Category Archives: GLBT Film

“GRETA”— Solitude as Action


“Greta”

Solitude as Action

Amos Lassen

Pedro (Marco Nanini) is a 70-year-old gay nurse, and quite the fan of Greta Garbo. He needs to find an empty bed in the hospital where he works to save his best friend, Daniela (Denise Weinberg) who is transgender. He he decides to help Jean (Demick Lopes), a criminal in police custody, escape from the premises. His hope is that Jean will help him with Daniela in return. But because he is worried  about Jean’s health, Pedro sets him up in his apartment to treat his wounds. The two have an affair and we realize something about Pedro’s own solitude and what will be once dying Daniela leaves Pedro’s world for good.

This is director Armando Praça’s  first feature film and it has all the relevance of post gay marriage worries, even though its politics are here but a finely attuned love story subsumes everything else. Daniela suffers from kidney failure, and she is panicked to move to the men’s ward. Pedro takes wounded murder suspect Jean out of  the hospital and into his home in order to make hospital space for his ailing “Greta.” We flashback and see Daniela singing about love in a nightclub and she seems to be both hostile and tender. These are reflections of what is going on now in Brazil— the tenderness of same-sex love relationships are being threatened by a hostile political regime. The main relationship is between Pedro and Jean. Pedro is a to the death admirer of Greta Garbo’s well-worn solitude motto (“I want to be alone”), and he is brave enough to use this in his own life. His only friend, we see, is  Daniela and his contact away from solitude is through casual sexual, club encounters. Like Garbo, Pedro wants “to be alone” too – or so he says early on but things change when he hides a younger man from the law. 

The film opens with Pedro wiping mascara from his face as he follows Daniela into an ambulance following serious kidney failure. The police fail to acknowledge Daniela as the trans woman she is and refer to her as “he”. The hospital won’t allow her to stay in the female ward.

When we learn that she doesn’t have long left to live, Daniela tells Pedro that she’s “used to pain”, something which the two of them share in common. We see that pain (as well as lust) when Pedro goes by himself to gay saunas and gay bars, asking strangers to call him “Greta” while they hook up. It’s not until Jean enters his life that Pedro can finally admit that he doesn’t really want to be alone anymore. 

Praça uses explicit nudity and sex as he looks at Pedro’s carnal desires with dignity. Pedro and Jean open themselves up to each other and to the audience. Daniela’s cabaret performance is  tragic and empowering all at the same time.  Praça’s casting choices are fascinating and a story unto themselves. He has a cis-gender actress in the role of Daniela while casting a trans star called Gretta Starr as cis-gender. By doing this, he effectively plays around with notions of intersectionality that are relevant now more than ever. 

“NEVER AGAIN IS NOW”— Antisemitism Today

“NEVER AGAIN IS NOW”

Antisemitism Today

Amos Lassen

It is impossible for any thinking person not to realize that once again antisemitism has raised its ugly head both in the United States and in Europe. I am sure that other places are feeling it as well. “Never Again Is Now” shows us the present day influences of Right, Left and religious influences on rising antisemitism. Evelyn Markus, a Dutch lesbian Jew and co-founder of the non-profit “Network on Antisemitism”, came to the US with her partner Rosa Zeegers because they found pink star graffiti on their door at home. They were eager to get away from the present day rise of antisemitism. That escape became a journey during which Markus met with “globally renowned experts, Parliamentarians, religious leaders, authors, activists, playwrights and political commentators including Ben Shapiro, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and devout Muslim physician Qanta Ahmed.”

 Even here in Boston, where peace between Bostonians reigns supreme, we have felt the new rise antisemitism. I usually find out early about new films of interest to the LGBT and/or Jewish communities but I had no idea that this was coming and it is quite powerful. We see

archival films of Hitler and the war combined with films of life in Europe today. The term “Never Again” became mouthed and heard all over the world after the deaths of six millions Jews 1941-45 during the Holocaust. In my own naivete, like other Jews and those affected by the mass murders, I thought we had heard the last of “Never Again”.  We now know we were wrong.

We see that France has experienced a new wave of extremely hateful behaviors and antisemitism. There have been beatings, places where Jews congregate have been bombed Surprisingly enough, the Netherlands has also witnessed antisemitism and there has been a great deal of violence from the large numbers of Muslims that are now in Europe but there have also been problems from regular citizens who have allowed themselves to become caught up in today’s wave of hatred. There are far right politicians in Europe who are anti-Semites.

I have studied antisemitism for a good part of my life and I have never become hardened by it. Each time I hear about it, I become extremely upset and often become enraged. Watching “Never Again is Now” once again made me realize how much I am affected by racism and hatred for hatred’s sake especially when the Jews are targeted even though they have made such important and powerful contributions to the way we live today. Hannah Arendt stated, “The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.” What me must add is that once ones tastes what it is to be evil, it is not difficult to remain that way.

Markus chroncles her personal journey to becoming heroic in the fight against the rise of antisemitism in the world.  Her parents were Holocaust survivors in Holland but because of her own personal experiences with antisemitism, she left Europe to come to America at a time when European Jews were being beaten, stabbed and even murdered and where it became necessary to have military protection for Jewish schools and synagogues. On a personal level, I attended three different sessions on security for the High Holidays in Boston and I have remained shocked since 9/11 that we mist have police both inside and outside of our synagogues during significant holiday celebrations.

 Yes, we have had antisemitic incidents and we can only wonder if history is repeating itself. Markus interviewed global thought leaders for her documentary that lets us see the situation as it is and presents a warning and a call to action.

There are those who feel that the creation of the State of Israel has led to a rise of hatred against the Jews. Markus interviewed Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Muslim born in Somalia who had left for Europe and ultimately the United States and asked him this very question to which he replied that “anti-Semitic sentiment lies buried in some people, with Israel serving merely as an excuse to demonstrate.” He reminds us that not  everything was good for the Jews before the creation of Israel. It seems to be human nature to need scapegoats and we are well-aware that these scapegoats have come from “minority groups like the Armenians in Turkey, the Rohinga in Myanmar, the Romani in Europe, the Coptic Christians in Egypt, the Hutus against the Tutsis in Rwanda,” many against the Jews and this is just to name a few.

Markus shares that she is not only Jewish but gay and she and her partner are often dismayed that often demonstrations against Jews (“not Zionists, necessarily, not Israelis, but diaspora Jews”) have caused the Netherlands to become unrecognizable because of demonstrations by Muslims who yell “Kill the Jews wherever they live.” Even non-Jews are marked for assassination if they are critical of Islam. But we also learn that most Muslims who live in Europe and the U.S. conduct regular businesses and are not political, and that a few share that violent demonstrators are not in the spirit of Islam and are caused by political Islamists.

Anti-Nazi Dietrich Bonhoeffer said “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil” thus letting us know that Markus wants us to speak out and up against evil. People are doing so but without much result in Europe. In the U.S. Jews can still walk with kipot on heads and draped in a prayer shawl yet the present political administration does not think that neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville are “fine people.” 

While we are called to action with this documentary, we are not informed about what we can do to end the divisions in our society that grow and grow since free speech allows for that. I do not think abolishing free speech is an answer but I am sure that there exists an answer that we must find together. By watching this incredible movie, you just might get an idea as to what you can do. Even if you do not, you certainly become more aware.

http://joinneveragainisnow.com/

“BE HAPPY, THE MUSICAL”— Not So Happy

“BE HAPPY, THE MUSICAL”

Not So Happy

Amos Lassen

I rarely pan a film but this time I have to do so. The title fooled and misled me. I was looking forward to a huge mood change but instead I became quite angry for wasting my time watching this even with what I thought was an assured good time due to the pedigree of director Ventura Pons. If you manage to sit through this whole movie, I can tell you that happy is not what you will be.

In London, we have “Peter, a Freudian psychiatrist married to a Finnish actor, Mika, David, a young British gay living in Banyoles, Spain and addicted to Grinder, and Coco Lamour, a Parisian French actress. Peter is a friend of Maria, also a Freudian psychiatrist, and Betsy, David’s mother lives in Cadaqués. Maria prepares a trip to spend some days with Betsy. David works at a computer company in Girona directed by a very talented young Indian, Usha. David has a great crisis with his partner, Daniel, a Mallorcan living in Barcelona. Albert is a famous British writer retired in Begur passing the mourning for the loss of his partner.” Gilda, a great actress who is half-Scottish and half-German, lives in Mallorca and is very close to Joan Laínez has a big party going on at her house everyday. Everyone worries about how the love story of David and Daniel, the young guys will end. The talented actors try to hide the plot by singing all the time but the songs are tedious and nothing anyone will ever remember.

The focus is on the relationship between two lovers, David  (Billy Cullum) and Daniel (Toni Valles) and their network of friends who wonder about the state of their romance.  It moves  between London and Barcelona and the involvement of two well-meaning Freudian psychiatrists who are no real match for David and his obsession with Grindr 

Maybe everything got lost in the translation, but it is more likely the fact that Pons has ‘borrowed’ too much from others for his cast to deal with and as bad as the songs are, we wish that they would just sing instead of attempting to act.

“KAPPA FORCE”— A Satiric Melodrama from Revry

“KAPPA FORCE”

A Satiric Melodrama

Amos Lassen

“Kappa Force” a new satiric comedy is coming to Revry as their newest original series. This campy comedy is “an intersectional queer take on college rom-coms.” Set at State University somewhere in the United States we get. Different look at college life, State University has everything: Greek life, Division 1 sports but most importantly it has five “kick ass sorority sisters doubling as a masked crime fighting unit keeping the campus safe from evil”.

The CW meets Marvel Cinematic Universe melodrama fis about freshman Jen who is in the middle of a  clash between a superhero sorority and the patriarchy.  Then with the murder of one of the sorority sisters is murdered by a new villain who calls himself “The Douche,” everything is jeopardy including the sisterhood, the college, and the entirety of America. I do not want to spoil anything because to say too. Much would damage this tongue-in-cheek look at queer history.

The sorority sisters and looking to avenge the Douche with their “Sorority Justice for Frat Boy Scum. Created by Addison Heimann, the show premieres on October 27th  8pm (PST) / 11pm (EST) on Revry TV, Pluto TV and Xumo.

Our intersectional queer superhero force is dedicated to saving the world and destroying evil fraternity brother scum.  We have “a world in which a trans woman, an Asian woman, a black woman, and a lesbian kick butt and take names, all in the name of feminism…and humor.”   We have not had much queer representation in the superhero genre and even though this is satire, it is OUR satire making in personal and all the more fun—the kind of fun you can wink at and about.  And because it is our, we connect to what we see. The queer characters we see on the screen get a chance to do what non-queer (cis) have always had a chance to do. We now have a new place of visibility. As our community ventures into a new genre, we can be proud of how far we have come. Creator/writer/producer Addison Heimann has done himself and our community proud.

 

About Revry

Stream out loud with Revry–the first global queer streaming network. Watch exclusively LGBTQ+ films, series, and music videos highlighting the best of queer culture from around the world.  Experience Revry worldwide on seven OTT, mobile, and online platforms, and 24-hour programmed free channels on Pluto TV, XUMO, and coming soon to TiVO Max. Headquartered in Los Angeles, Revry is led by an inclusive team of queer, multi-ethnic and allied partners who bring decades of experience in the fields of tech, digital media, and LGBTQ+ advocacy.  Follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @revrytv. https://revry.tv.

“THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GRINDR”— A Sex Ed Lesson

“THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GRINDR”

A Sex Ed Lesson

Amos Lassen

When I was a high student there was no such thing as sex ed and most of us learned about sex from friends or from library books we kept hidden under our beds. We certainly did not learn about the circumstances that lead to sex.

 “The Grass is Always Grindr” is feature length version of a web series that explores the challenging area of the culture around sex and more specifically about the culture around the chemsex scene, consent, and HIV. It brings together drama, education, and observation.

Adam (Taofique Folarin) is a boxer with HIV who learns to deal with the stigma of the disease and gets control over how he and others see himself. Joe (Denholm Spurr) goes out of control on chemsex and learns the hard way about harm reduction. There is a strong public health message here but there are also deliberate contrivances of situation, dialogue and plot.

Adam and Joe are a totally mismatched couple but the performances of the actors make us cheer them on. Folarin’s confidence and Spurr’s run from intimacy make you want to  both hug them and slap them. Jean Paul, the drug dealer is the devil in disguise. I love a film that both entertains and educates and that is just what happens here.

“EVERYBODY CHANGES” (“TODOS CAMBIAMOS”)— A Transgender Person Comes Out

“EVERYBODY CHANGES” (“TODOS CAMBIAMOS)”

A Transgender Person Comes Out

Amos Lassen

From Panama comes “Everybody Changes” a delightful family drama and Panama’s candidate for the Oscars in the international feature film category. Director Arturo Montenegro introduces us to the Ponces, a seemingly perfect family that lives in the small town of Bambito, Panama. Federico (Arantxa de Juan, Lizzie) is a successful father, his wife, Carol (Gaby Gnazzo) is the loving mother of three lovely children. However, even with seeming to be so perfect, husband and wife share a secret. Lizzie is also involved in their relationship but not as might expect. Lizzie is Federico dressed up as a woman. This began as a fun time but it soon reflected something much deeper and that is  in Federico’s struggle to keep his family together and save his own life. What this means is that he chooses to undergo gender reassignment surgery in Thailand. This changes everything for the as well as for the quiet little town they live in.

It’s not a new idea on film but here it is presented beautifully as we watch the family deal with Frederico’s becoming a woman. On the surface, we might feel we are watching a film about a transgender person looking to be who he really is but the theme is much deeper. We are looking at how minorities are treated by society and the Ponce family becomes a microcosm for the larger and outside world. “Everybody Changes” challenges human and civil rights. Montenegro sees society that does not respect all of its citizen and it needs to open up and become more inclusive. The Ponce family is one filled with love and while it might be difficult to deal with this major change, we see that with love, everything is possible.

We explore here the themes of family and acceptance or rejection, by looking at it through the history of a transsexual person. In Panama, there is not much visibility of transgenders and how this relates to family  life while outside the family unit, society has its prejudices. In Panama, I understand,  there are many who are anti-transsexuality so what we really see in this film is the chance to be open, to speak openly and not to be afraid to do so. We have a family in which the members are more concerned with what holds them together rather than what separates them. It is one of the new families that leaves behind the definition of traditional. We see that there is a place for everyone in society and that everyone has to right to be respected and valued regardless of gender classification. We do not feel pressure or imposition but rather we feel the need to talk about what we see here and thus help all members of society to feel that they have a part in it.

I understand that director Montenegro did a great deal of research on transsexuality and much of what was learned was used in the writing of the screenplay. Montenegro has stated,  “I learned that love is the best tool a family has for survival. I learned that with the search for knowledge, prejudices and discrimination are lost. ”

It has not been easy to get his film made. I read that there were 3,700 people who signed for the President of the Republic, Laurentino Cortizo, to “rate the controversial film as not recommended for minors.” I find this interesting since there are children in the film. Those against the film claim that sex change is not possible and that it is “mental disorders according to the American Psychiatric Association”. We know this not to be true. Yet these nay-sayers managed to  make the following request: “We ask the Government to ensure the integrity of minors under a tsunami of transgender propaganda”.

Many believe they already know what they are going to see but the opposite is true. I loved the film and found it to be excellent in all of its aspects from characters, acting, plot, etc. More than that, it is an educative experience. We can only hope what Montenegro wishes for– “a society open to positive changes for all, especially for minorities that are in permanent risk.” DO NOT miss “Everybody Changes”.

“FAMILY”— Getting Rid of Relatives

“FAMILY”

Getting Rid of Relatives

Amos Lassen

 “Family” directed by Veronica Kedar is a family horror film with stylized cinematography and Hitchcockian references. The lead (played by Kedar herself) murders her screwed-up family members, one by one. This a film from Israel and it is important to know that there is a cult of family in Israel. There is little tolerance for single people who are pressured to get married and procreate, or at least procreate (sperm-bank babies are popular here). There are very few married couples without children and those that do exist elicit sympathy and advice.

If there had been a perfect world, Lily Brooke would have a father who cared about her, a mother who was not addicted to pills, a sister who really cared for her and who had a conscience and a brother who had strange masturbatory practices (that included her being naked). But things did not work out that way. One day Lilly finds herself in her living room, looking at four dead bodies. She goes to her therapist after hours, to confess and to try to understand what happened that day. However, the therapist was not at home make sense of this confusing day. But Lily’s therapist isn’t home and the only person there was the therapist’s teenage, judgmental and insensitive daughter. Lilly needs attention and she isn’t going to get it there.  

Of course, it’s important to understand genre conventions of this beautiful stylized film – had it been drama and not horror, the film would have dealt with the violence and responsibility for it very differently. But as it stands now, the murders in the film feel liberating, whereas the family oppression is all too real

Israeli filmmaker, Veronica Kedar, writes, directs, and stars in this film about a fractured family. It explores why Lily would all of a sudden kill her entire family. The plot is non-linear and this is a great technique to keep us guessing and imbue the film with a sense of mystery.  

The film begins with a gruesome murder scene and from there it follows a structure similar to a session of therapy. It becomes a psychological puzzle that’s filled with twists and turns as it centers around a family portrait contest where a picturesque look at a perfect family is taken just moments before they all die.  This shows us that people can hide who they are and the lies that photos can tell. Lily takes family portraits of the family now that are all brutally murdered and then the non-linear plot takes us through time to chronicle Lily’s various experiences with her family and just how she began to resent them so much. Lily begins this film as a monster, but she slowly receives her humanity as her life goes on and by the end it’s hard to not be on her side.

Kedar wonderfully shares the nuances of family trauma and dysfunction and she does so viscerally and beautifully. But this is also a look at a fractured family tat is upsetting and quite jarring. The film is “nominated for three Israeli Academy Awards.

“ALL MALE, ALL NUDE: JOHNSONS”— All Male and All Nude, Indeed

“ALL MALE, ALL NUDE: JOHNSONS”

All Male and All Nude, Indeed

Amos Lassen

Director Gerald McCullouch’s documentary “ALL MALE, ALL NUDE: JOHNSONS” is something of a  sequel to “All Male, All Nude”. It takes us into the world of male strippers at Johnsons in Wilton Manors, Florida, America’s Second Gayest City per capita. Matt Colunga who has been in the male adult entertainment business for 23 years followed his dream and created the club.

Director Gerald McCullouch has spent over 10 years uncovering the world of male stripping with this second Cinéma Vérité feature length documentary.

We meet several of the dancers includingn26-year-old Alexander, who spends his days dressed as Spider-Man and who creates early memories for children at kids’ parties. He spends his nights stripping down to his G-String for gay men. Other strippers are single fathers and young men putting themselves through college with the money thy make stripping. The men who compose the heart of Johnsons are diverse, unique and captivating.

What I really like about this film is that to enjoy it requires no thought—I found it to be totally relaxing with a cast that is fun to look at and even dream about

“COPA 181”— Revisiting the Gay Sauna

“COPA 181”

Revisiting the Gay Sauna

Amos Lassen

There was a time when a town’s bathhouse was the site for many different occasions including business deals, mortgages, loans and what have you. Usually situated on a major square in town, it was a place everyone knew of and to which many people frequented. Plumbing changed and people had bathrooms in their homes but public bathhouses continued to flourish although not so much in this county where bathhouses were thought to be havens for gay sex, which in some cases they were.

“Copa 181” is set in a gay sauna much like the old Continental Baths in New York City. Here there was no pretense; it was a place where groups of strangers came looking for anonymous sex and/or company for a few hours. Copa 181, located in Rio in a corner of the Copacabana neighborhood in Rio was also a site for high drama. There we meet Tana, a hardware shopkeeper and his wife Eros who stops by every once in a while. She is an opera singer who finds acceptance for her incredible gift at the bathhouse. Joining them are a men ready to pay for the muscle-bound escorts. There is Leo who is happy with his trans girlfriend Kika but only within the physical confines of the sauna. Kika is a housecleaner by day and an entertainer by night and she dreams of becoming. Star and often feels that she already is. Everyone at Copa 181 comes “under the joint spell of the sex and escape from mundane reality the bathhouse offers”.

Watching this film will also pull you under that same spell.  Director Dannon Lacerda uses the theme of chosen family but this time at a sauna. Speaking of drama, just wait until you see what  happens between Tana, Eros and Kiki.

“THE ROAD TO LOVE” [“Tarik el Hob”]— How Gay Films Were Once Made

“THE ROAD TO LOVE” [“Tarik el Hob”]

How Gay Films Were Once Made

Amos Lassen

Karim (Karim Tarek) lives in a seventh-floor walk-up with his doting girlfriend, Sihem (Sihem Benamoune) and. he decides to make a documentary about homosexuality in the Arab world for his class at the Sorbonne.

He tries to track down some gay Muslim men to interview, first by hanging around in front of a gay tea shop, then by placing an advertisement in a newspaper. All of Karim’s respondents make advances toward him. They are seemingly provoked by his slight frame and large, expressive eyes. He is disturbed at first, but before long he begins to feel flattered by all the attention. He strikes up a friendship with Farid (Riyad Echahi), a serious young flight attendant who puts him in touch with gay Muslims in Paris and elsewhere while at the same time feeling his own crush on Karim. As Karim spends more and more time with Farid, Sihem becomes more and more anxious.

The film is crudely shot with what seems to be an amateur video camera and has few stylistic compensations. Karim uncovers the complicated and often contradictory attitudes toward homosexuality in Islam.

Homosexual relationships, he finds, are tolerated in many Muslim cultures as an outlet for pent-up desires that must otherwise wait until marriage. There was even one relatively modern culture, centered in the Siwa oasis in Egypt, where marriage ceremonies between men were performed, but these marriages were dissolved when the time for grown-up, reproductive marriage arrived. Only passive homosexuality, Farid explains to Karim, is considered truly shameful. Sex, in other words, is power, in which a sense of domination counts for everything. Karim begins to wonder if he is using his film as an unconsciously way to reveal his preference for men. When he goes with Farid to Marrakesh for the weekend, we see that this could be happening.

During the second half of the film, director Lange gives us a significant amount of information about the whole history of homosexuality in the Arab world. The film was originally released in 2001 and we really see the caution with which LGBTQ films were once made.