozens of plays and short films and created designs for clients including HBO, NBC, Comic Con, The LA Philharmonic Orchestra, Invertigo Dance Theatre, The Party By Ostbahnhof, Lightning in a Bottle, & Alaska Thunderf*ck. I’m Fine is his first experience leading a web series. 



“Will Branske is an actor and photographer living in Los Angeles, CA.  He has appeared in a number of short films, commercials, and web series’ since moving to LA and is continuing to put out content involving/documenting the queer community of today.  He is so happy to have been involved with “I’m Fine” and to have directed an episode of Season 3.  You can see him as one of the lead characters in an upcoming web series titled ‘The Spins’ and his photography work on his instagram @willbranske.” 



Jennifer DeFilippo is an actress and filmmaker living in Los Angeles. She has appeared in numerous television shows and films, as well as many national commercial campaigns. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from Loyola Marymount University, she furthered her training in improv comedy at prestigious schools such as The Groundlings, Upright Citizens Brigade, and Second City. Jennifer has performed on television shows such as Modern FamilyMasters of Sex, ParenthoodShamelessNew Girl, and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. She’s recurred in the Dannon Oikos Yogurt campaign opposite John Stamos and “fell from heaven” in the well-received AT&T Commercial opposite Karan Soni. Jennifer has also had the pleasure of working with directors such as William H. Macy, John Putch, and Larry Charles.

“PIXELIA”— Realization and Acceptance



Realization and Acceptance

Amos Lassen

Kumar is a 30-year-old bachelor who leaves his corporate job in Kochi to follow his dream of being an artist. He begins a new life as an Uber driver while working on an original graphic novel, ‘Pixelia’. One day a passenger, a transgender woman, Mandakini, gets into his cab and changes Kumar’s life forever. Kumar and Mandakini spend the whole day together and as they do, they opening each other’s minds. Mandakini shares her past life and desire to adopt a child, while Kumar tells her the story of his graphic novel. They develop a special bond and Kumar realizes his own queer identity. Their story is told to us with a stylized blend of documentary and magical realism and we understand that it is about the fragmentation of daily life and the longing to connect.

It really comes across like a documentary in that it feels so real but that could also be because we want the story to be real. We gain pleasure from beautiful stories and often want to include them in our own lives.

Ratheesh Ravindam beautifully directed this heartwarming story that resonates since we have all looked for connection and connection brings acceptance. We also see that there is such a thing as love at first site. Kumar and Mandakini in the course of just one day share their dreams, hopes and aspirations.

Kumar, a corporate employee turned graphic novelist meets a transgender named Mandakini and they share their hopes, views and dreams. As they enter into a relationship they find hardships to fulfill their desire to adopt a baby so we also see the hard realities of life.

“NIGHT OUT”— Saturday Night in Berlin

 “Night Out”

Saturday Night in Berlin

Amos Lassen

Greek director, Stratos Tzitzis’ “Night Out” takes us to Berlin on a Saturday night where we meet a mix of hetero and gay singles, couples and polyamorous pairs all looking for  fun and satisfaction. They explore both the city and their relationships for different reasons. They become part of the heart of a frenetic night where anything goes. Berlin’s infamous nightlife has always inspire filmmakers from all over the world yet this is a new attempt to capture the one thing that seems to be the city’s main trademark.

This film is centered on the more lustful aspects of the nightlife. The characters wanders off into the night from house parties, etc.  and enter sex shops visits and go to street parades, to dance sessions by the river and to underground punk concerts. As the day comes to a close,  they end up at the KitKat Club and are wearing much less clothing than when they set out.

On Saturday nights in Berlin, the city comes to life. Art gallery owner Felix (Thomas Kellner) shows his star artist Michael (Martin Moeller) and his enterprising wife Sarah (Alexandra Zoe) the hottest clubs, while Lena (Sulaika Lindemann) and her lover Ingrid meet the Syrian Amir, whose initial shyness irritates her to ever new erotic games. Martha (Mara Scherzinger) and Sebastian (Jenz Weber) try to find an investor in the nightlife and the young Layla (Katerina Clark) searches in the clubs for the father of her unborn child. During a night of dancing in the sex club KIT KAT, their paths cross and unravel as they take part in a party which none of them will ever forget ..


With a few nice scenes on gender diversity and, of course, the nightlife that seems so important to Berlin, I was reminded of the decadence of Berlin before the second World War. We see liberation with those who went to the clubs but we also see the morbidity of a city that is overburdened. We sense that once the fun is coming to end , it degenerates into debauchery and tastelessness. A problem I had was not getting to know the characters. We do not get their background stories so all we know is what we see in the 88 minute length  of “Night Out”, the individual characters are not brought into a multi-layered causal connection with the celebrations, which are beyond the search for fun and sexual innovation. They seem completely detached from it, as if it were an essential coincidence that in the end all characters end up in KitKat.

The locations and nor t the characters are in the  foreground are not the characters. We see Berlin through her clubs and this can be a bitmonotonous . The image of Berlin and the party scene is that  everyone is welcome, everyone can have fun and everyone can find something. The film revolves around itself as a city with big nightlife.  We do not develop understanding, attraction or dislike for the film. We experience the film but I doubt that this will stay with us.




Among other Gay Cinema Classics in the Specially-Curated FM+ Collection Are BENT, Starring Clive Owen and Ian McKellen, Derek Jarman’s EDWARD II, Arvin Chen’s WILL YOU STILL LOVE ME TOMORROW and More

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This June, join streaming platform FILM MOVEMENT PLUS to celebrate Pride Month with the streaming premiere of COBY, an acclaimed doc that Queer says “makes an important contribution to the continuing dialogue on transitioning, and is also a thoroughly entertaining documentary.” In addition to COBY, the Pride Month collection includes an international assortment of award-winning gay cinema, from the powerful Holocaust-set drama BENT, starring Clive Owen and Ian McKellen, and Derek Jarman’s iconic New Queer Cinema classic EDWARD II to XXY, Lucia Puenzo’s coming-of-age tale, a Cannes Critic’s Week Grand Prize winner.

In COBY, in a small town deep in the American Midwest, Suzanna begins a gender transition and becomes a boy: Coby. Coby’s transformation deeply impacts the lives the lives of all who love him – and each member of this tight-knit family must confront their own preconceived notions of gender and sexuality. Combining excerpts from Coby’s video dairy with candid, heartfelt interviews from his closet friends and family – Christian Sonderegger’s debut feature is an intimate and sensitive look at timely subject. Ultimately, Coby’s journey morphs into the transformation of a whole family compelled by love to modify their own perspectives. Stefan Dobroiu of Cineuropa says, “This story of a gender revolution takes place in the living room of an ordinary American family. It is difficult to find such a personal subject yet capable of touching and speaking to the whole society.”


Continue to celebrate Pride Month with FM+’s acclaimed collection of LGBTQ films from around the world, including:


BENT (1997, 105 mins., UK/Japan, dir. Sean Mathias) — In 1930s Berlin, Max (Clive Owen) sleeps with German SA officer Wolf (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), only to see him killed by his fellow Nazis the next morning as part of the Night of the Long Knives. Refusing an offer of new papers from his Uncle Freddie (Ian McKellan) for fear of leaving his boyfriend Rudy behind, Max and Rudy are found by the Gestapo, to whom Max lies about his homosexuality and his relationship with Rudy. Bound for the Dachau concentration camp, Max will have to reckon with his identity, and his dignity, in the face of terrible persecution. The cast also includes Lothaire Bluteau, Mick Jagger, Brian Webber, with cameos by Jude Law, Rachel Weisz and Paul Bettany.


BLUSH (2015, 85 mins., Israel, dir. Michal Vinik) — 17-year-old Naama spends most of her free time drinking and partying in the hopes of escaping from her parents’ constant bickering, worsened by the recent disappearance of her AWOL soldier sister. When a free-spirited new girl shows up at school, Naama falls deeply in love for the first time and the intensity of the experience at once confuses her and gives her life new meaning. BLUSH was an Official Selection at film festivals in San Sebastian, Warsaw, Reykavik and Chicago, among others.


THE CHAMBERMAID LYNN (2014, 90 mins., Germany, dir. Ingo Haeb) – Lynn (Vicky Krieps) is the most meticulous chambermaid in her hotel, leaving no shelf undusted, no sheet untucked. Crippled by shyness, she rummages through guests’ belongings and even hides under their beds, vicariously experiencing their conversations, meals and discreet interludes. After clandestinely observing an S&M session, Lynn discovers the phone number of the call girl, Chiara. Bold and unrestrained, Chiara soon draws Lynn out of her shell, opening her up to a new kind of passion she had only dreamed about as a voyeur.


THE COUNTRY TEACHER (2008, 113 mins., Czech Rep., dir. Bohdan Sláma) — A gifted young teacher takes a job teaching natural sciences at a grammar school in the country. Here he makes the acquaintance of a woman and her troubled 17-year old son. The teacher has no romantic interest in the woman but they quickly form a strong friendship, each recognizing the other’s uncertainties, hopes and longing for love. When the teacher’s ex-boyfriend comes to visit from the city, he quickly realizes that nobody in the village knows that the teacher is gay and harbors a secret affection for the teenage boy. His jealous actions set in motion a series of events that will test the inner strength and compassion of the teacher, the woman and her son to a breaking point.


EDWARD II (1991, 90 mins., UK, dir. Derek Jarman) — In this new restoration of the iconic New Queer Cinema classic, Derek Jarman offers a postmodern take on Christopher Marlowe’s Elizabethan drama. Pleasure-seeking King Edward II sets the stage for a palace revolt by taking as a lover the ambitious Piers Gaveston – who uses his favor in bed to wield political influence – sending the gay pair from the throne to a terminal torture dungeon. This landmark of gay cinema features an incredible performance from Jarman muse and Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton) as Edward’s spurned Queen Isabella and a rare film appearance by singer Annie Lennox.


IN THE NAME OF (2012, 102 mins., Poland, dir. Malgośka Szumowska) – Adam is a Catholic priest who discovered his calling as a servant of God at the relatively late age of 21. He now lives in a village in rural Poland where he works with teenagers with behavioral problems who fight and yell abuse. He declines the advances of a young blonde named Ewa, saying he is already spoken for. However, celibacy is not the only reason for his rejection. Adam knows that he desires men and that his embrace of the priesthood has been a flight from his own sexuality. When he meets Lukasz, the strange and taciturn son of a simple rural family, Adam’s self-imposed abstinence becomes a heavy burden. During its festival run, IN THE NAME OF won a prestigious Teddy Award at the Berlin International Film Festival and a Golden Angel at Tofifest.


NUDE AREA (2014, 78 mins., Netherlands/Poland, dir. Urszula Antoniak) -In a series of 15 vignettes, NUDE AREA tells the sensual and seductive story of a forbidden love between two very different girls living in Amsterdam. Dutch teenager Naomi hails from posh Amsterdam South. Fama is a beautiful Middle Eastern girl from the poor quarters of Amsterdam East. They meet each other in the nude area of a female only sauna where nudity means equality.


WILL YOU STILL LOVE ME TOMORROW? (2013, 106 mins, Taiwan, dir. Arvin Chen) -In this madcap and lighthearted comedic romp, introverted optometrist Weichung begins to question his marriage with his wife Feng, upon learning of her desire to have another baby. At his sister’s engagement party, Weichung bumps into an old friend, Stephen, a wedding photographer who, though also married, is living the high life of a younger, single gay man. When Stephen teases Weichung for his newly straightlaced lifestyle, dormant emotions are awakened in Weichung, setting him off on a quest for true romance and desire.


XXY (2007, 91 mins., Argentina, dir. Lucia Puenzo) – For just about everybody, adolescence means having to confront a number of choices and life decisions, but rarely any as monumental as the one facing 15 year-old Alex (Ines Efron,) who was born an intersex child.  As Alex begins to explore her sexuality, her mother invites friends from Buenos Aires to come for a visit at their house on the gorgeous Uruguayan shore, along with their 16-year-old son Álvaro (Martin Piroyanski.) Alex is immediately attracted to the young man, which adds yet another level of complexity to her personal search for identity, and forces both families to face their worst fears. XXY captured the Grand Prize during Cannes Critic’s Week, as well as Best Film at the Goya Awards and Athens International Film Festival.


YOU WILL BE MINE (2009, 100 mins., France dir. Sophie Laloy) — Marie Dandin (Judith Davis), a promising young concert pianist, leaves home to study at the prestigious Lyons National Conservatory. Shy and innocent, she moves in with her childhood friend Emma (Isild Le Besco) who has lived alone since the death of her father years earlier. The intimate bond that the two women share eventually develops into an intense sexual relationship. But as Emma grows more possessive and controlling, Marie struggles to reconcile her feelings of desire with the need to escape Emma’s suffocating passion.



FILM MOVEMENT PLUS opens up a world of provocative, compelling and award-winning films from Film Movement’s singular library. Priced at $5.99 per month with a free 14-day trial, the SVOD subscription service, currently available on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Android TV, mobile (iOS and Android), and Chromecast, offers consumers immediate access to 250 festival favorite feature films and 100 short films, including: THEEB, the 2016 Academy Award® nominee for Best Foreign Film; AFTER THE STORM, a powerful family drama from 2018 Palme d’Or winner Hirokazu Kore-eda; HUMAN CAPITAL, a political thriller from Paolo Virzi (The Leisure Seeker) that was Italy’s Best Foreign Film submission for the 87th Academy Awards® and MY LOVE, DON’T CROSS THAT RIVER, an unforgettable documentary about true love that transcends generations and cultures and is South Korea’s most successful film of all time. Classics from the Film Movement catalog include Bille August’s PELLE THE CONQUEROR, an Academy Award® winner for Best Foreign Language Film in 1996 and much more. 


About Film Movement


Founded in 2002 as one of the first-ever subscription film services with its DVD-of-the-Month club, Film Movement is now a North American distributor of award-winning independent and foreign films based in New York City. It has released more than 250 feature films and shorts culled from prestigious film festivals worldwide.  Film Movement’s theatrical releases include American independent films, documentaries, and foreign art house titles. Its catalog includes titles by directors such as Hirokazu Kore-eda, Maren Ade, Jessica Hausner, Andrei Konchalovsky, Andrzej Wajda, Diane Kurys, Ciro Guerra and Melanie Laurent. In 2015, Film Movement launched its reissue label Film Movement Classics, featuring new restorations released theatrically as well as on Blu-ray and DVD, including films by such noted directors as Eric Rohmer, Peter Greenaway, Bille August, Marleen Gorris, Takeshi Kitano, Arturo Ripstein, Sergio Corbucci and Ettore Scola. For more information, please visit

“PRIDE”–a streaming queer film festival

Pride–a streaming queer film festival

Streaming film service Film Movement Plus has just announced its gift to audiences in honor of Pride: a month-long film festival featuring queer-themed films from all over the world.

The subscription service will offer ten new titles in its catalog for the month of June, including films starring Clive Owen, Ian McKellen, Annie Lennox and Tilda Swinton. The service will also offer a number of little-seen titles in the US, including acclaimed films from Taiwan, France and the Netherlands.

Launched in 2002, Film Movement Plus began as a DVD-of-the-Month club. Today it exists as its own streaming app, available on Amazon Fire, Roku, AppleTV and Chromecast. The catalog features dozens of rare feature and short films from all over the world, helping them find an audience stateside.

“YEARS AND YEARS”— Looking Ahead

“Years and Years”

Looking Ahead

Amos Lassen

“Years and Years” starts out bang up to the moment with some edited in voice overs of news stories from that day, including the death of Doris Day. With a big cast, the characters are a blended family of different races, orientations, national origins, ages and abilities muddling along together. The political backdrop is a contemporary Brexit and Trump infused cocktail of discontent and a fracturing establishment.   Russell Tovey is likeable nerdy but hot gay guy.  Emma Thompson is an emergent politician who gets away with saying the objectionable in such a shockingly blunt way that it comes across as honesty. 

There is little time to get to care about the characters before moving forward to the final days of a second Trump term cut with images of passing political events, birthdays and marriages. The destination of the characters starts to unfold in an intriguing way. The earlier political and cultural debates have flowered into seemingly logical but exaggerated conclusions. Politically a belligerent and homophobic Russia has forced Ukrainian asylum seekers into the United Kingdom. An expansionist China is gobbling up land. A late second term Trump is throwing aside all remaining shackles of diplomacy. Culturally the transgender debate has evolved into a transhuman aspiration to cast aside the physical body for a fully digital replica. Fake news has raced out of control to the point where all facts are debatable. Conspiracy theories about the earth being flat or that germs are the propaganda of the pharmaceutical industry abound. 

All these issues play out in the lives of the key characters. The first episode fails to build much empathy for them but the evolving social absurdity and introduction of impending nuclear annihilation does a good job of thirst building. A sudden sex scene between Tovey and an asylum seeker tries to do the same thing but it is gratuitously headline seeking whilst being tame. You hear the sizzle but don’t see anything.  “Years and Years” goes into that very 2019 feeling of going down the wrong tracks at an ever increasing speed. The pick-up in pace has a clunky but absurd fun too it.

“FAMILY MEMBERS”—Grief, Romance and Coming of Age

“Family Members” (“Los miembros de la family”) 

Grief, Romance and Coming of Age

Amos Lassen

“Family Members” is a mix of bereavement drama, romantic comedy, and a coming-of-age story. Siblings Gilda (Laila Maltz) and Lucas (Tomás Wicz) spend the night in their deceased mother’s house by the seaside. They want to fulfill her final, cryptic wish: that her dismembered hand be tossed into the sea. The house has been foreclosed, but they break in any way and stay there illegally. Their plans to return to Buenos Aires, are quickly changed by a bus strike, leaving the two of them stranded with each other and forcing them to deal with their unresolved issues. 

Gilda and Lucas don’t talk much. When Gilda asks him if he loves her, he spits his toothpaste in her face. The film  doesn’t want to tell us much else about the brother-sister relationship right away and instead cultivate a certain mood that reflects the harsh reality of grief.

The beach here is rarely picturesque; a permanent cloud covers the sky. The town’s glory is gone and nothing in the house works — they even have to go the toilet outside. Lucas works out, goes for runs, and avoids talking to his sister while she sends nude pictures of herself to her boyfriend, patiently waiting for the bus strike to end. 

“Family Members” reflects the way the world feels off-balance when confronted with grief. This point is made explicitly when Lucas is told that the entire world we live in might be a computer simulation. That might also explain why fitness fanatic Guido (Alejandro Russek), who also trains by the beach, is interested in him. The seventeen-year-old boy has no idea how to deal with the kindness of this simpler, older man, leading him to act out in highly erratic ways. Meanwhile, Gilda has a different approach to reality. She relies on chakra stones and tarot cards. Yet, while Lucas’ storyline dovetails together nicely with his belief system — including a hilarious representation of men finally opening up to one another — Gilda’s goes nowhere, relying on the anti-conflict conceit of the nice boyfriend back home. 

We have no reason to invest in these characters, especially when Lucas’ life is given so much extra weight, leaving Gilda almost nothing. While we do find out about Gilda’s turbulent life before mother died, this is all told and not shown. Therefore, the two of them, although they argue a little, don’t really contrast and conflict with each other. Director Mateo Bendesky seems more interested in humorous incidents than creating something that jumps off the screen.

“MEMORIES OF MY BODY”— Looking at the Body

“Memories of My Body” (Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku, Garin Nugroho)

Looking at the Body

Amos Lassen 

“Memories of My Body” examines “the physicality of history as bodies become maps of trauma and dislocation while its itinerant hero is pushed from pillar to post through a series of abandonments and upheavals that leave him at the mercy of a society permanently on the brink of eruption.” I will unpack that sentence during this review. 

The older Juno narrates his story to us as if it were a piece of ritual theatre. We meet Juno (Raditya Evandra) as a child – or more precisely, the child of the older Juno’s memory. He was abandoned by his father and began hanging around a troupe of Lengger dancers for whom sensuality is all. Though Juno was originally attracted to the show to peep at the ladies through a “tiny hole” in the wall, he eventually became disillusioned with the dancers when he sees the group’s leader viciously beat an underling for having sex with his assistant when she made all of the overtures. Sex, violence, and dancing continue to be part of young Juno’s life even after he is taken in by an aunt when it becomes clear his father will never return.

Following a brief obsession with chickens, Juno is then sent on to live with an uncle who trains him as a tailor where he develops a friendship with a very macho, soon-to-be-married boxer (Randy Pangalila) who also wants to be free of his bodily constraints but has become indebted to gangsters. Before long he finds himself in motion again before coming full circle as a costuming assistant with a troupe of travelling dancers. He becomes a favorite of the “Warok” (Whani Darmawan) but also the object of unattainable affection for the local military representative (Teuku Rifnu Wikana) of a corrupt regime whose jealousy seems set to burn the world around him. 

Juno’s uncle later tells him, bodies can go anywhere but they take their traumas with them. Even so, you have to love your body or all is lost. His uncle tells him that this family is particularly burdened, explaining the reason for his brother’s coldness to his son which turns out to be because of a rational distrust of family and seeing his own massacred in a river, something he is unable to forget and eventually decided to erase by leaving his home and family  behind. Juno’s own traumas, as he seems to remember them, are firmly imprinted on his physicality and give weight to his dance as he tells his own story, filled rejections, transformations and rebirths in the repressive atmosphere of a nation trapped in revolution. 

Juno’s own, slow path towards delight in his own body takes place against a series of external reformations that are referred to in a red terror threat to have the dancers denounced as communists, while primacy of religion remains paramount. The local military officer is running for office and his wife is upset by a photo in which he unwisely took Juno’s hand in public. Merely grasping a hand becomes suspect in an atmosphere of intense suspicion. Any hint of impropriety is potentially enough to destabilize an already volatile situation.  We see that illicit romantic jealously brings on a greater tragedy, and Juno is soon on the road again. As Juno says, you see life only through a tiny. “Memories of My Body” is an exploration of “muscle memory” as lived history and the tangible effects of a life lived in turbulent times.

Juno was a small man when he was left by his father who was lost somewhere. He then joined a Lengger dance studio where he slowly formed his feminist side both in appearance and behavior along with his growing age. But the other side of him must face the bitter reality when it has to clash with political and social values ​​that have taken root in Indonesia, making him have to be willing to live to move from village to village for personal safety. Despite getting the support and attention of some people such as his aunt, his uncle, dance teacher, a young boxer and a warok, Juno’s life is still full of difficulties.

This is a very brave film, both in terms of storytelling and in terms of visual appearance. Director Garin Nugroho did not show any hesitation at all in conveying opinions that were quite constructive and organized about matters which could be considered a taboo in Indonesia.