Category Archives: GLBT Film

“DON’T EVER WIPE TEARS WITHOUT GLOVES”— Journey to the End

“DON’T EVER WIPE TEARS WITHOUT GLOVES”

Journey to the End

Amos Lassen

Set in Stockholm in the early 1980s, we meet young Rasmus (Adam Pålsson) and Benjamin (Adam Lundgren) who fall in love at the same time as the AIDS epidemic came to Sweden and their circle of friends is soon dying. Writer-comedian Jonas Gardell gives us a very emotional chronicle of an era based on actual experiences and memories. It is touching, funny and frightening as it moves to its bitter, dark end. The film is also a look at religious fanaticism and a society that would prefer to pretend that the epidemic is not happening.

Most documentaries and films about AIDS concentrate on what happened in the US, but here were are taken somewhere else.  Rasmus is a young man from the middle of nowhere who goes to Stockholm to check out the city. He stays with his aunt and immerses himself in the gay world, meeting other people and having fun. Benjamin comes from a very strict family of Jehovah’s Witnesses. When he knocks on the door of one of Rasmus’ gay friends, intending to spread the word of his religion, the man immediately sees that Ben is gay, something the young man thought nobody could ever Ben slowly begins to open up and eventually begins a relationship with Rasmus.

Benjamin just wants a simple monogamous relationship and has no intention of coming out to his parents, Rasmus feels people should be out and proud, and he also wants to have sex with other people too. Then they hear about AIDS and people around them start getting sick.

From the very beginning, we see that this isn’t going to be an easy film. The title comes from a line of dialogue in the first few minutes where a nurse is informed not to touch AIDS patients without complete safety gear. As the film moves forward, we move between the young men figuring out their lives against the promise of early 80s Stockholm gay scene and Rasmus lying in a hospital bed suffering the effects of the epidemic.

We see the contrast between the hope and possibility of gay people in a society that’s slowly being more accepting of different sexualities with the devastating impact of AIDS. We also see great performances. Adam Palsson is excellent as the brash Rasmus, although it’s Adam Lundgren who acts as the real heart of the film. He possesses a wonderful innocence and sense of empathy that pulls us into.

The supporting cast is also excellent as is the recreation of 1980s life and projects an intimate knowledge of the areas of Stockholm that were popular with gay people in the early 80s.

It’s not always an easy watch with the horrible reality of the end stages of AIDS, but that’s as it should be. For those who weren’t around at the time, it’s easy to think the AIDS crisis was a bad thing without understanding what it was actually like for those living through it. There were people who were still somewhat dislocated from society and often estranged from their own families. They had built their identity and new families with each other and then had to watch those closest to them dying ugly, deaths, often wondering if/when the same would happen to them. They also knew that if it had primarily been happening to straight people, the reaction would have been a full scale emergency rather than a political football and ignored by many.

“Don’t Ever Wipe Tears” caused a sensation when it first was screened in Sweden in 2012, and it has now been recut into a film for distribution in other countries. It’s a look at the AIDS crisis and 80s gay life, beyond the places that are normally concentrated on. It is sometimes a tough watch but always rewarding.

“BITTER YEARS”— Being Gay in Italy

 

“BITTER YEARS”

Being Gay in Italy

Amos Lassen

Andre  Adriatica’s “Bitter Years” is a film based on the life of Mario Mieli, one of the founders of the Italian Homosexual Liberation Movement which was created at the beginning of the 1970s. He was an activist, intellectual, writer and performer and an important figure on the Italian cultural scene.

While he was alive, he had deeply complicated relationships with his parents and toward the end of his life with his partner Umberto Pasti, with whom he had an intense love affair. Mario died in 1983 but his legacy lives on today.

 

Mario killed himself in 1983, before turning 31. He was an activist, an intellectual, a writer and a performer and a key figure in the Italian cultural panorama at that time along with his friends architect Corrado Levi, painter Piero Fassoni singer Ivan Cattaneo, activist Angelo Pezzana, writer Fernanda Pivano and poet Milo De Angelis. He liked to provoke and to innovate but, today, he is not well known. He was the son of the upper-middle class and one of seven children.

“SURVIVING THE SILENCE”— A Documentary

 


“SURVIVING THE SILENCE”

A Documentary

Amos Lassen

Colonel Pat Thompson was asked to preside over the military review board that eventually dismissed Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer for admitting she was a lesbian. This was in 1992. Thompson had served her country with distinction for over thirty years yet this appointment was perhaps the most difficult because she had her own secret— she too was a lesbian and living privately and she and her life partner Barbara Brass had been together for many years. 

The Cammermeyer  story made national headlines, probably because of President Clinton’s push to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. In 1995, Cammermeyer her memoir “Serving in Silence”and it was adapted into a made-for-TV movie executive-produced by Barbara Streisand and starring Glenn Close. However, Thompson’s part in the story stayed secret until 2013 when she and Barbara who were then married, decided to go public for the very first time at a college speaking engagement in Northern California. They received a standing ovation and this began their journey of the pursuit of social justice and activism. 

It just so happened that filmmaker Cindy L. Abel was in the audience that night, and what she heard touched her. She felt that a film about her journey could serve as a powerful inspiration and Abel began filming Pat and Barbara’s love story and this became “Surviving the Silence”. The film includespersonal testimonies from the people who lived the experience. It deeply probesthe complex and closeted relationship of Colonel Pat Thompson and Barbara Brass and their basis for being such engaged activists for LGBTQ Equality. We see how they wrestled with choices publicly and privately during the early years when they hid their relationship, spoke in code on the phone during long separations, and struggled to protect their love while ,at the same time,  preserved Thompson’s career. Their story also includes the untold aspects of the heartbreaking dismissal of Cammermeyer and reveals why Cammermeyer candidly calls Thompson a ‘hero’. Cammermeyer appears in the film in direct conversation with Thompson. The difficulties of being a lesbian in America throughout the 20th century is very, very evident.

The film starts with Pat Thompson and Barbara Brass’s story. Thompson’s career was serving in the Army.  She moving up the ladder and was given important assignments all over the world.  She and Brass had been in a closeted relationship for many years and although they lived together, they were secretive about almost everything about their relationship. But then when she was just two years away from retirement, she got the order to preside over the military review board that was investigating  Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer.

A lesbian in charge of the Inquiry turned out to be  the best thing that could have been even if it meant discharging Cammermeyer. Thompson and Brass decided to go public after they married in 2013. Their decision to do so did a lot for the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” movement and rights for the entire LGBTQ movement as well as bringing about an amazing turn of events for this private couple to share this experience.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=surviving+the+silence+trailer&docid=607989131990535396&mid=DDEA6374BD1A70316E9ADDEA6374BD1A70316E9A&view=detail&FORM=VIRE

“COWBOYS”— Learning to Be a Man

“COWBOYS”

Learning to Be a Man

Amos Lassen

Sally (Jillian Bell) has recently separated from husband Troy (Steve Zahn), a man with mental health problems and who has done prison time for assault. Faith (Ann Dowd), a detective suspects that there’s something she hasn’t been told. A picture of the missing kid taken from Troy’s abandoned truck reveals what looks like a short-haired boy in plaid shirt and jeans and not the little girl that Sally described.

There is a sense of mystery around the child’s gender. Joe (Sasha Knight) is a trans boy and writer/director Anna Kerrigan addresses this in a matter of fact way because, it isn’t really all that important. This isn’t a film that expects its audience to be fascinated by trans people simply because they’re there. Rather, this is a story about two adults trying to raise a child and maintain a relationship even though they both still have some growing up to do of their own to do. Instead of this being a story of raising a girl who is learning to live as a boy, this is about a boy who has to start learning to be a man.

Troy’s plan, such as it is, is to take Joe through the Montana wilderness to Canada. Along the way, he loses his medication and starts to behave increasingly erratically, less and less able to cope with the emotional strain of the situation. Joe, who has always been a fan of cowboys and horses and the pulp adventure idea of life as an outlaw, realizes that he’ll need to start making the decisions if they’re going to be okay, but he understands that the first time in his life that he has no-one to look after him.

We see a lot about gender roles and how a child’s developing sense of role can impact how parents feel about themselves. Joe is an only child and Sally has tried to raise the child to be like herself yet takes Joe’s rejection of the toys and clothes that she, herself, loves personally. She’s still a loving parent, however, and we see that she has good intentions, no matter the results. Through flashbacks  we see what Troy has meant to Joe as a masculine role model, and how problematic that has often been. Troy is the only person willing to respect Joe’s masculinity and it’s difficult for Joe to model himself on anyone else, difficult for him to find a healthy way of growing up and managing the pressures that life as a man brings.

The love that Sally and Troy  share even after their separation complicates the story further, enabling director Anna Kerrigan to look in depth at a complex relationship dynamic. Family arguments and small, intimate moments are captured close up and the world is far away. Here is a very personal drama and a thriller.

The film opens with A boy and his father riding into the Montana wilderness after parking their pickup truck at the home of a concerned friend, borrow his horse, and then head into the woods. At the same time in a small, working-class home, a woman calls out for her daughter, realizes she’s not there, and calls the police, saying that her soon-to-be ex-husband has abducted the child. 

We quickly learn that the two narrative threads concern the same kid. Whether this 12-year-old is a daughter to the mother or a son to the father is a central point of contention between the parents. To Sally, her child is a girl, whose fascination with cowboy boots and her aversion to dresses is just a phase. Troy cannot deny that Joe is a boy after he confessed his gender identity to his father. The two of them share a love of cowboy stories, and they head for Canada, supposed in search of a better place for Joe to grow up. 

Sally has been raised with certain ideas that she’s afraid to abandon: she insists Joe wear dresses instead of pants because she is worried how the other kids in school would react. She rationalizes that Joe’s actions spring from a natural desire for escape because of the carefree example of a cowboy. Troy is kind, understanding, and imaginative but he struggles with bipolar disorder and alcoholism. His temper has gotten him into trouble with the law. 

“Cowboys” is divided among Troy and Joe’s attempted journey to Canada, the police search for the two of them, and flashbacks to the events that led to their leaving. Throughout, the wilderness of Montana and the small town are beautifully photographed. This is a compassionate film that does not emphasize, or capitalize, on trauma and by the end, we are to believe that wounds can be healed.

Though well played by Knight (who is a transgender child), Joe is much too aware of his parents’ faults, and easily verbalizes them. Even though there are 12-year-olds who are more perceptive than others, Joe’s observations are so correct that, at times, they are not convincing. It is his character that is weakly constructed than it should be and not Knight who wonderfully portrays him. Sally and Troy are wonderfully nuanced characters in the performances by Bell and Zahn and in Kerrigan’s script. Joe, by contrast, comes across as somewhat one-note in the writing, though not in Knight’s portrayal. 

The film is anunconventional take on a transgender narrative in the guise of a modern western. It defies expectations on several levels. It begins against the backdrop of a strained relationship between the mentally ill Troy, his wife Sally and their child Joe. We then move on to Troy and Joe travelling on horseback in rural Montana and heading for the Canadian border. What slowly emerges is the realization that Joe is transgender, and Troy is on a misguided mission to ‘rescue’ Joe from his mother who does nit understand her child. Joe stresses that, “I’m not a tomboy,” in a touching coming out scene to his father. “A tomboy’s just another type of girl but I’m not a girl.” This acts as an impetus for the main thrust of the film, a western fugitive chase. 

It’s also important in that it makes the film less about Joe ‘coming of age’ than it does about Troy and Sally coming to terms with it. Troy is fully supportive of Joe but once he goes off his medication, he becomes a confusing model of manhood for Joe. Sally’s misgendering of Joe feels more authentic. Bell plays against type as a frustrated character having to play the strict mother..” 

The film is non-linear and Troy’s leaving with Joe is not evident from the start. His marriage that is falling apart is explained in fragments. The ultimate resolution comes together a bit too quickly. Yet “Cowboys” as an alternative to other transgender films is a move in the right direction while it subverts the neo-western sub-genre.

 

“THE ACCOMPANIST”— The Power of Music

“THE ACCOMPANIST”

The Power of Music

Amos Lassen

Dr. Jason Holden (Frederick Keeve) is in early 50s and has taken a job as the piano accompanist for a local ballet studio. He is quickly respected and loved by the ballet students and teachers that he works with. However, he is filled with sadness because of an automobile accident in which his family was involved.

Jason receives some solace from Brandon Wykowski (Ricky Palomino), one of the students with whom he falls in love. Brandon has his own personal and professional problems.He has been given a chance to try out for the prestigious New York Ballet Company and asks Jason to work with him using his music to make demos of his ability. At the same time, Brandon is dealing with intimate issues with his boyfriend, Adam Thompson (Aaron Cavette). Adam has an intensely jealous side and can easily fly into rage and this probably comes from his suffering with aspects of lung cancer and has been doing so for quite a while.

Jason’s own sadness emerges from time-to-time and Brandon’s company eases that pain. To Jason, Branson represents so much of what he has wanted in his own life. Max (Christopher Pawl) and Isabella (Juliet Doherty), Jason’s children are concerned about their father but try to give him space and allow him to pursue comfort, even if it is with Brandon. When Adam sees what is going on with the two men, he becomes determined to win his lover back compounding everything.

The film uses the themes of grief and intimacy and is sensitive and touching. There is a beautiful tenderness to the sex scenes. The music is glorious throughout and the actors are excellent all around. More important than all else is that we get to see a realistic gay love story with is ups and downs and its joys and angsts. We are constantly aware of tragedy and hope.

Some may find the sex scenes to be too explicit yet I found them to  be important parts of the story. “The Accompanist” pulls us in immediately and does not let us go and we feel the gamut of emotions as the characters do.

The film will be available on digital June 2 from Dark Star Pictures and take my word for it, this is one you do not want to miss.

“Skin” by Christian Baines— Memories

Baines, Christian, “Skin”, Christian Baines, 2020.

Memories

Amos Lassen

Kyle is a young newcomer to New Orleans (my home town) who  is haunted by the memory of Marc, his first lover who was brutally murdered just outside the French Quarter. Marc had been a young Quarter hustler and who was also haunted but  by an eccentric spirit that shared his dreams and by a handsome but lover who shared his The city of New Orleans is a character in the story as well. Writer Christian Baines knows New Orleans and shows us that side from the usual things that we associate with the Big Easy— Mardi Gras, jazz, the food and culture, ghosts and voodoo, it is home to an underbelly that is seedy and unique.
The story is told in alternating points of view and while this, at times, I confusing, it keeps the reader on his toes and guessing. It takes a while to get into the pot and when the reveal comes, it comes swiftly and makes the entire story comprehensible. There is a totally unanticipated final plot twist that brings together the strangeness and formerly not understood aspects of the story.

If you are looking to read a romance, this is not a book for you. There are few boundaries left uncrossed as Baines  exposes the good and the bad of New Orleans while also showing us the uniqueness that is the city’s trademark. I have always felt like a New Orleanian wherever I have lived and there have many instances when I have missed living there.

We meet some really awful people in “Skin”— racists, homophobes, misogynists, potty-mouth violent characters and I found it hard finding someone to cheer on. Kyle is the opposite of a hero and Marc is so elusive that we really do not get to know him. I began to feel an affinity for one of the characters but he met an early and violent death.

This is a story of murder and revenge and creating his novel, Baines uses his characters to represent aspects of society we would hope were not part of society. Bigotry plays a big role here. I found moments of real discomfort as I read but that adds to both the story and the real picture of many New Orleanians. This is also a story of Voodoo and gay issues. Erotica hovers above and throughout the story. We go into the sexuality of each of the characters and read of their bodies and genitals and the effects these have on others. We have beaucoup stereotypes and it is the characters including the city that give us this tale of voodoo and homophobia. 

I have heard comments that some readers find the characters to be two-dimensional with no saving grace and my remark to that is, “how many people do we all know like that?” They may not play a role in our lives but they exist in every society and in this I see the reason for their inclusion.

The erotica is well written and I argue that the lack of emotionally driven characters is intentional and they are these for a purpose. It is up to each reader to discover what that purpose is.

“WE ARE DANCERS” Standing Defiantly

“WE ARE DANCERS”

Standing Defiantly

Amos Lassen

“We Are Dancers” is writer/director Joe Morris’ look at the imagined world of Hansi Sturm, a real cabaret performer whose fate is unknown beyond the rise of the Nazis in 1933. Morris re-imagines those last days as Sturm is conflicted between fleeing with his younger queer friends or standing defiantly in the face of an all too familiar threat of self-loathing from within his own gay circle. The film evokes Sturm’s own unapologetic character with parallels to the polarizing world that we find ourselves in today.” We Are Dancers “is a warning shot about the terrifying prospect of history repeating itself.

Set in 1933 Berlin, we meett Hansi Sturm, an anti-Nazi cabaret drag-artist, and his friends the day after the Reichstag fire. Hansi must decide whether to abandon his club or stay to face the Nazis his former lover has told him will come there to seek revenge.

Hansi worked at the Eldorado Club in Berlin in the late 1920s. When Hitler and the Nazis came to power, Hansi (real name Hans) disappeared; what become of him is not knownThe film is based on fictionalized events of real history – a what if version of Hansi Sturm’s fate.

The story begins on the night of February 28, 1933. The Nazis had been in power for less than a month before a young Dutch communist called Marinus van der Lubbe set fire to the Reichstag (Parliament) building as an act of protest against Hitler’s government. The entire building was destroyed  and the Nazis used this event as a pretext to implement far-reaching restrictions on the rights of citizens to assemble, have a free press, form political associations and criticise the government. It was also used as an opportunity to round up opponents of the regime and settle some old scores.

Marinus Van der Lubbe was tried and executed by the guillotine. With Nazism and other far-right beliefs taking  hold around the world again, it is important to try and talk about queer history in the context of defiance. Many of the gains that the LGBT community has won over the decades are fragile and they can easily be taken away. The threat  that the characters in “We are Dancers” faced in 1933 could easily be threats we all have to face in the coming years. It is important to know our history and be ready to confront prejudice. While the Hansi in our film is an  imagining of the real Hansi Sturm, he represents the sacrifices made by queer people throughout history.

“SHUBH MANGAL ZYADA SAAVDHAN” (“Extra Careful of Marriage”)— A Gay Romantic Bollywood Movie

“SHUBH MANGAL ZYADA SAAVDHAN” (“Extra Careful of Marriage”)

A Gay Romantic Bollywood Movie

Amos Lassen

 Hitesh Kewalya’s “Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan” is a romantic comedy that uses the Bollywood theme of parental disapproval, while a couple wars with their relatives for acceptance of their same-sex relationship. We do not get gay characters much in Hindi cinema or see them treated sympathetically, but here the love story is treated exactly the same as a more traditional romance— it just so happens that the couple are both male. The film is a good attempt at a different kind of love story and is hopefully will bring about more realistic portrayals of LGBTI characters in Bollywood. 

When the film opens, Aman (Jitendra Kumar) and Kartik (Ayushmann Khurrana) running to catch a train setting the stage  for a classic romance. There’s a flashback that shows Aman and Kartik living happily together in Delhi. Kartik’s family is aware of his homosexuality but Aman’s parents have no idea and are thinking about who his future life partner will be as they prepare to marry off his cousin Goggle (Maanvi Gagroo). Kartik is estranged from his parents who cannot accept the fact that their son is gay, but he convinces Aman that because his father is an educated man, all will be well. They plan to keep their relationship secret while attending Goggle’s wedding. However, on the train to the wedding, Aman’s father Shankar Tripathi (Gajraj Rao) sees Aman and Kartik locked together in a kiss and the secret is out. Shankar is appalled by his son’s behavior and is determined to ‘fix’ him by any means possible. The film follows the family’s attempts to deal with what they see is a life-style choice despite Aman’s attempts to convince them otherwise. 

Kartik is the more flamboyant partner, but he never becomes stereotypical and his portrayal of a gay man who is happy in his relationship is as it should be. Aman is quieter and seems to be the product of his small-town upbringing in a large and mostly dysfunctional family. Even though the film is billed as a comedy, there is genuine heartache here on all sides as Aman battles through the difficulties of coming out as gay to his prejudiced and self-centered father. The mix of personalities (Aman’s quieter and more introspective and Kartik’s exuberance and energy) works beautifully despite a flimsy backstory. The romance feels genuine simply because the two are believable as a couple. 

Aman moves back and forth between vulnerability and despair while trying to explain to his parents why there is no difference between their love  and his love for Kartik. However, Shankar and Sunauna (Neena Gupta) had an arranged marriage and there appears to be little love on either side. Aman’s explanations involving dopamine and oxytocin are designed to appeal to his scientist father, but Shankar is relentless in his homophobia and Aman seems helpless to resist his family’s attempts to “cure” his sexuality. We see a symbolic death and rebirth ceremony followed by an attempt to make him marry Kusum (Pankhuri Awasthy) thus making it understandable why he feels as if he cannot destroy his family for his own selfish satisfaction. (Kusum has her own issues too as she is in love with someone deemed totally unsuitable by her family). A marriage of convenience seems an excellent way out, even though Aman is definitely not thrilled by the prospect. It is left to Kartik to fight for his lover and win the family’s acceptance and try to save the day. 

Kartik attempts to overcome the Tripathi family’s prejudices provide some great comedy. The supporting cast is excellent and the actors make sure that most of the scenes are genuinely funny despite the underlying seriousness of the issues. The family dynamic is well played for laughs, particularly in the relationship between Shankar and his younger brother.

In the storyline about Aman’s family’s inability to accept his relationship with Kartik, there is a sub-plot about Shankar’s invention of disease-free black cauliflowers, Goggle’s really quite distressing marriage difficulties Aman’s brother’s own difficult relationship with Shankar and his mother. In the process of dealing with so many characters and sub-plots, the film misses some good opportunities to deal with some of the significant and serious issues facing Kartik and Aman. Even with poignant and keen observations about how difficult it is to find family acceptance of gay relationships, the thought of the next laugh is great, and the film rapidly moves on, instead of letting us savor these brief glimpses into the all too real issues facing many people today.  Although many of the more serious aspects are brushed aside to make way for laughs, the film is a move  in the right direction to open conversations and show the possibility of acceptance of same-sex relationships. It’s a lot of weight for the film to carry, which is perhaps why director Hitesh Kewalya avoids most of the serious points and focuses more on the comedy. This might also explain why there are so many sub-plots to act as a smoke-screen for the more controversial romance. The film is a fun look with some light-hearted entertainment that doesn’t push its social message too hard.


At its heart, this is  film about families that is blunt in its message.

“UNCLE FRANK”— Coming Out in the Deep South

“UNCLE FRANK”

Coming Out in the Deep South

Amos Lassen

“Uncle Frank” takes us on a heartbreaking journey full of ups and downs. It is a coming-of-age story that shows that even the people who we adore aren’t infallible and cannot run away from our past.

Uncle Frank’s (Paul Bettany) story is told from the perspective of his niece,Beth (Sophia Lillis). Both Paul and Frank are the outliers of their Southern family with Beth having aspirations beyond her family and her hometown while Frank already having moved on years before and became a college professor in New York City. This is what brought uncle and niece together. brought them together. Beth worshipped Frank, but there is more going on below the surface. Frank couldn’t run away from his past forever as we see when tragedy forced him to finally face it.

Bettany gives a brilliant performance as Frank. He is charming and also vulnerable. We feel the pain and then the sense of relief when it was lifted from his shoulders. Director Alan Ball’s film is the story ofa gay man struggling to come out to his family also feels and even though it is dated, it is still quite a film.

Set in the Deep South in 1969, Betsy Bledsoe lives a largely sheltered existence in Creekville. Her thoughtful Uncle Frank has moved to New York and he advises her  to love her own desires. Frank doesn’t go home much because  his family is God-fearing, do what your father says type and ruled over by the homophobic Daddy Mac (Stephen Root) and Frank is gay.

By 1973, Betsy who is now known as Beth goes to New York where she quickly learns that Uncle Frank has been less than honest about his domestic arrangements with her mother and father (Judy Greer and Steve Zahn) and is living with his long-term Saudi Arabian boyfriend Wally (Peter Macdissi). When there’s a death in the family, a road trip back home is imminent. Frank, is not happy about returning, especially when Wally decides to come along. Then Frank begins being be haunted by flashbacks to his childhood that are driving him to drink.

This is a period piece that exploits both closeted sexuality and alcoholism. “Uncle Frank,” unfortunately is filled with so many clichés that anything that is genuine is smothered. While the film is deeply frustrating, the cast makes it a fascinating watch.

“MARCO”— A Queer Syrian Refugee

“MARCO”

A Queer Syrian Refugee

Amos Lassen

Saleem Haddad’s short film, “Marco” is a wonderful addition to the gay film canon and you can enjoy it for free on YouTube or below. It is the story of anundocumented Syrian LGBTQ refugee who comes to London and becomes a sex worker in order to make enough money so that he can buy food. This is a heartbreaking story about a gay man from a mother country where homosexuality is forbidden and even punishable by death. Ahmed (Marwan Kaabour) arrives in London after escaping Syria via Turkey and a stay in a stay in a refugee camp in Calais. From there he hid in a shipping container as a stowaway. When he arrived in London, he was arrested and just recently was released from the Detention Center. He only had  £30, and an appointment with the  Home Office to plead his case.

He began to advertise online and used the name Marco. He made up a new biography claiming to be from Barcelona knowing that as a gay Syrian refugee his number of clients would be limited only limit his number of clients and perhaps put him in harm’s way.

Marco met a client named Omar (Zed Josef) who was a successful businessman from Lebanon but living in London for the past decade.  Marco leads a lonely life working most of the time, He ignores  his mother’s phone calls from Syria. However, his accent is recognized by Omar and he feels that he tell him the truth. The two men become close friends because of their common backgrounds. Omar was able to come to London legally but he is sympathetic with Marco’s being gay and Arab is a foreign culture.

I was a bit reminded of myself when I immigrated to Israel as a gay man and this was well before the laws changed. Not only was being gay considered subversive but I had to learn a new language and forget about all that we had in America that had not yet come to Israel. Gay men could be arrested and jailed and it was a very difficult life. ”Marco” reminded me of the inequities involved with being LGBTQ and in his case stateless and homeless. I at least had Israel as my state.  Many of the Arab countries still take away the basic right of people to control their own lives and live free and without hate and prejudice..  

“Marco” is the  story of two men who came together for an evening of sex but then faced the realities of how their lives had changed and it is important to remember that there are many others like them.