Category Archives: GLBT Film

“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.

“LUCKY BLUE”— Camping With Dad

“Lucky Blue”

Camping with Dad

Amos Lassen

Olle is an introverted, well-mannered boy with an air of innocence and sincerity about him. He has been camping with his father at the same camping ground with several other people for years now. It has become a tradition that ends in a karaoke party. One summer, a family friend brings her ‘city boy’ nephew, Kevin, and his pet parakeet. Olle accidentally releases the bird and what follows is a discovery of friendship and love between Olle, the guy who has grown up in a loving environment and simply accepts love for what it is and Kevin, the guy who’s apparently been burned too many times in his own circle to feel comfortable with it.

This is a sweet tale of two teens that feels like it could/should be stretched out into a feature length movie.. Kevin doesn’t seem interested in camping or anything about this holiday but he forms a friendship with Olle, which slowly develops into something more. We get a sweet story with some quirky ideas and characters making this great fun to watch. Tobias Bengtsson as Olle, who has the right level of vulnerability and charm makes us want things to work out for him. It is a lovely story from Sweden about a teenager’s first gay crush.

Writer and director Håkon Liu reflects the feelings of the two young men who are gay and scared of people knowing their true sexuality. Tom Lofterud as Kevin goes as hot and cold on Olle and emotions speak volumes rather than words. The film perfectly captures the tentative steps that two young men take on the gay path of life. While the story is a simple one, it is beautifully shot and told, with the raw passion of gay first love handled in an uplifting way.

“THREE; THE SERIES”— A New Series

“Three: The Series”

A New Series

Amos Lassen

Nashville-based writer and director Jeff Swafford looks at monogamy through the eyes of two gay men, Dylan and Patrick in his new series, “Three.” It asks the question if two gay men can be together long-term and still remain monogamous. Everyone has an opinion and if there is an answer it can be looked at in degrees.

“Three” is a six-episode run and in it, the issue that is rarely spoken about is seen on the screen. It reflects some of the challenges that many have experienced in their own relationships. Actually the series is more about non-monogamy, and the possibilities of polyamory and faces them head on. Swafford has said that he has wanted to tell a story that really explored what happens to a relationship when a third person is introduced.

We see that with Dylan and Patrick that the thrill is gone even though the love remains. Dylan isn’t quite convinced that Patrick’s suggestion of adding another guy into the mix is the right answer. Yet that doesn’t stop them from pursuing some hot eligible men who just might be candidates. Let me summarize the six episodes here without giving anything away.

Episode 1—“The Worst Party in the World” shows us that Dylan is left wondering if he and Patrick have a future together after Patrick’s drunken behavior at a party.

Episode 2— “Mr. Hot Bottom” takes us to Dylan and Patrick deciding to spice their sex life up by having a threesome. Of course, there is the question of whether they survive meeting Mr. Hot Bottom or is Dylan right to be worried that they might be inviting a serial killer into their home?

“Episode 3— “Think With Your Dick” finds Dylan seeking advice from best friend Elliot after a disastrous threesome attempt. He is just not sure if he’s ready to go down this path with Patrick, while Patrick is on his way home with Jason who is new in town.

Episode 4— “Getting to Know You” takes place the morning after Jason and when Dylan, taking Elliot’s advice decides to learn more about Jason.

Episode 5— “A Good Train Wreck” is when Elliot shares with Patrick’s brother about Jason and his causing an argument between the two lovers. The aftermath leaves Dylan and Patrick to wonder if there is anything left to salvage between them.

Episode 6— “Get Out” has the situation getting even farther away from what Dylan wants in life and he faces both Jason and Patrick with disastrous results.

While this my sound super serious, let me assure you that there is a lot of comedy here and an interesting exploration of monogamy in gay relationships.

 

“IT GETS BETTER”— A Love Story

“It Gets Better”

A Love Story

Amos Lassen

“”It Gets Better” is a gay love story between Adam, a closeted jock, and Pierre, an openly gay boy, that revolves around peer pressure, bullying and acceptance. It is a short film that runs a bit under five minutes and was written and directed by Davin Tjen. Pierre gets bullied by a gang of jocks, but Adam, one of the jocks is secretly in the closet. Jump ahead in time, we see what the two protagonists are like several years later. I had a bit of a problem seeing Pierre willing to kiss Adam after he had beaten and harassed him. It felt unauthentic and fake and the acting is over the top. There is another problem in that the kiss comes when one of the other bullies is standing nearby. It is a bit hard to accept that someone’s feelings would change that quickly and put too people in danger of being beat up.

The first part of the film presents only emotions that are irrational and bizarre but not surprising. The spontaneous and unpredictable gesture of the kiss, is the axis of film. The second , having moved to the future is very strange because it represents a good solution and shows that it does get better.

“BEAR CITY 3”— The Final Chapter

“BEAR CITY 3”

The Final Chapter

Amos Lassen

The “Bear City Trilogy” ends here as we go camping with the guys at the Woods Campground where as we might expect, they deal with new loves, old flames, and the joys of being a daddy bear. So much has changed since we left the bears at the end of the second film. Michael’s (Gregory Gunter) boyfriend has died and he tries to get his life back together with a new boyfriend, Dalton (Garikayi Mutambirwa), who loves him. However, has been having trouble letting go of the past and fully committing himself to this new future, which isn’t made easier when Dalton’s daughter Emma (Lauryn Alisa McClain) shows up. Wanting to protect her father, Emma hacks into Michael’s cloud to gather information on so that she can question her dad’s boyfriend about his past.

Fred (Brian Keane) and Brent (Stephen Guarino) meanwhile are preparing to have a baby – with Fred’s sister as the surrogate – but Fred is worried that Brent is too obsessed with finishing his “Beartopia” documentary and isn’t taking the idea of fatherhood too seriously, while Brent thinks Fred is being too uptight and fearful. Roger (Gerald McCullouch), has ended his relationship with his last boyfriend and feels a bit lost, and so sets out to find the ex that he still has feelings for. However, the young ex, Tyler (Joe Conti), has issues of his own. His new boyfriend, fireman Jay (Tom Hooper) hides that he is gay because he is afraid of what his colleagues will say.

They all go off to bear camp at The Woods and they bring all of this baggage with them. The intention is to unwind, relax and have great sex but as we all know only too well, where this is drama it follows us.

What I have always liked about the Bear City films is that we see another aspect of the gay community where the men are not built like Hercules and have gorgeous faces. The Bear City films celebrate that there are alternative forms of beauty as well as issues that we usually do not come across in “twink” films. However, even more important than anything else is that we see a unified spirit among the guys in the film. Let’s face it; most of us are members of “the rest of us” faction in the LGBT community. I remember walking down Commercial Street in Provincetown last summer and thinking that I did not belong there just because I did not look like the other guys I saw.

Brent has turned into a momma bear as he prepares for the baby that will arrive soon. As I said earlier, Fred is so consumed with his new documentary that becoming a father does not faze him. Brent is losing patience over how long this film is taking so he decides, as a producer that the film will have its premier right here at camp. Roger needs some fun in his life so he agrees to go out to the campsite, hoping to rekindle his relationship with Tyler but Tyler’s partner Jay isn’t about to going to let that happen.

We watch each couple work through the challenges of their romantic relationships and we see how each member of this group of bears learns to define the term “family”. Each man is forced to get back to the basics as he learns a valuable lesson about dealing with and tearing down misconceptions, building relationships, rebuilding one’s self, and finding that there is more than enough love in their hearts.

Fred’s sister Susan (Rachael Drummond) is both the voice of reason and the voice of comic relief. She assures Brent that he’s ready to be a father, while reminding Fred that he can’t hide from fatherhood forever.  We see clearly through her that building a family and maintaining a relationship requires work.

Michael and Emma eventually are able to come together over Dalton. Michael saves her, himself and Dalton from a very hairy visitor and Emma sees how he feels about her father and that he is indeed quite a prize. With all of the little intrigues going on, we might have questioned how this would all turn out and of course we want a happy ending. The connections and bonds between lovers and friends strengthen as we head toward the end of the film (and the trilogy). This is the best film of the trilogy and I could not help but think of my friend, now gone, Lewis Tice who had something to do with the project before he left us.

Director Douglas ends his trilogy on a high note and as I watched the other two films in the series I had a feeling that he was saving the best for last. He has something to be proud of but I wonder what we are going to do now that he has moved on.