Category Archives: GLBT Film

“CONVENTIONAL SINS”— Remembering

“Conventional Sins”

Remembering

Amos Lassen

Israeli directors Anat Yuta Zuria and Shira Clara Winther  take on a controversial issue in “Conventional Sins” as they tell the story of Meilech who was banished ten years earlier from the Hasidic community he grew up in, Meilech reopens the diary he wrote when he was 15 and in it he describes the abuse he went through at the hands of a network of ultraorthodox pedophiles. Together with a group of young actors who themselves grew up in the Hasidic community, Meilech attempts to reconstruct parts of the diary and tell his story, which the Hasidic community did everything to silence. This is one to be on the lookout for.

“TIKKUN”— An Atmospheric Netherworld

“Tikkun”

“An Atmospheric Netherworld”

Amos Lassen

The Hebrew word “tikkun” has many definitions and connotations. Its main use seems to embody the idea of rectification and is usually used in reference to personal and spiritual improvement or the desire to want to fix the world. There is also a religious meaning— a book of text from the Torah used for learning Jewish scripture and recitation on certain holidays is also known as a tikkun and it contains the writings of the Five Books of Moses but with vowels (unlike the Torah scroll) and is a good practice text for those who chant Torah directly from the scroll itself.

Avishai Sivan’s movie “Tikkun” plays with all of the meanings of this fundamental Jewish concept. The film is a modern religious parable set that is set within Jerusalem’s Hasidic community. It probes the rituals and taboos of this and as it does, it explores the intersection of faith, filial duty, and civic responsibility in contemporary Israel.

We see that an ultra-orthodox scholar is revived after being dead for 40 minutes. After coming back to life, he suddenly feels a strange awakening in his body and suspects that God is testing him. This is the story of a young orthodox Jewish man, Haim-Aharon (Aharon Traitel) who slowly loses his faith after a near-death experience. Shot in pristine black and white and with impressionistic visuals, director Sivan gives us Jerusalem at nighttime (reminiscent of David Lynch) –as a netherworld, shrouded in fog, where past and present exist side by side. The becomes a hallucinatory tale of urban alienation much like the films of Michelangelo Antonioni.

Haim-Aaron is a devout Yeshiva student who we see praying and fasting in the beginning. He is a quiet type who keeps things to himself. His father (Kalifa Natour) is a hard working kosher butcher. Bad plumbing in their cramped apartment causes Haim-Aaron to fall and suffer cardiac arrest while taking a shower and touching himself. EMTs arrive but are unable to resuscitate him and he is pronounced dead 40 minutes later. His father, however, is unable to let his first son go, continues on the CPR, and to everyone’s surprise, revives him.

This near-death experience is a both a blessing and a curse for father and son. The father struggles with the guilt of undoing god’s will by reviving his son. He falls into deep self-doubt and is shunned by many of his ultra orthodox community members.

 

For Haim-Aaron, being undead affords him a freedom to venture out of his community and confront his earthly desires for the first time in his life.  Unable to sleep, hewanders the streets at night, hitching rides to anywhere that strangers will take him. Outside his immediate surroundings, he is in a completely different world: Jerusalem, a cosmopolitan city with just under a million inhabitants, is a wondrous and scary place for him and he meets many strange people and has a sexual encounter with a prostitute. These activities put a strain on his studies, family and community.

This is an unsettling film and this is accentuated by Haim-Aaron’s father’s recurring  nightmares ofevil crocodiles in the toilet, putting a knife to the back of his son and dumping the body in a monster-infested ravine. Urban alienation and repressed sexuality figure prominently in the film and it unveils the ultra-orthodox Jewish community, which is seldom portrayed on film. This is not a flattering picture of a community that seems to be permanently stuck in the past.

Director Sivan and cinematographer Shai Goldman give us a Jerusalem that has the feel of a lonely, industrial town. With sparse dialog and strong visuals makes Tikkun an intense and moody film. The film feels like an ethnographic film movie shot by someone from the community it documents, managing simultaneously to keep a critical distance from the material while maintaining a certain credulity and wonder toward the proceedings. The world of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox is portrayed with empathy and insight, but some of the community’s cultural practices are called into question.

“Tikkun” is in part a lucid account of the bewilderment that the absence of a candid sexual education for members of young ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. It captures the perverse fascination provoked in this community by this taboo as the camera lingers on both male and female genitalia in graphic, almost scientific detail. Haim-Aaron is perplexed by his own erect penis, which he inspects with curiosity right before his near-death experience. This explicit link between sexuality and death is reemphasized later when he studies the genitalia of a recently deceased young woman. In a literal sense, these scenes are a commentary on the awkwardness of puberty and pre-marital sexuality in this community. There is no discussion of the body or desires and sets limits between the sexes. Instead of simply condemning the social practices of this insular community, Sivan shows us how mysterious the world must appear to one of its members. Haim-Aaron’s explorations of the body inevitably result in calamity, as if God were punishing him for his sins. He endures his transgressions of the community’s taboos by self-castigation. Having so firmly internalized God’s laws and what he perceives to be His commands, Haim-Aaron subconsciously wills this punishment, thereby physically manifesting God’s presence in the world. We are never sure if Haim-Aaron is simply mental, a pious man or some combination of the two. It is this ambiguity that makes it difficult to characterize the film as just a secular critique of a religious mindset.

Sivan captures a world where the miraculous and the mundane are separated by a blurred edge. Haim-Aaron’s father is a kosher butcher, and we see him inspecting ritually slaughtered animals with the same solemn curiosity with which his son inspects human genitalia. The father kills in accordance with God’s commandments, humanely and forever on the lookout for God’s approval. Haim-Aaron’s siblings treat bugs with the same profane reverence, carefully observing them before squashing them. These ongoing scenes of commingled investigation and slaughter emphasize the fine line between life and death in this world and we see that God is always silently present in the guise of human action.

One could read “Tikkun” as a commentary on the price of culturally ordained sexual repression, an idea that several startling instances of full-frontal nudity make difficult to dismiss. But there is so much potent ambiguity that such a straightforward interpretation does not fully work. I have no doubt that there will be many who will not find themselves charmed by this film while others will feel that it is a total experience. The fact that it has been winning prizes attests to that.

“A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE”— A Homoerotic Evangelical Exorcism Film

“A Closer Walk with Thee”

A Homoerotic Evangelical Exorcism Film

Amos Lassen

Four young Evangelical missionaries set up a house church in inner city Los Angeles with the idea of to try and save the neighborhood from a Satanist gang. Jordan, who is a good Christian kid, has begun to have impure sexual thoughts about his close friend and fellow missionary, Eli. He is outed when caught watching Eli shower and he is ostracized by the others. Eli, who is a fledgling exorcist, suggests that a demonic possession might be causing these Jordan’s feelings and sure enough Jordan begins to behave as if he is possessed thus causing Eli to take action. However, what begins as a ritualistic method of trying to save their friendship spirals out of control and descends into darkness and violence.

This is not a Christian film even though the title is misleading (but then so is religion often misleading?).While “A Closer Walk With Thee” is very much about religion (particularly how fundamentalism in any religion is a bad thing), it is about religion’s negative aspects. There are some real shockers here.

Set in East Los Angeles, our Evangelical missionaries as they attempt to spread their unique form of Christianity in an area where they have no place being. Eli (Gregory Shelby) is the leader of the group. His father is the pastor who runs their church, and Eli has all the makings of a leader himself; he has everything going for him— looks, presence, commitment and Christian intellect (which is a bit different than just intellect— Christian intellect does not require common sense.) he’s handsome, commanding, and hopelessly committed to ‘the word’, even at the cost of common sense. Lindsey (Kelsey Boze) is the straightforward one of the group; Kara (Megan Hensley) is uncertain and constantly scared of her environment; and Jordan (AJ Knight) is sweet, somewhat innocent, and desperately attracted to his friend, Eli. When Jordan is discovered engaging in less than reputable behavior in regards to Eli, the film begins its descent down dark roads (and, God forbid, there is a gay boy in it).

While the subject matter of the plot is quite intense and occasionally subversive the strong line of dark humor that runs throughout as an undercurrent. We just need to think what kind of film we would have if we put fundamental Christianity in a gay themed film. We are really never sure how to react to what we see and hear on the screen. What some might cal, perverse, is rather tame here but shocking nonetheless. Undoubtedly, there will be discontented viewers but that is why we have theaters with doors and humans with legs. As I used to tell my students, leaving is easy; you put one foot in front of the other and go..

Directors John C. Clark and Brie Williams take on a controversial subject with abandon. This is obviously a very low budget affair but although we see only a few actors and a single set, nothing seems to be forced and it is witty and smart with good performances and a sensational plot. If there is a star, it is AJ Knight, who as Jordan has a difficult role. Even at the end, when Jordan is doing things that are seemingly crazy, he wins our empathy.

 

I do have a little problem here however. While this film is about the wrongs of fundamentalism, I did not totally like its treatment of homosexuality. “Are we to see sexuality as a demon that waits for the right time to take control? People, in the past, saw it that way but those days are gone. There are also some violent depictions of the queer community that are not treated favorably”.

This is, most certainly, not a film for everyone. It deals with a difficult subject about which many have preconceived ideas but the film really crosses no lines (but then I am liberal and Jewish) even with its sickest scenes. To me, I got the feeling that the film is an examination of the ‘white savior complex’ and unless you belong there, you should stay away.

“JUST CHARLIE”— Striving for Acceptance

“Just Charlie”

Striving for Acceptance

Amos Lassen

Director Rebekah Fortune’s film revolves around Charlie (Harry Gilby), a skilful young boy with a bright future in football. His father, Paul (Scot Williams), sees in him the fulfillment of his own failed childhood dream of becoming a professional football player, so he proudly supports him and guides him down the path to becoming the star he never got the chance to be. The pressure is overwhelming for Charlie and we learn he’s struggling with an identity crisis that leads him to doubt everything in his life, including his football career. At a wedding, Charlie realizes he’s more attracted to female accessories than he is to his suit and feels that the collar of his shirt is choking him, and he can’t breathe. We immediately see that this is a metaphor for the lie he has been telling to society and to himself. Leaving the ceremony, he runs into a forest, where he previously hid some dresses that his sister Susan (Patricia Potter) gave him to throw away. When he puts on a gown, he can finally breathe again and release all of the pressure that has been building up. This is a turning point for Charlie, who finally accepts that she needs to let her inner self come out, and she has to take full control over her own life.

The theme of the movie is acceptance and it carefully balances how Charlie deals with her gender dysphoria and how the people around her react – the inside and the outside, the individual and the community. These two aspects are intertwined and inseparable. We feel Charlie’s pain when she tries to explain to her mother and the psychologist that she is invisible to others. Her pain is not at all quelled by the fact that her father feels betrayed and lied to – as do her grandmother and teammates. They realize that Charlie is no longer their little boy, and they can’t seem to accept or understand it. Charlie’s football coach, who is aware of Charlie’s long-kept secret reminds her that “There are more important things in life than football,” a sentence that although simple is revolutionary.  What we really see in “Just Charlie” is the relationship of a British family as they discover their youngest child is transgender. Peter Machen’s screenplay sees young football star Charlie come out to his family as transgender.

This has profound effects on Charlie’s family as her Charlie’s pushy father struggles to cope and her mother Susan (Patricia Potter) fearfully attempts to support her decision. My own sister went through a similar scenario when her first-born daughter decided that she was really her son and while I have never been privy to what went on during that conversation, I can imagine that it was similar to what we have here.

“Just Charlie” totally captures the claustrophobia and isolation experienced by some trans people who are forced into living a life that is not true to them.

Charlie’s father is as concerned with societal expectations as he holds his own prejudice and discomfort towards his child. As Charlie begins to leave the house and to go to school in her female clothing, we see the misconceptions that are faced by many who either unintentionally or intentionally confused by the concept of gender.

The family drama adds further strength in the support given to Charlie by her mother and sister. This unprejudiced display of love touches our hearts as it explores the struggle for family members as well as the trans youngster. Gilby’s performance is filled with emotional honesty and sincerity helps explore the inner struggle faced by many trans youth. With support from his sister, we see that this is a story that is rooted in the human condition and is honest and touching as it opens our minds.

As Charlie’s parents, Patricia Potter and Scot Williams are excellent as it Elinor Machen-Fortune as Eve, Charlie’s sister, Eve. Shot in Tamworth, Middle England, the film treats its subject matter without sensationalism or trivialities. It expands its focus beyond Charlie to follow her friends, family and football coach as they either adapt to or deny her new reality and since gender is a cultural more, it makes sense to examine it at a community level.

When Charlie resorts to self-harm following a confrontation over a recent episode of cross-dressing, identity is discussed for the first time. For Charlie nothing has changed, she feels as she has always done: female, but for everyone else nothing is ever likely to be the same. Her mother Susan and sister Eve are both are quick to support Charlie’s decision to begin hormone therapy, even when it threatens to impact their own lives and relationships while father Paul struggles to accept it and this puts him into direct conflict with the rest of the family.

Basically, this is a simple story normalizes the subject of transitioning and gender dysphoria and does so with straightforward honesty as this almost mundane middle-class family deals with Charlie’s desire to be his true identity.

“I DREAM IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE”— Preserving Dialect

“I Dream in Another Language” (“Sueño en otro idioma”)

Preserving Dialect

Amos Lassen

Linguist Martin (Fernando Álvarez Rebeil) ventures to a Mexican town where three people speak the dying language of Zikril. It seems that the language has a magical significance, particularly with a Zikril afterlife featuring souls that can heard at night. After one of the three dies, the only two remaining speakers are old men, Evaristo (Eligio Melendez) and Isauro (José Manuel Poncelis). The two men used to be friends, but have not spoken to each other in years due to some kind of falling out. With the help of Evaristo’s daughter Lluvia (Fátima Molina), Martin tries to convince the stubborn Evaristo to translate for his old friends, Isauro, who only speaks Zikril

.Martin becomes romantically connected to Lluvia behind Evaristo’s back while Evaristo consistently refuses to participate. Through an extended flashback about what drove Evaristo and Isauro apart years ago, we get a sense of fantasy with learning about this language. Adults here are in search of magic within real human situations and even a good amount of sexual content.

Once we learn why the two men fell out, “I Dream in Another Language” becomes quite powerful. It leads to events that don’t entirely match the dramatic demands, but it continues to make this a unique story. I began to wonder how it would be to live in a world where only one other person spoke my language (although there are times that I feel no one speaks my language). The film is based on a news article about the last two speakers of the Zoque language in Tabasco, Mexico who wouldn’t talk to each other because of an old disagreement. Director Ernesto Contreras uses that idea to look at what the extinction of a particular worldview represents beyond mere communication. By not knowing a language, we don’t realize when it happens in terms of culture, knowledge, roots, traditions, etc.”

We are introduced to a magical realist universe hidden within a rural setting through the eyes of an urban outsider who arrives to save the heritage of this community before it’s too late. Martin is a young and idealistic linguist and is determined to document the Zikril language. He tries to convince Isauro (and Evaristo to have a series of conversations he can record in order to safeguard their nearly extinct tongue. Zikril, the language used in the film, is entirely fictional but was created with the intention of making listeners believe it could actually be one spoken in the region.

Lluvia is a young woman who is desperate to leave her small town and who spends her days teaching English via radio to the men and women around her preparing to travel north in search of the American dream. Religious aspects prevail and we see how these influence the behavior and decisions of the characters. We also see the dream of so many Mexicans to come to the United States for an opportunity to improve their situation. There is a paradox of how we can be worried about learning this language [English], while we forget about the other one and causing it to die completely.

Contreras omits captions that could help us understand the conversations in Zikril, except for very specific moments that could be elevated by the use of written translations. The viewer won’t understand what they are saying to each other but will understand the emotions. Mysticism is employed in subtle doses that manage to charm the audience without breaking the spell of reality or veering into overly fantastical territory and the film is actually playing with imagination, with sounds, music, and atmosphere.

The flashbacks depict the life of the two protagonists as young men in the 1970’s living in a traditional society that was not accepting of them and their indigenous background. The film blends a“a tale as old as time with a rumination on the ravages that the passing years can inflict, both in cementing emotional scars and in disintegrating indigenous cultures”. While taking place in the present, the narrative not only plays with myth-like aspects, but also uses flashbacks to show the ailing, antagonists’ feud. Martin’s mission to analyze as many Mexican languages as possible is dependent upon Isauro and Evaristo’s reconciliation. Several early scenes place significant emphasis on unraveling the mystery behind the central love triangle, one that doesn’t remain a secret for long. Some major developments are entirely foreseeable even as the film flirts with the fantastical and metaphorical and Contreras manages to make his layered story into a quietly involving affair, particularly in the middle.

“DATING MY MOTHER”— Finding Love

“Dating My Mother”

Finding Love

Amos Lassen

Mike Roma’s “Dating My Mother” shows the romantic yearnings of a 23-year-old wannabe screenwriter. Danny’s (Patrick Reilly) attempt to find love and/or gratification via online dating sites is matched by his mom’s (Kathryn Erbe) efforts to move beyond widowhood. Danny has no luck and comes across as his own worst enemy. He challenges his own chances at becoming a professional by making an ill-timed poolside pass at a straight friend. He is also angry that his mother is entering the dating arena again and he seems to be a nasty little guy. Mother and son share a bed in the wake of the recent death of her hubby giving us any number of chances to laugh at something here.

Danny is an obnoxious, aspiring but unemployed gay screenwriter who is totally annoying yet we like him to a degree. His relationship with his mother seems unhealthy while he sees it as comforting her over the death of her husband and his father. He just wants to make life in New Jersey bearable whilst he waits to return to L.A. where he just graduated from college.

When Joan is egged on by her best friend Lisa (Kathy Najimy) to start dating pool again, together they create an online profile. Danny, however, is not happy with his mother’s efforts particularly since he has never managed to have any success on gay hook-up sites.  He is annoyed when she meets Chester (James Le Gros) on her very first attempt.

Danny is then forced to move back into his own bedroom and take on a part time menial job at the Library. He once again becomes friendly with Kris (Michael Rosen), one of his straight school pals from the past who has a steady supply of pot to smoke. As the two of them start to bond more, Danny suggests they take a road trip to Los Angeles together. Kris is eager to go along with this, but then when Danny misreads all the friendliness and plants a kiss on the horrified straight-boy’s lips, he ruins all his chances of both the trip and his continued friendship.

When Lisa discovers that her husband of 30 years has been continually unfaithful, she throws him out of the house giving us yet another crisis. Joan is the only one who is happy and that is because it seems that Chester is going to be around for a long time.

Ultimately Danny wakes and the film has a happy ending.  Director Roma shows how the generations differ when it comes to ‘dating’ thus giving us a chance to laugh at our excursions into the dating pool.

 

 

“BOYS FOR SALE”— Male Prostitutes in Tokyo

“Boys For Sale”

Male Prostitutes in Tokyo

Amos Lassen

“Boys For Sale” is a new documentary directed by Itako and is perhaps the first film to delve into a particular subset of Asian gay culture within a particularly conservative country still struggling with the idea of open homosexuality. 

Shinjuku 2-Chome is considered to be the gay center of all of Asia and we find bars and locales that offer their (male) customers the services of their urisen or young “boys” (the majority are in their late teens or early 20’s) who are sold off nightly to customers and taken to specially-prepared rooms, where they are then expected to perform whatever sexual acts that particular customer desires.  Officially, prostitution is illegal in Japan but the laws as they currently exist define sex work as being between a man and a woman.  By ensuring that their clientele are all men, managers of these establishments are able to offer what they do without breaking the law.  They further limit their own culpability by insisting that the prices paid to the boys are only for drinks, dinner, and time spent together, and whatever may happen (or not happen) between the boys and their buyers in the upstairs rooms is none of their business. 

We learn of the rules and traditions, how this all operates, how these young men are selected and end up in this line of work through a series of interviews with current and former may sex workers. Director Itako gave them the choice of having their faces shown and voices unaltered and hiding their real names.  Some hid nothing, others wore masks to at least cover their faces and took a codename, and others not only hid their faces.  Their respective ages, backgrounds, and views on what they do vary widely, and for the most part the film simply lets their stories speak for themselves. 

Sex workers usually have an endless variety of motivations and reasons for getting into prostitution. There are those that choose it willingly and are happy doing it, others are pushed into it through chance, circumstance, or even tragedy, and some are actively tricked and/or enslaved. The boys here are no different, although the “hush-hush” nature of how the industry operates means there is often an extra level of deception in pulling the boys in.  Many admit that they had no idea beforehand what was expected of them, or were actively lied to when they first interviewed about what, exactly, they were getting into. 

The film also touches on Japan’s still-considerable discomfort with the very idea of homosexuality, at least compared with Western cultures.  Being openly gay in any setting, even within the world of male prostitution, is still considered so strange or taboo that, while many gay men do work as prostitutes (and most of their clients are clearly either themselves gay, this work is far from accepted as is to be openly gay in Japan. Most managers (and clients) expect the boys to at least pretend that they are straight and this is a topic for further research. The film uses drawings to show what the boys do in their rooms without being voyeuristic or pornographic. It was decided early on not to film actual customers with the boys even though this is crucial to the film’s power. By using drawings, the film delves into frank, graphic detail about everything.

We are reminded of how major disasters, both man-made and natural, have a particular ripple-effect in the field of sex work.  One of the interviewed boys openly says that he only ended up as a hustler because he came to the city desperate for work after losing his home in the tsunami/Fukushima catastrophe of 3/11.  If that had never happened, he would never have even considered getting into sex work, and he is certainly far from the only person of his generation with reasons like this for becoming a prostitute. 

Many of the boys were tricked or forced into doing this work, don’t like it, and want out, but many are perfectly content with in and find a community of their own that binds them together, and many of them, even ones that aren’t gay or bi, very much enjoy the work and are happy doing it. 

In Japan, homosexuality is taboo and hidden. However, this doesn’t mean there isn’t a large, vibrant LGBT community in the country. The documentary reveals some unexpected contradictions, such as the men talking about the fun and camaraderie of the job while others speak about the degradation and some truly unpleasant things that have happened to them. For parts of the film it almost comes across as quite a good job, but at others its quite horrific, and for many of the men it has to become that simultaneously and something they just accept.

The majority of the urisen are straight, and they aren’t just saying that because they know clients prefer straight boys. The film shows a complex picture as it progresses. We really see this when we see the young straight men speaking about why they got into selling their bodies. It is surprising that there’s no mention of drug addiction.

Where the film gets most interesting is when it deals with the intersection of Japanese culture and the world of the urisen. We hear about the lack of sex education in Japan, particularly surrounding gay issues, which means that many of the men are not informed about how STDs are spread, one has never heard of AIDS, and another thinks you can only get HIV by mixing blood. Most of them seem to believe the most effective form of protection from Chlamydia and gonorrhea is insisting that the clients shower and wash their genitals properly before sex (although most also use condoms).

The film passes no judgment and shows that there is both good and bad to the urisen’s life, it manages to be surprising illuminating. It certainly doesn’t make it sound like a world that we might want to join, but by the end we understand both how the men got there and why they stay.

“THE COMMITMENT”— A Wedding

“The Commitment” (“Kasal”)

A Wedding

Amos Lassen

Sherwin (Arnold Reyes) is a lawyer who has dealt with many annulment cases.  Paolo (Oliver Aquino) is an indie film director.  They had been in a relationship with each other for the past three years. When Oliver suggested that they take their relationship to the next level and get married, Sherwin insisted that same-sex marriage will never happen in the Philippines, all the while thinking about a time when Paolo cheated on him a year ago. 

They visited Sherwin’s hometown where they went to attend the wedding of his teenage sister Mary Jane who became pregnant by her teenage boyfriend Bong. Before, during and after the wedding ceremony, Paolo and Sherwin began to see more clearly how and where they stand in terms of the public and decide to make very important decisions about their own relationship.

Sherwin is pragmatic and logical while Paolo is the more emotional and sentimental partner. This film tackles love and commitment in the context of a gay couple, and the issues that they face are the same as any other couple, also hold true for any couple, gay or straight.  

Director Joselito Altarejos takes the sensitive script he co-wrote with Zig Dulay brings it to life. He captures the simple rural matrimonial rites and all its attendant traditions in radiantly dramatic and evocative camera angles. The film gives us

a very good discussion on various aspects of relationships, love and commitment and equality in all areas. What we really see is the silent oppression of gay people and it presents a strong argument on why we have been fighting for the basic right to marriage.

 

“ROMEU & ROMEU”— Coming Together

“Romeu & Romeu”

Coming Together

Amos Lassen

From the title here, we immediately understand that we are getting a new take oh Shakespeare’s classic “Romeo and Juliet”. Right away in this new series from Brazil, we see that the Monteiro and Campelo families live in the shadow of a crime committed in the past. Then when chance puts Ramon and Rômulo face to face, hatred turns into an unlikely love that can hurt parents, siblings, friends, and even themselves.

The rivalry between the two families is an open situation in the city of Verona whose residents are constantly reminded by fights between the families.

“Romeu & Romeu” follows some of the patterns of the original version but this new version of the story is set in the present and under the shadow of a crime that separated the two families in the past.

Romeo and Juliet become Romulo (Arthur Chermont) and Ramon (João Mesquita) whose personalities are composites of the original Romeo and Juliet. Something new that we did not get from Shakespeare is Parkinson’s Disease as Romulo shows day-to-day living with it and dealing with the prejudice and lack of understanding that most people. The series is made up of six episodes that are summarized below.

Episode One—The Monteiro and Campelo families live in the shadow of a crime committed in the past. Their rivalry, already known throughout the city of South Verona, remains constant due to the frequent fights between the families. But when chance puts Ramon Monteiro and Rômulo Campelo face to face, hatred turns into an unlikely love that can hurt parents, siblings, friends, and even themselves.

Episode Two— Ramon and Romulo spend the night together at the ball and find a strange attraction between them. The internal tensions of each family begin to appear when the youngsters reveal their dreams.

Episode Three— Samuel calls his uncle Paul to help the Monteiros accept Ramon’s career, but he reveals he is gay, worsening the situation. Romulo conflicts with his overprotective family. The boys have each other as a single support.

Episode Four— Ramon reveals the secret between both families to Rômulo, and the two end up fighting. Tensions between families grow, and Ramon has to make a difficult decision that can change his life forever.

Episode Five— Rômulo and Ramon finally decides to live their love. However, with the truth out, Ramon decides to stop hiding himself and tell the truth to those he trusts.

Episode Six— The protagonists find comfort from some family and friends, but a romantic dinner between Ramon and Rômulo could end tragically when the wrong people discover their romance.

“TONIGHT IT’S ME”— A Surprise Friendship

“Tonight It’s Me”

A Surprise Friendship

Amos Lassen

A hot young hustler finds himself in uncharted waters when he spends the night with a client who’s far from the “johns” he’s used to servicing. Director Dominic Haxton introduces us to CJ (Jake Robbins) is a hustler in Los Angeles who is a hustler and used to having sleazy older men pay him for sex and treat him like a piece of meat.

Things take an unexpected turn when Ash hires him. Ash is CJ’s age, transsexual and is looking for company as much as sex. CJ isn’t sure how to react to someone who doesn’t fit into the typical gender binary but he soon finds his horizons being broadened. This is something of an odd film that is nonetheless very sweet and we watch two disconnected souls come together and find common ground, even though their experience of life is very different. It’s well worth watching and makes us think about the way we are influenced by those that we met.