Category Archives: GLBT Film

“FIREBIRD”— Gay in the Military

“FIREBIRD”

Gay in the Military

Amos Lassen

Until recently, being openly gay in the military was a criminal offence in many countries. When that changed, there’s often a reluctance to ‘come out’ for fear of bullying, harassment and discrimination. In less tolerant and usually only vaguely democratic countries, it’s still illegal. Society’s lapse into bigotry, conservatism and religious intolerance has ruined countless lives and this is what we see in “Firebird.”

Set during the Cold War, Sergey (Tom Prior) is Undertaking his military service on a Russian base. So is his childhood friend Luisa (Diana Pozharskaya) and their friends suspect that the two of them will eventually get together. Sergey counts the days and minutes until he can leave the military but when Roman, an ace pilot (Oleg Zagorodnii), arrives, he becomes interested in him. The men strike up a friendship and eventually start a relationship, but since homosexuality is illegal in the Soviet Air Force they can never be together.Peeter Rebane’s film is a love story seen through the prism of three people who are inexorably drawn together that isan intelligent, thoughtful, moving and involving true gay love story set against the repressive background of a Soviet Air Force Base in the era of the Cold War. The two men are soon threatened by an escalating KGB investigation, and then a love triangle forms between them and the base commander’s secretary.

Tom Prior co-wrote the script about a friendship across the ranks that soon becomes an amorous escapade involving all three comrades in arms, highlighting the risks of love affairs in the time of war, punishable by five years in a hard labor camp.

The most remarkable thing about “Firebird” is its narrative and temporal sweep; the film charts Sergey and Roman’s difficult relationship path, and the characters who become involved in it, as well as the looming threat of conflict between East and West. Rebane’s direction co-ordinates the movie’s different elements into a satisfying drama. We see and feel the threat of danger inherent in the soldiers’ relationship.

“PET PEEVES”— Comedy TV Series Celebrates What Pets Really Think About Their Owners

“PET PEEVES”
Comedy TV Series Celebrates What Pets Really Think About Their Owners
March 25th, 2021 – Los Angeles: This coming National Pet Day (April 11th), find out what pets really think about their owners in the hysterical new dark comedy TV series, PET PEEVES, World Premiering on Revry at 5pm (PST) / 8pm (EST).
Pet Peeves | Trailer | Press Screener
In the vein of BASKETS and Golden Globe winning TED LASSO, this new comedy from creator Spencer Schilly (RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE) revolves around newly paroled pet psychic, Milton Michaels, played by award-winning actor, Jonah Blechman (ANOTHER GAY MOVIE, THIS BOY’S LIFE). 
Schilly shares, “I’ve always had a special connection to animals, and feel they need to be heard. If we had more Milton’s among us, listening to the animals and speaking on their behalf, the world would be a much better place for all of us. PET PEEVES gives us a glimpse into what that world would look like, and how things can get messy when we humans don’t like what we hear.”
Released after 15 years behind bars in a Florida prison, Milton moves to California to live with his sister, Judy, and restart his pet psychic career only to discover the past won’t stay buried for long.  
In his sister’s home, Milton begins acclimating to a now modern world with mobile phones and computers. When he finds the urn containing his childhood dog, he reconnects with the love he had for Sparky. But Milton is quickly torn away from reminiscing when his childhood tormentor, Candice, comes to visit him. Candice, who claims that her dog has been kidnapped, tricks Milton into a scheme that could jeopardize his freedom while Judy becomes increasingly frustrated with Milton for keeping in contact with Milton’s prison lover back in Florida.
Along the way, Milton meets a beautiful millennial model with an eating issue that secretly lives inside her; and a sexy gay couple with an unusually adoring, disobedient dog that reveals a heartfelt shock to Milton that must be acknowledged. 
“I fell in love with playing Milton, the eccentric, ex-con pet psychic”, says Blechman. “The concept of going intimately into the lives of people and their pets totally hit my funny bone and was equally fascinating to explore. Oh, what our animals could tell about us!”
From neurotic pet parents to different types of animals including our furry four-legged friends, the series premieres for free on the global queer TV network, Revry, for National Pet Day, April 11th at https://watch.revry.tv/ and then On Demand at Revry.tv.

“POTATO DREAMS OF AMERICA”— Madcap and Emotional

“POTATO DREAMS OF AMERICA”

Madcap and Emotional

Amos Lassen

Wes Hurley has survived the fall of the Soviet Union, an abusive father, rampant homophobia, culture shock, relocation, and the ire of a deeply closeted step-parent all in their first twenty years of their life.  Wes Hurley now tells their story in a new documentary, “Potato Dreams of America” and they do so with all the absurdity of gay camp, the boldness of the Queer New Wave, and the brashness of 1980s Hollywood.

Born Vasili Naumenko and given the pet name “Potato” by his mother, Hurley grew up in the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok at the very end of the Soviet Union. He witnessed its transition from a corrupt communist state to a corrupt capitalist and he was afraid to confront his sexuality in a homophobic society. His mother, Lena, endured violence from his alcoholic father, and intimidation from her bosses at the local prison for refusing to cover up the guards’ abuses.

Seeing no future for them in Russia beyond continuous demoralization, Lena submits to an American mail-order bride service as a last ticket out. A suitor going by “John” marries Lena and she and Potato came to Seattle to begin a new life in the United States. Potato loves America where he no longer fears for his mother’s safety with “John”. He does not have to worry about food shortages and power outages. However, between experiences of ostracization and homophobia in this country,  he doubts if he’ll ever be able to truly be himself. But Lena supports Potato and her unconditional love lets him embrace his homosexuality with no shame and allows “John” to open up with a big secret.

“Potato Dreams of America” is divided into two parts: the first part is a heavily staged look at Potato and Lena’s life in Russia; the second part is a more biographical and melodramatic telling of their new life in America. Granted, that schism can suggest a sort of “through the looking glass” quality of the mother and son’s move, or it could just be Hurley making a point about artistic license sharing one’s own story. The switch gives a unique sense of extreme narration. Hersh Powers and Sera Barbieri play Potato and Lena in the Russia segments and Tyler Bocock and Marya Sea Kaminski play Potato and Lena in the Seattle section.

Young Potato’s pleading with his friend that he doesn’t have to succumb to virulent anti-Semitism in post-Soviet Russia shows Hurley’s fear of groupthink; the scenes of Potato’s internalized identity struggles give us a sense of frustration and fear; and Potato’s coming-out scene to Lena is heartfelt. Moments like these are filled  with genuine emotion and depth.

The film centers on a kid growing up in a dysfunctional household who struggles with finding his identity. It is something of a cinematic kaleidoscope. Hurley features sequences dedicated to pop musicals and the silent film era so for somebody who was so influenced by films growing up, it felt inevitable that he was going to turn his life into a movie.

The narrative begins in Russia just as  the USSR is collapsing. Here, we meet Hurley’s surrogate, the peculiar “Potato “who lives with his prison doctor mother and constantly battles bullies at school due to his effeminate behavior. He endures tough love from his Grandma Tamara (Lea DeLaria) and spends his free time talking with an imaginary Jesus Christ  (Jonathan Bennett).

Aside from conversing with Christ, Potato’s other favorite pastime is ignoring his troubles by watching mostly American movies. This adoration of film is a foundational part of Potato’s personality and adds to major life changes for he and his mother.

Hurley uses this backdrop of exterior brutality to add complexity to the ensemble cast and he balances the narrative’s eccentricity withemotionality. The story may be simple on its surface, but it’s the specificity that keeps us engaged.

“THE SWEDISH BOYS”— Let’s Go to Sweden

“THE SWEDISH BOYS”

Let’s Go to Sweden

Amos Lassen

Get ready to explore a dizzying confection of Swedish life and love spanning all shades of the gay experience, from childhood confusion to a teen’s coming out, a trio of friends in a three-way relationship, a mother trying to connect with her deaf son and a heterosexual ghost from a homosexual past.

“COMING OUT” directed by Jerry Carlsson introduces us to Joel who has finally made up his mind, or so he thinks. Tonight he’s going to tell his parents, but is this the right moment? How should he do it, and what should he say?

In “POLLY” from Eric Ernerstedt and Julija Green Jacob’s ex-girlfriend Polly comes to visit and the pair can barely contain their excitement. Since their teenage days when they were an item, Jacob has long since been out of the closet and in a happy relationship with boyfriend Nicholas, so both he and Polly have a lot of catching up to do. Polly’s visit extends into a long stay as the trio enjoy each other’s company. However, all good things must, eventually, come to an end.

Nathalie Álvarez Mesén directed “FLIP” about Yonatan who abandons the Israeli army in an attempt to reunite with his ex-boyfriend. But after being rejected, he finds himself alone in Tel Aviv, without a place to sleep. Broken and confused, he heads into the night looking for consolation. On a hook-up app he meets a 40-year-old man named Sam who invites him to come over. Upon arrival, Yonatan finds himself in the midst of a party – an uninhibited wonderland filled with strange men. The night unfolds through urges of self-destruction and desperation. But all Yonatan wants is a warm human embrace. And so begins the journey of an 18 year old boy who’s looking for home.

“NO BRAKES” (När bromsvajern släpper) directed by Alexandra Litén is about Johan who we see sitting on a small jetty by the lake, deep in thought, struggling to find the words to say, or the actions to take. Joined by friends Anton and Julie, the trio cycle through the Swedish countryside, and as the sun begins to set, more friends come with them and beer and guitars take over their party. However, Johan is still deep in thought. When the day breaks, Johan’s fears are gone.

“THE MEMORY OF YOU” is directed by Nils Emil T. Jonsson​.Adam is going to dinner with his wife, when he is disrupted by something from his past. This is a story about a love that never was and the promise of what could have been, shot in one single take during a quiet night on a Stockholm side street.

“DISTANCES” from director Valentina Chamorro Is the story of  the complicated mother-son relationship between David and Eve. They try to reach each other but do not quite know how. One problem is the language barrier, as David is deaf and Eva is not very good at sign language. After moving back to her country of birth, Eva comes to Sweden on a short visit, where she discovers what so many parents do throughout the lives of their offspring – children never cease to surprise their parents.

In “STOCKHOLM DAYBREAK” (Gryning) director Elin Övergaard in just 7 minutes  tells the story of teensAxel and Love who are on the way home after a night out partying. As the sun rises, they start to see each other in a whole new light. This is a tender portrait of the struggle to say what you mean to the person you care for.

ABOUT NQVMEDIA…

NQVmedia is a distribution company formed out of New Queer Visions, a short film ‘bolt on’ that successfully programmed LGBTQ+ short films for five years across numerous film festivals, including London Short Film Festival, East End Short Festival and Shortwaves Festival in Poland.www.newqueervisions.com

 

“THE SIGNIFYIN’ WORKS OF MARLON RIGGS”— A Singular Filmmaker

“THE SIGNIFYIN’ WORKS OF MARLON RIGGS”

A Singular Filmmaker

Amos Lassen

InJune, 2021 Criterion is bringing us“The Signifyin’ Works of Marlon Riggs” in which we see that there has

never been a filmmaker like Marlon Riggs (1957-1994). Riggs was an unapologetic gay black man who went against a culture of silence and shame to speak his truth with conviction and joy. Early on he used video technology with a deep understanding of the power of words and images to effect change combining documentary performance, poetry, music and experimental techniques with which he faced the issues that most of Reagan-era America refused to acknowledge. These included the devastating legacy of racist stereotypes to the impact of the AIDS crisis on his own queer African American community and the definition of what it means to be Black.

Here are Riggs’s complete works – including “Tongues Untied” and “Black Is . . . Black Ain’t. “The Signifyin’ Works of Marlon Riggs” follows the artistic and political evolution of a transformative filmmaker whose work is a call for liberation and an invaluable historical document. This amazing new boxed set from The Criterion Collection also includes  “Ethnic Notions”, “Affirmations”, “Anthem”, “Color Adjustment” and “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien”.

Special features include: New high-definition digital masters of all seven films, with uncompressed stereo soundtracks on the Blu-rays; Four new programs featuring editor Christiane Badgley, performers Brian Freeman, Reginald T. Jackson and Bill T. Jones, filmmakers Cheryl Dunye and Rodney Evans, poet Jericho Brown, film and media scholar Racquel Gates and sociologist Herman Gray; Long Train Running: The Story of the Oakland Blues (1981), Riggs’s graduate thesis film; An introduction to Riggs, recorded in 2020 and featuring filmmakers Vivian Kleiman and Shikeith, and Ashley Clark, curatorial director of the Criterion Collection; The documentary I Shall Not Be Removed: The Life of Marlon Riggs (1996); Plus an essay by film critic K. Austin Collins.

“POPPY FIELD”— In the Closet

“POPPY FIELD”

In the Closet

Amos Lassen

 In “Poppy Field”, a member of the Romanian Gendarmerie faces up to the secrets of his personal life.  Directed by Eugen Jebeleanu, it is comprised of two elongated scenes, as it shows what it is to be closeted in a hyper-masculine society. 

Cristi (Conrad Mericoffer) is hosting his French Muslim boyfriend Hadi (Radouan Leflahi) at his apartment. They cannot keep their hands off each other but life outside of the bedroom isn’t so simple. When Hadi broaches the idea of visiting the mountains for a night, Cristi has weak and this leads to excuses an awkward encounter when his sister comes over to visit. 

The film puts Cristi’s tortured complexity into context. On the police beat, he is called to the scene of a queer cinema screening that is being blocked by ultra-nationalist protestors. The scene is presented in realistic detail. When Cristi meets a former lover at that same screening, he quickly goes out of control, causing controversy when the encounter turns violent. 

With only a couple of locations to convey the conflicted inner state of its main protagonist, we see the way the other cops — who occupy a strange middle-ground between the LGBT friendly theatre-goers and the religious zealots — try and calm Cristi down through monologues that are alternately sad, funny and a little strange.This is an exciting, morally grey film that takes on a complex topic within a country that is still in the process of fully recognizing LGBT rights. Stressing realism over didacticism while realizing the full humanity of nearly all its players, we see the rich and exciting potential of contemporary Romanian film.

For many of us, a cinema is a sanctuary, a place to escape our troubles for the accumulative run time of a movie. In “Poppy Field”, however, an arthouse cinema proves just the opposite for its gay protagonist.

Cristi’s encounter with his nosy sister is filled with unspoken homophobia and Islamophobia. He then joins up with his macho co-workers and heads to a local arthouse cinema, where a screening of an LGBTQ film has been disrupted by an angry mob of Christian nationalists. He is immediately uncomfortable, with his colleagues mocking both the protesters and the interrupted audience members. When asked to provide identification, the latter are understandably reluctant to comply, and tensions begin to rise as both the protesters and the cinema-goers accuse the gendarmerie of bias.

Even with keeping his head down, Cristi is spotted by a young man who claims to have once dated him, something Cristi angrily denies. Desperate to silence this guy, Cristi takes him into the empty auditorium and subjects him to a quick piece of old-fashioned police brutality. This just escalates an already tense scenario, threatening to expose Cristi’s true identity to his colleagues.

Cristi sticks out among his macho mates, though they seem oblivious to his true sexuality, likely because the idea of one of their own being gay is beyond their realm of comprehension. At several points one of Cristi’s colleagues says something referring to the secret of his sexuality or the secret of how he beat a young man. Cristi is so desperate to keep the former secret that it seems he will gladly accept any punishment for his assault. Watching Cristi spout homophobic rhetoric in an attempt to hide his secret is hard.

While Cristi’s co-workers are homophobes, Jebeleanu refuses to take the easy route of presenting them as villains. One colleague in particular, Mircea (Alexandru Potocean), acts as something of a big brother to Cristi, and we get the feeling that if anyone is aware of Cristi’s sexuality it’s this guy. His treatment of Cristi suggests an awareness and sensitivity to something he can’t understand and isn’t willing to openly discuss.

The police are uniquely bonded in that way that people who spend eight hours a day working side by side and in dangerous scenarios tend to be. If Cristi’s secret came out, would their bond prove strong enough for them to accept him? The true tragedy of “Poppy Field” is that men like this would rather not face such questions. Anyone who believes “don’t ask, don’t tell” isn’t a harmful way to live should see this film and see how such a mentality really affects those forced to live under such stifling conditions.

Between noisy, demanding crowd scenes and periods of stillness during which the tension builds, the film is an assault on the senses, giving viewers a taste of Cristi’s emotional state. Troubled as he is, he is sometimes a difficult person to be close to, but Merricoffer’s performance is riveting.

“WHY NOT YOU” (“Hochwald”)— A Little Village in Austria

“WHY NOT YOU” (“Hochwald”)

A Little Village in Austria

Amos Lassen

Mario (Thomas Prenn) is stuck in the little mountain village of Hochwald, Austria where everyone has something to say about him. He is a flamboyant dancer, and has no place in the conservative town. The only one who really seems to understand him is his best friend Lenz (Noah Saavedra) who escaped the village to follow an acting career. He is back for a few days before going to Rome in hopes of meeting his agent. As an act of defiance, Mario and Lenz go to a gay bar but while they are there, the gay club is attacked and many people die, including Lenz. Mario returns home, heartbroken and feeling the hostility in Hochwald.

The attackers on the gay club are Muslims but this is just the starting point for the film to examine the relationship that Catholic Austria has with its Muslim population. We see clearly how deeply homophobic Austria is. When Mario finds refuge with Nadim (Josef Mohamed), an old friend who is Muslim, we see that Muslims aren’t singular in their beliefs and that there are many different approaches within Islam just as there are in Catholicism. 

Hochwald sits on an ethnic-linguistic border and we understand that Mario pretends not to know about his homosexuality. He has a reckless passion for dance and, while working as a pastry chef, in an attempt to make money to cultivate his artistic career, he spends his days in the butcher’s shop, charging for “special services” that take place in the back room. When Lenz becomes the victim of a terrorist attack this triggers in Mario an emotional swing between the sense of guilt and the desire for liberation.

Mario suffers from cultural and mental constraints, which is why his dance is hysterical. His rhapsodic sense of inadequacy, his desire to cover up his sexuality and the dissonance between Hochwald’s unawareness of its environment, the conflict between closure and the need to express oneself fully are the themes of the film.

When the film begins to become self-referential, with the introduction of an Islamic terrorist attack that leads to the death of Lenz and leaving Mario unharmed, things begin to change. Hochwald’s silence is broken and the intersection of the mechanics of destiny that allows one to survive and another to die comes to the fore. Mario cannot be himself, nor can he oppose a mute community that pretends unawareness. Mario is guilty of having survived, but deeply innocent.

The event of Lenz’s death is an awakening of the internal conflict that throws Mario out of himself, causing his internal tension to become explicit. We feel the dissonance between the consciousness of being alive and the thought of not having to be.

“STONE FRUIT”— A Movie About Gay Divorce and More

“STONE FRUIT”

A Movie About Gay Divorce and More

Amos Lassen

When couple Manny (Matt Palazzolo)and Russ(Rob Warner)  decide to end their marriage and get a divorce, they celebrate by going to the Central Coast of California together for wine, sun, and a threesome. They are complex, confident gay men who are struggle to end their marriage and stay friends. This is anti-romantic comedy that brings in a queer perspective and looks at the complicated similarities that many couples, both queer and straight, deal with during their love story. The film also explores same-sex divorce and gives us a nuanced look at the dynamics of interracial relationships and the issues that a generation of gay men post-AIDS, post-marriage equality and post-recession face.This is the story of these two gay men struggling with their relationships like their heterosexual counterparts.“Stone Fruit” shows people outside of the LGBT community that we argue and love just like everyone else.

Russ and Manny are an interracial soon-to-be-divorced gay couple who decide to end their marriage by having a weekend at the vineyards of Paso Robles. Director Brandon Krajewski wanted to create a gay film that does not deal with the trauma of coming out. The film was inspired by Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” series but it also looks at points of contention that come up within any interracial relationship. 

As Manny and Russ celebrate their divorce with a weekend of wine tastings, they come across their mutual friend Byron (Thomas Hobson) and come to terms with the end of their marriage.  In the film, we go past the marriage, and [looks at,] now, what happens when a gay marriage, a gay relationship, falls apart. This has yet to be normalized now sense marriage equality passed.

Russ, who is white, often speaksin a way that seems really insensitive to Mannywho is Polynesian.Russ as a character is stuck in his privilege, and it may be one of the few ways where he can try and hurt Manny. Race is a part of their relationship. With Manny asamartist and Russ trying to talk like an art critic, we see the intellectual elitism that certain people have. Russ himself is not really a creative person, but what he can do is destroy art through criticism. Art is personal for a lot of people even when it’s something that Russ sees as silly. He is the kind of person who if he can’t explain something, it’s stupid or silly.

This is a fascinating look at something we do not usually see in LGBTQ films and it is well-done and gives us a lo to think about.

“THE MALE GAZE: NOCTURNAL INSTINCTS”— Queer Stories from Israel, Sweden Belgium, China and the United Kingdom

 


“THE MALE GAZE: NOCTURNAL INSTINCTS”

Queer Stories from Israel, Sweden Belgium, China and the United Kingdom

Amos Lassen

NQV media brings us yet another anthology of five short films that take us into the darkness of night as seen through the short films of talented directors.

“SPIRAL” directed Gustav Olsson from Sweden is set two hours before Karim and Dan are preparing for a trip to Argentina. Dan leaves their apartment and disappears without any trace. Suspecting that his partner may have fallen back into bad habits, Karim sets out to find him. Knowingly putting himself into harm’s way in Malmö’s seedy, crime-ridden underworld, Karim needs to have a thick skin to come out the other side, especially as Dan draws him deeper into the darkness. This is a “gripping, frenetic and electric descent into madness… that won’t let go.” 

“FLOATING MELON (浮果)” from China and directors   Roberto F. Canuto and Xu Xiaoxi takes us between the glittering skyscrapers and grimy back alleys of a bustling Chengdu where an anxious Xiao Cheng roams the night. A moment of drug-infused passion has gotten him into trouble, but in a place where hardline authorities are omnipresent. Who can he turn to for help? The short film is a look at the little-seen underbelly of one of China’s provincial new powerhouse cities, where on the surface much has changed, but the hustle and danger of the night remains the same.

“POOF” from British director Dean Anderson is about Aaron, an apprehensive 18-year-old who is stuck in a small town, helping his father in a job that he hates. His life is soon turned upside-down when he meets Mike at a party. At first, Aaron denies his feelings but an unexpected kiss changes everything. As he enters into a hidden relationship with Mike, Aaron finds that some secrets are harder to keep than others. The more he explores his sexuality, the more he begins to consider the impact this may have on the rest of his life.

From Belgium, “AFTER DAWN” directed by Nicolas Graux is the story of Pawel who is ensconced in a solitary existence, separation and has become hardened by distance. He is absolutely positive that his feelings for the young man he was in love with have long since left him but then one rainy day when he receives a visit from Clément. 

“NIGHT OF LOVE” directed by Israeli Omri Loukas is about Yonatan who abandons the army in an attempt to reunite with his ex-boyfriend. But after being rejected, he finds himself alone in Tel Aviv, without a place to sleep. Broken and confused, he heads into the night looking for consolation. On a hook-up app he meets a 40-year-old man named Sam who invites him to come over. Upon arrival, Yonatan finds himself in the midst of a party – an uninhibited wonderland filled with strange men. The night unfolds through urges of self-destruction and desperation. But all Yonatan wants is a warm human embrace. He begins the journey of an 18 year old boy who’s looking for home.

 ABOUT NQVMEDIA

NQVmedia is a distribution company formed out of New Queer Visions, a short film ‘bolt on’ that successfully programmed LGBTQ+ short films for five years across numerous film festivals, including London Short Film Festival, East End Short Festival and Shortwaves Festival in Poland.

“EVERYTHING I LIKE”— A New Worker

“EVERYTHING I LIKE”

A New Worker

Amos Lassen

Guillermo Rovira’ “Everything I Like” introduces us to Daniel (Milton Roses), an editor at a production company. When Javier, a new cameraman, is hired, Daniel’s life is changed totally and in ways he never expected. He always thought of himself as straight but finds himself beginning to develop feelings for Javier. Daniel’s friends encourage him to give into his feelings and come out but he isn’t sure that he is ready to do so.  He finally accepts his bisexuality and starts online dating which is uncomfortable for him. He finds himself often embarrassed as he winds his way thorough possible partners. His problem is that he is really looking to find the courage to tell Javier how he really feels. Compounded with this is Daniel’s fear of being naked in front of another person.

Sometimes it takes another person to make us realize who we really are and to be able to admit that to ourselves. We worry about how we are perceived by others and therefore lost some of the best times we could have. Daniel is encouraged to accept himself as a gay male even though he feels that he is unsure that he is. This is not a new situation for many and watching this reminds us of that.