Category Archives: GLBT documentary

“ROOM TO GROW”— Series Premiere  October 11th,  National Coming Out Day

 

“ROOM TO GROW”

Series Premiere  October 11th,  National Coming Out Day

Amos Lassen

Premiering on Oct. 11th, this inspiringly heartwarming docu-series chronicling the lives of LGBTQ+ teens and families in cities across North America, offering an intimate glimpse into their daily lives as they endeavor to find an identity that fits and a place in their communities.  The premiere episode introduces Savannah (star of the HBO doc BELIEVER about Imagine Dragon’s Dan Reynold’s charity) and her viral moment of being shut out of the Mormon church.  

“Fascinating…fresh, compelling…rousing and eye-opening…affecting…moving…most engaging. All but the most intolerant members of our society will have some of their assumptions shaken by these forthright and intelligent kids.”  – Stephen Farber, The Hollywood Reporter

 A Revry Original

Directed, Produced and Cinematography by Matt Albers & Jon Garcia

“An intriguing cast of teenage characters enlivens…triumphant moments…with racial as well as sexual or gender issues…poignantly caught…throughout this humane document.” – Stephen Farber, The Hollywood Reporter

Revry Original docu-series ROOM TO GROW chronicles the lives and stories of LGBTQ+ teens and families in cities across North America, offering an up-close and intimate glimpse into their daily lives as they endeavor to find an identity that fits and a place in  their communities.  ROOM TO GROW shows just how important it is for LGBTQ+ teenagers to receive the support they need at home, at school, at church, and in the world to reach their full potential.  Kids grow up fast, and it’s amazing how much these teenagers changed within 12 months.  The Bridging Voices Queer Youth Chorus is a Portland singing group that provides a safe and supportive space for LGBTQ+ youth.  

Matt Alber – Co-Director / Producer

Matt Alber is a two-time Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter, filmmaker and LGBTQ+ youth educator based in Portland, OR.  Matt’s music has been featured on ABC’s The Fosters and Bones.  He has performed on stages world-wide from Lincoln Center to Tchaikovsky Hall.  In 2015, the U.S. State Department sent Matt to Russia, Hungary, Kosovo, Estonia, Finland and Sudan as an Artist Diplomat to work with young artists and at-risk youth.  He holds a degree in voice and composition and is the co-founder of Room To Grow Productions, a documentary-focused film studio in Portland, OR.

Jon Garcia – Co-Director / Producer

Jon Garcia is an accomplished musician and Emmy-nominated filmmaker currently living in Portland, OR.  He earned a BA in Film Studies from Portland State University.  He has released feature films in varying genres in his short career as a filmmaker, including the cult trilogy THE FALLS, THE FALLS: TESTAMENT OF LOVE, and THE FALLS: COVENANT OF GRACE being the most well known.  The films have screened in film festivals all over the world and have been available on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, iTunes and many other platforms.  He is also the co-founder of Room To Grow Productions, a documentary-focused film studio in Portland, OR.

About Revry

Revry is the first global queer streaming network, available in 35 million homes in over 100 countries, with a uniquely curated selection of LGBTQ+ film, series, and originals along with the world’s largest queer libraries of groundbreaking podcasts, albums and music videos. Revry is available worldwide on seven OTT, mobile, and online platforms, and hosts the exclusive LGBTQ+ channels on Pluto TV and XUMO. Headquartered in Los Angeles, Revry is led by an inclusive team of queer, multi-ethnic and allied partners who bring decades of experience in the fields of tech, digital media, and LGBTQ+ advocacy.  Follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @REVRYTV. Go Online to: https://revry.tv.

“CALL HER GANDA”— True Journalism

“CALL HER GANDA”

True Journalism

Amos Lassen

“Call Her Ganda” is a staggering and thought-provoking documentary on the epidemic of violence against LGBTQ people. Part-chronicle, part-tribute, the film is ushered by Three central female figures take on a seemingly never-ending and irremediable quest for justice in this part-tribute, part-chronicle powerful film.

Jennifer Laude was a twenty-six-year-old transgender woman from the Philippines who died at the hands of a US Marine. She was warm, caring and giving person who did not have, Jennifer did not have a normal childhood and grew up in a bigoted, oppressive environment where she always feared for her safety. As a young adult, she used most of the money she made to help her mother and make generous loans to her community. Julita, her mother, called her Ganda (the Tagalog word for “beauty”), as the little girl would always playfully talk about how pretty she was.

After she grew up, Jennifer became a sex worker. One night on the job, she was taken to a motel by Joseph Scott Pemberton, a nineteen-year-old American serviceman who brutally killed her by submerging her head in the toilet of the motel’s bathroom. After being apprehended, Pemberton received plenty of sympathy from media figures, law enforcement officers and the general public. In response, three brave women took it on themselves to help bring justice to Jennifer’s ghastly death. One of them was Meredith Talusan, a trans journalist who brought the case to the media’s spotlight by publishing articles. Another was Virgie Suarez, a devoted attorney who relentlessly fought for Laude’s attacker to receive legal punishment. The third was Jennifer’s mother who was the leading figure behind several political protests, ensuring that her voice is heard and that her daughter’s tragic death is not overlooked.

It was not the public at large, but a group of LGBTQ individuals and allies who openly mourned Jennifer’s loss and rioted and called for justice to be served. Only a handful of media-recognized figures stood up to this horrible death, but it was enough to spur a movement that managed to obtain a conviction. (It was a reduced, hard-fought and long overdue verdict with Pemberton eventually sentenced for homicide after years of trial).

This ruling represented a critical juncture for the trans community of the Philippines, as for over a century not a single United States soldier was ever convicted for reported harassment, murder and rape and this certainly far not the first care of abuse of trans Filipinas by American servicemen— these officers were consistently assigned immunity under the region’s Visiting Forces Agreement. This blatant favoritism is what sparked a genuine controversy on a political and social level in the aftermath of Jennifer’s death, drawing attention to institutional violence, colonialism and how transphobia still operates in the court of law. Director PJ Raval includes a relevant segment on the historical colonization of the Philippines taking a critical look regarding the United States’ political influence and its residual effects in the country. The documentary does not only showcase the search for justice, but also the prejudice, hatred and undertones of bigotry that prevent it from coming to an end.

This is an important and fascinating watch. It’s also an upsetting, eye-opening film layered with themes of oppression, inhumanity, and discrimination. We immediately know why Jennifer was murdered—that alone is an unfortunate truth we have had to come to terms with. But how she was murdered and just what happens afterward is nothing we might have expected.

“THE SILK AND THE FLAME”— Parental Pressure

“The Silk and the Flame”

Parental Pressure

Amos Lassen

“The Silk And The Flame” explores parental pressure in China on younger generations who desire nothing more than to explore their own sexuality without fear of judgment. We meet Yao who travels back from Beijing to his family’s village so that they can celebrate Chinese New Year together. Jordan Schiele’s cinematography and direction captures everyday life in rural China and this stays with viewers long after the credits roll. Yao selflessly puts aside his own needs to support his family, all while fending off their relentless need to see him settle down with a nice woman.

The homecoming exodus across Mainland China leading up to New Year is thought to be the largest regular mass migration in the world. Unfortunately for Yao Shou, things get even more uncomfortable for him when he arrives at his parents’ house. The climate for LGBT Chinese citizens is not good (to say the least), especially in homes. For various social reasons, there is a lack of welfare programs and the slightly loosened One Child policy puts gays and lesbians under enormous pressure to marry. Yao is an example of this. He explains the corrosive effect it has on his relationship with his family. It is easy to understand why the closeted Yao feels so guilty. His mother is deaf and essentially mute, due to a case of childhood medical malpractice. His stroke-impaired father has given up on life, sinking into a state of existential near-catatonia. Since he was a teenager,

Yao has been his family’s primary source of financial support—and he provided well. Yet, he is constantly miserable because he lacks a wife of convenience to placate them, as well as a lover for his own personal fulfillment.

Yao never really embraced life in Beijing, but he looks increasingly out of place in Jiwa, a provincial village in Henan. In large part, it is because of the endless questions from family and neighbors regarding his matrimonial prospects, yet we get a sense of even deeper tensions dividing Yao and his father.

Visually, this is a striking documentary. We get a vivid perspective on modern life in rural Henan. The trust that exists between the two friends, subject and documentarian, is also unmistakable. How much Yao opens himself up for his Schiele’s camera is quite remarkable. We can only wonder what will happen when the film makes its way back to Jiwa village. Perhaps this is Yao’s intention yet he has certainly expended great time and effort far to maintain his double life.

“TRANSMILITARY”— The Ban

“TransMilitary”

The Ban

Amos Lassen

Being transgender isn’t something that should take away from someone having the ability to serve in combat.  The road to lifting the transgender military ban was a long one.   All it took was a question during a town-hall meeting in Kandahar, Afghanistan when then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter was visiting.  Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, a doctor, asked Carter his thoughts on transgender soldiers serving in an “austere environment.”

This question by Ehrenfeld is what ultimately led to the ban on transgender members serving openly getting lifted in 2016 and as such, 15,500 service members were finally allowed to serve openly in the military without having to hide who they truly are.

Co-directors Gabriel Silverman and Fiona Dawson chose a perfect project to make their feature film debut.  “TransMilitary” is a follow up to the 2015 documentary short, “Transgender, at War and in Love” in which two subjects were profiled— Staff Sergeant Logan Ireland and Corporal Laila Ireland (ret.). “TransMilitary” also follows the stories of Captain Jennifer Peace and Captain El Cook.  Some of these people are based stateside while others have seen deployment.  In coming out before the ban was lifted, service members risked losing everything that they’ve worked their entire lives for.

Even though TransMilitary is a documentary and not a narrative feature, it is the importance of films such as these that can help to spread education and awareness when it comes to representation.  Transgender people do not think of their lives as an experiment at all. They just want to live as anyone else does.

“Transmilitary” is a rational approach to the subject of transmen and women serving in US Armed Forces and it focuses on facts. Filming began back in November 2014 and the film focused on four individual stories of serving transmen and women, all with exemplary records. The same four who are nervously waiting to see if they will ever be officially recognized.  The ban of them serving dates back to World War II medical regulations, but despite this there are an estimated 15500 trans in the Armed Forces that are actually making them the largest employer of trans people in the country.

Captain Jennifer Peace started transitioning just 6 months after she got married and a couple of years into her service.  She has consistently been singled out for praise for her performance and promotion .  Yet despite this, on occasion she has been outed by local commanders and has been discriminated against and been allocated mindless jobs beneath her rank.

Muscle-bound Staff Sergeant Logan Ireland was serving in Kandahar province facing dangerous missions daily.  He revels in the fact that he is completely accepted  in his Unit, so much so he confides to his fiance Laila in their weekly Skype video call, if it wasn’t for her, he’d much rather never come home.  He knows that the moment he is redeployed back to the US, the local Commander there may insist he goes back to joining the female ranks again.

Laila understands this as she is a transwoman serving in the Army in Hawaii under Commanders who insists that she obey Army rules and present totally as a man.  In the end it will be the reason she will accept an honorable discharge after 12 years of service.

The 4th subject is Captain El Cook, a black trans man from Houston whose mother is a church pastor.  She, and his  clique of bros accept him fully, but he still wears  a ponytail  just in case he is ever told by superiors that he has to present himself as a woman again.

All of them are members of SPARTA an association of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people who currently serve or have served in the U.S. armed forces . The documentary traces their involvement over the next few years, each of them knowing that they were ‘outing’ themselves and this could lead to them being dishonorably discharged.

The fear they experience at times is real, but nevertheless will not put any of them off. They helping to fight for their right to serve legally.  They know that time may be running out for them.  As one of their leaders comments no new President would want to make this issue a priority in their new term.  That was of course before the unexpected Election result.

Their lobbying played off and on June 30th 2016 Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that as a result of the 6-month investigation he had decided that all qualified transgender men and women could serve with immediate effect.  For once these men and women could relax secure in the knowledge that their commitments to serve and fight for their country was finally rightfully recognized.

That elation lasted for one year and on June 26th 2017 Trump blasted out a tweet announcing the ban would be re-introduced with immediate effect. He didn’t offer any facts at all to support his decision and in reality was just playing to the  prejudices of his alt-right supporters.

The Heads of the Military stepped up to the plate and said that not only would the ban not be imposed immediately, they all insisted that everyone serving regardless of orientation of gender would always be treated with the respect they deserve.

With such  an unstable Commander In Chief now no rationale would be of any use and it looks like the Courts are the only way f to get the Ban lifted once and for all. 

What we really see here is that no matter how these men and women deal with their gender dysphoria they are also risking their lives by choosing to serve their country and their very future can be changed by prejudiced politicians. 

“TOSCA’S KISS”— Aging and the Power of Music

“Tosca’s Kiss” (“Il Baco de Tosca”)

Aging and the Power of Music

Amos Lassen

Director Daniel Schmid introduces us to the residents of the “Casa di Riposa” in Milan, the world s first nursing home for retired opera singers, founded by composer Giuseppe Verdi in 1896. This documentary has developed an underground cult following over the years and is a favorite among opera and music lovers worldwide. Schmid has captured a world in which these wonderful singers (many of whom had significant careers on the opera stage) re-live and re-enact their triumphant roles of the glorious past. This is a touching and often very funny film on the subject of aging and the power and timeless capacity of music to inspire. We see a microcosm of the universal problems of aging. While those who made the film showed total compassion for those who appear here, the camera was as unrelenting following “cast” from the public rooms to their own small bed/sitting rooms.

I found myself sympathizing with the plight of people who have only their memories yet their resilience is inspiring. The film hit close to home for me as I am now dealing with the memories of my lifetime. I have also lived in a place similar to this and the stereotypes we see here exist everywhere— ladies wearing once-lovely furs and fighting old age.

The retirement home lived of the rights of Verdi’s compositions, but Verdi is in the public domain now and the house survives on charity. It is moving to see these very old people, some of them hardly walking, sing and discuss singers and show the costumes of their time of glory. They still have a voice. They still vibrate from that unique love of music. It is a unique world that is extraordinarily human.

It is a special treat to watch these who were the toast of the world of opera. We see that just because someone is elderly doesn’t mean he/she has nothing to offer anymore.

The premise if the Verdi home is certainly unique– a retirement home for opera stars. They may not be on stage but they are still performing. It’s inspiring to see that, no matter what, these people are still vital and enthusiastic and entertained by the music they worked with all their lives.

This documentary nicely and poignantly captures the feel of this rest home for needy singers/musicians. The house was built by the great Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, who referred to it as his greatest work.

“MAN MADE”— Four Men

“Man Made”

Four Men

Amos Lassen

T Cooper, an author and filmmaker, has a new documentary that follows four men as they prepare to compete in Trans Fit Con, the only bodybuilding competition in the US  specifically for the trans community.  The contest rules simply state that everyone must identify as trans and as such they allow contestants to enter regardless at what point they are in their physical transition.

 

Mason is the most serious of the four and he has a strict diet regime. He is married but has still never been naked in front of his wife.

Rese was homeless when filming started. His mother who is raising his five-year-old son kicked him out. During the filming,  he met and married a new partner, who is also trans, and they have moved to Baltimore together.  

Dominic is a rapper from St Paul,  has a fiancé Thea, and at the start of filming and with her support, he was about to undergo a double mastectomy.  He is also on a journey to identify to find his biological mother who had given him up for adoption and who can reveal his true ethnicity at last.  Dominic is the one who is most relaxed with his a real body-builder physique and pokes fun at the stomach he cannot quite get rid of.

Kennie is just about to start his transitioning journey.  His lesbian girlfriend, DJ, is fully supportive of his choices but feels that this will probably signal the end of their relationship  As the testosterone shots begin taking effect, Kennie’s sex drive increases. As his body changes, DJ becomes less attractive to him.

Cooper also gives brief bios of the other men who are taking part in the competition in Atlanta. or so men taking part and discusses issues they all face like the decision to wear a packer (a fake penis) to pad the front of their speedos.

The men proudly express that their bodies are at last matching their true gender but the fact that they are going one step further to be ultra-masculine as bodybuilders is not just for their own satisfaction, but so that society can really see them as who they really are.

The film is really more about how transitioning can affect the man’s personal relationships and if they can adjust sufficiently to meet their needs.

 “Man Made”  destroys stereotypes about body builders as it challenges the ideals of “traditional masculinity” inherent in the sport, showing how  for four transgender men, bodybuilding is about presenting one’s true identity to the world rather than a drug-enhanced self-improvement model. The social complexities of the issues raised by each man are narrowed in order to focus purely on the human effect – the reaction of each individual and their wider families. The film is at its best when it sidesteps the entire bodybuilding premise altogether, and focuses on the personal stories that have led each subject to this moment.

Director T Cooper has managed to find the inherent humanity in the bodybuilding sub-culture through a diverse mix of men who destroy stereotypes.

“BELIEVER”— Mormonism and Homophobia

“Believer”

Mormonism and Homophobia

Amos Lassen

The worldwide popularity of the band Imagine Dragons means that millions of people will soon become very aware of the homophobia that is part of the Mormon church and the high suicide rate of LGBTQ youth who practice Mormonism. thanks to this documentary shining a light on it. Homophobia in certain religions has been overlooked, and in news reports, is frequently concentrated squarely on Christianity and Islam without speaking about homophobia in other religions.

This documentary follows Dan Reynolds, the Imagine Dragons vocalist, who has come to a crossroads in regards to his Mormonism, and the religion’s treatment of LGBTQ individuals. With high suicide rates in Utah among young people likely attributed to this stance, Reynolds (along with openly gay singer Tyler Glenn, a former member of the church) creates the LoveLoud festival, in order to raise awareness of the issue, and hopefully “change hearts and minds in the process.”

We see the emotional torment placed upon those who have had to reconcile their sexuality with their religious beliefs, as well as those who have been excommunicated for simply expressing that being gay is not a sinful crime. But these moments make awkward bedfellows with a documentary that is predominantly aimed at Imagine Dragons fans. The message about sexuality is secondary to celebrations of the band’s success.

The band’s popularity is helping awareness on the issue (and is fundamental in getting this documentary made), but it too frequently becomes the focus, obscuring the emotionally hard-hitting interviews that should be consistently front and centre.

Although Reynolds is central to the documentary due to his star power, it’s hard not to wish that the documentary primarily focused on the festival’s co-founder Tyler Glenn. The former singer of Neon Trees, Glenn was excommunicated from the church following coming out as gay, and still struggles to grapple with his religious beliefs and sexuality and has even recorded an album about it, “Excommunicate” and it upset many in the Mormon community. He’s the emotional centre of the film, and the audience surrogate for LGBTQ viewers. The best moments are the ones where Tyler tearfully confesses about his inner conflicts.

“Believer” is a necessary and important documentary and we can hope that it continues to raise awareness of the cause, and all subsequent LoveLoud festivals will further combat prejudice and change minds in the Mormon community.

“LIGHT IN THE WATER”— Documentary About a Gay Swim Team

“Light in the Water”

Documentary About a Gay Swim Team

Amos Lassen

Now premiering on Logo TV is Lis Bartlett’s “Light in the Water”, a documentary about a gay swim team. In 1982, soon after the first Gay Games, ‘West Hollywood Swim Club,’ as it was then known registered as the first openly gay masters swim and water polo club. The documentary film their battle for acceptance: from their small beginnings, to how these men and women have become a renowned force fighting injustice in the world of competitive sports.

The film reveals the untold story of a group of gay men and women who found one another through their love of competitive swimming and who ultimately became a family and a force for the LGBTQ sports movement. 

The West Hollywood Aquatics Team – who also go by “WH2O” are pioneers in gay sports. With a current roster of more than 180 individuals, the organization initially grew out of a group of athletes training for the first Gay Games in 1982. This was during a time when being gay and being an athlete was considered an oxymoron and the AIDS crisis only increased homophobia across the United States. WH2O prioritized inclusion and dignity and combated stigma.

One of the original members states, “if you could swim, you could live…or at least you were alive for that moment.” Another member adds “swimming was about celebrating and rising above all the darkness that was around us…and striving to show the word that we are not being wiped out by an illness.”

“LOVE, CECIL”— A Colorful and Controversial Man

 

“LOVE, CECIL”

A Colorful and Controversial Man

Amos Lassen

Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s “Love Cecil” gives us a wonderful profile of English photographer and designer Cecil Beaton.  Beaton won 3 Academy Awards and 4 Tony Awards and was knighted by the Queen after having been the Royal Family’s photographer for years. However, only the older movie going public know who he is and the gorgeous costumes he created for the Ascot scene in the movie version of ”My Fair Lady” are a tribute to him. Unfortunately he has been mostly forgotten by the general public. Perhaps seeing this film will make people want to know more about the man who did so much for film, stage, photography and fashion which  hopefully will be corrected now by this new documentary.

Beaton was born in 1904 in London into a wealthy middle-class family. He styled his two younger sisters and mother and made them pose for him for pictures he took with a Brownie camera he borrowed from his nanny.  He would send the photographs to the society page editors of newspapers and magazines often under a pseudonym.  Back then it was possible to buy a place at University, so Beaton went to Cambridge and brags he didn’t attend a single lecture. He also devoted himself to amateur dramatics where he could dress up in drag and indulge in his own outrageous highly stylized fashion sense. At Cambridge he had the first of a string of male lovers and ultimately left without a degree.

He was a gifted writer he wrote many diaries throughout his life that were published (in this film they are read by Rupert Everett).  He managed a photography job at Vogue where he really started to make a name for himself. He had quite a unique perspective on fashion. However, while working for Vogue in New York as one of their top photographers, his career came to a rapid halt when some anti-Semitic graffiti was included in one of his pieces and the entire edition had of the magazine had to be recalled and shredded,  and Beaton fired from his job had to return to London under a cloud.

His earlier work photographing London society got him a summons from Buckingham Palace to photograph the king’s wife who later became the Queen Mother).  She loved the results and Beaton became the photographer that the Royal Family called on for all their major occasions for the next few decades.  He also photographed the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor who were persona non grata by the Queen and her family, but this it didn’t effect Beaton’s position at the Palace.

Beaton was a restless and frustrated person because he says that he was not able to do all that he wanted to. Vreeland was lucky enough to be able to include l archival footage of Beaton himself from several points throughout his life and we see this in the footage, which confirmed the great man’s restless and frustration with not being to do everything he wanted too.  He possessed wonderful wit that we see through the examples of his even though he has doubts about himself.

His choice of lovers all left him in the end quite unfulfilled romantically.  Beaton emphatically states he never ever wanted to be just an ordinary, anonymous person, and looking at his life, no one could ever accuse him of being anything like that.  He was outrageous and the quintessential English snob that was always the center of attention wherever he went. He will always be linked to Hollywood musicals “Gigi” and “My Fair Lady” for which he designed magnificent costumes. His was a life well lived and this film shows us the full range of Beaton’s talents as” author, designer, dandy, painter and photographer.”

Vreeland digs deep into Beaton’s diaries that are supported by many interviews from later in life. Most younger audience members probably won’t have any idea who Cecil Beaton is and that is their loss.  

“Love Cecil” opens at the Nuart in Los Angeles on July 20, 2018.

“HOT TO TROT”— Inside the World of Same-Sex Ballroom Dance

“HOT TO TROT”

Inside the World of Same-Sex Ballroom Dance

Amos Lassen

“Hot to Trot” is a new documentary directed by Gail Freedman that is an immersive character study  and an idiosyncratic attack on bigotry.  We are taken behind the scenes to discover the captivating but little known world of same-sex competitive ballroom dance. This a world where expressions of personal passion become a political statement, and where one false step can destroy hopes and aspirations.

The characters’ back stories frame their struggles and conflicts in life. The film follows charismatic Ernesto Palma who is a former meth addict from Costa Rica and who strives for success and love. Ernesto is now a Manhattan resident and completely obsessed with dancing with the same veracity that once was when he was  addicted to crystal meth.  After just a few months training, his new partner Robbie suddenly got seriously ill and immediately went back to his native Hungary for treatment.  It then took Ernesto some considerable time to persuade Nikolai, a very successful, Russian ballroom dancer to become his new partner as he had only danced with women to date.  

There is gritty and determined Emily Coles, a diabetic who wears an insulin pump 24/7 even while performing. We meet handsome Nikolai Shpakov, a dazzling dance champion, who came out only a few years ago and still yearns for his family back in Moscow to accept him. Finally is introspective Kieren Jameson, whose came out of the strict, conservative environment of a New Zealand military household. “Hot to Trot” follows the dancers over a four-year period and we not only see them dance but we also see their relationships with family, dance partners, life partners  and with themselves.

For these four, dance is a form of personal power and political engagement that shapes their identities while at the same time helps them overcome uniquely personal challenges. They are emblems of LGBTQ politics and being such is who they are.   This is an entertaining film to watch because of the spectacle and grace of competition and it is also an inspiring character study of these competitors, and how they gracefully maneuver through both worlds.

Gail Freedman, the director and producer of “Hot To Trot” gives us an enchanting look at the world of competitive same-sex ballroom dancing.  The four individuals she picked to focus on are not just champions when dancing, they are charming individuals. Emily’s successful dancing partnership with Kieren had resulted in many trophies and awards, but there are problems too. Emily has type I diabetes and has to wear an insulin pump 24/7, and her vital blood sugar levels are all over the place the day of any dance competition.  New Zealand born Kieran was focusing on building her own career which meant that half way through the documentary, she decides to cut back on her dancing, leaving Emily’s rather conservative Russian girlfriend Katerina to step in.

Today there are many same-sex ballroom dancing events held all over the world, but America’s most elite is April Follies held in Oakland, California every spring for the past 16 years.  Over a few very packed days the competition is tough and the atmosphere between all the dancers is very warm and welcoming and filled with genuine friendship and respect. Then there is the competition at the International Gay Games that are held every four years and are the Holy Grail for LGBT dancers (and athletes too).   Freedman’s camera follows her four dancers as they train every minute of the night and day right up to their appearance at the Games.   Ernesto and Nikolai who have such very different backgrounds and temperaments have settled into a comfortable working relationship almost like newly-weds trying to impose their own will on their new partners. They make a very cute couple but never on a romantic level.

The dancing is electrifying and stunning. As LGBT people we are watching something that we can really relate too.