One of the most popular cultural events is at hand. From March 13-23, cinema lovers can enjoy eleven days of the most recent, interesting, beautiful, and stimulating gay films during the seventeenth edition of the Amsterdam Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.
Again, the Ketelhuis on the Westergasterrein is the place to be. With more than 118 showings, which will be complemented by events and parties in the MC Theater opposite the Ketelhuis. So plenty of reasons to keep your calendar open.
Below, we give an overview of some of the titles. Not just to get in the film mood, but also to simplify the choice out of 125 film titles from thirty-eight countries:
Opening Night: Tom à la Ferme
The festival opens on the 13th of March with the latest film by Canadian prodigy Xavier Dolan. After past successes, such as “J’ai tué ma mère,” “Les amours imaginaires,” and “Laurence Anyways,” we are certainly looking forward to the Dutch première of “Tom à la Ferme.” Tom (played by Dolan himself) leaves for the country-side to attend a funeral. Once there, nobody seems to know that the deceased was gay and that Tom was involved with the deceased. When the brother of the victim imposes strict and rigid rules on him to protect his mother and save the honor of the family, this results in a complicated relationship between the brother and Tom.
The festival closes with the latest film by Eytan Fox. The past edition of the festival showed “Yossi” with much success, but this year the director comes with something totally different: “Cupcakes.” A pleasant and charming comedy in which six friends, both gay and straight, compose a song for a European-Song-Contestesque show out of pure frustration.
To their big surprise, the song is selected to represent Israel, and this big joke now has to be performed in earnest. The viewing is preceded by the announcement of the jury awards and the OUTTV audience awards.
The Bigger Picture
A hot contender for an award is the must-see “La Partida” (The Last Match), in which two best friends are doing their very best to survive on Cuba; prostitution for the money; football to escape the country at a certain point. Their awakening love is complicating things.
And don’t miss the yearning of the pious Polish priest Adam in “In The Name Of.” He takes care of delinquents and keeps them on the straight and narrow. When he runs into the seductive Lukasz, he becomes at odds with his homosexuality. Last year, the film won the Teddy for best film during the Berlinale.
In “Floating Skyscrapers,” another Polish film, Kuba is a twenty-year-old who is afraid to come out of the closet. He has been training for years to become a swimming champion. He has the body and talent for it, but seems unmotivated. He’s living with his mother and his girlfriend, but has sex dates with men in the lockers. Things are brought to a head when Kuba meets the handsome student Michal.
In the beautiful “Pit Stop,” Gabe finds comfort in the relationship with his ex-wife and his daughter after recovering from a disastrous affair with a married man. On the other side of town, Ernesto is avoiding domestic life and his resident ex-boyfriend, and is spending most of his time with a sick, former lover. Both share a ceaseless desire for romance. Because of one of the most emotional sex scenes ever, it will be a wonderful film experience!
“Kill Your Darlings” depicts the early years of the Beat Generation. The young literary friends Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac, Lucien Carr and William Burroughs are studying at Columbia University in 1944. The older David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall, “Dexter”) is in love with Carr and follows him everywhere. A confrontation between the two ends in a stabbing. The film shows a complex web of passion, betrayal, sex and drugs on the eve of a cultural revolution. Daniel Radcliffe’s character discovers his homosexuality in the film, and also falls in love with Carr. He literally and figuratively bears all, and is very impressive as Ginsberg.
In “Gerontophilia,” an unexpected event triggers a passion for older men in the young and handsome Lake. He is hired at a retirement home, where he meets Mr Peabody. The sparks are mutual, and a tender relationship develops. When Lake helps his lover to escape the home, it’s the start of a surprising road trip. Here, the provocative Bruce LaBruce is playing with the codes of a romantic comedy without losing his typical recalcitrant spirit.
In the thrilling “Eastern Boys,” the middle-aged Daniel makes contact with Marek, one of the many Eastern European boys who offer themselves around the Gare du Nord in Paris. When somewhat later, he opens the doors of his apartment to Marek, he finds the entire gang led by the charismatic Boss on his doorstep...
“Test” is a powerful and moving story of friendship during the first years of the AIDS epidemic. It is set in 1985 in San Francisco’s modern dance scene, in which the young Frankie joins a dance company and builds a meaningful relationship with his opposite, Scott. It is not the first film about the AIDS crisis, but for a change it offers hope and does not linger in the gravity of the subject matter. See it!
When a Taiwanese spectacle salesman falls head over heels in love with a steward who visits his shop, he is not so certain about his sexual preference anymore. And precisely at a time his wife wants to have another baby. Fortunately there is that group of gay friends who are there for him with advice in the tragicomedy “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”
Another special Asian movie with a heavier tone is “Frangipani” from Sri Lanka, a country where homosexuality is still illegal. The director took a risk with his debut film about a complicated love triangle.
Just when his friend is in a coma because of an accident, a successful photographer in Venezuela is visited by his heterosexual teenage son in “Blue And Not So Pink.” His son immediately tells him that he, not entirely voluntary, will be living with him. And there is a lot of catching up to do because of the years they haven’t seen each other.
A shy student wants to make a documentary about New York’s nightlife to get close to his sexy obsession using the power of his camera. The mostly shirtless go-go dancer he is in love with, is not adverse to a little attention and agrees. They have a casual affair, but then the tables are turned in “Getting Go: The Go Doc Project.”
Writer Abdellah Taïa based his debut film “L’Armée du Salut” (Salvation Army) on his semi-autobiographical novel. The film consists of two parts. In the first part, the main character is approximately fifteen years old. He is living with his parents in Casablanca in Morocco, and discovers his homosexuality, prostitution and his desire to go to Europe. The second part is ten years later in Geneva. The leading character is now a penniless student looking for shelter at the Salvation Army.
A film that has to be included in the festival is the winner of the Queer Palm of the Cannes film festival: “L’Inconnu du Lac” (Stranger by the Lake). At a cruising spot near a lake on the French country side, Franck has eyes for the handsome Michel. One evening, Franck sees how Michel drowns his lover on purpose. Instead of reporting the murder, it only fuels his erotic fixation.
Gay teenage love in all its aspects was always well-represented, just as this year with the “Donny Darko”-esque “Animals,” in which Pol has a big secret: a teddy bear that thinks and moves like a human being... Pol is fascinated by a mysterious new class mate, and some unexpected events change his boring student life into a fantastic adventure.
There are no less than two variations on the “High School” movie. In the energetic comedy “G.B.F.,” Tanner is pulled out of the closet against his will, so that the über-fag hags can fight for the honor of flaunting this new “gay best friend” as an accessory.
In “Geography Club,” a number of secondary school students with various sexual orientations form a club to share emotions and experiences in a discrete way. But how long will this safe haven remain a secret?
And then there is the wonderful road movie “Bruno & Earlene Go To Vegas,” with an equally beautiful sound track, in which the different characters in our community are making the difference.
On the road, we meet a skateboarding intersex teenager, a sexually confused car thief, some Scottish strippers, a tap dancing drag queen and various other like-minded runaways.
The Deeper We Go
Besides all the wonderful and fictitious drama, there is also room for more realistic depth. The touching documentary “Valentine Road” deals with the shocking events surrounding the fifteen-year-old Larry King who was killed by a class mate. It is the story of two victims of both sides of the homophobic coin.
“Codebreaker” tells the impressive tale of one of the most important scientists who ever lived. Alan Turing was at the cradle of the computer age, and managed to crack codes during the Second World War, saving the lives of two million people. Instead of receiving decorations and praise, he was publicly put to shame for being a homosexual, which led to chemical castration.
In “I Am Divine,” we follow the legendary career of film-maker John Waters’ muse and unparalleled international drag icon Divine. The film shows Divine’s complex personality and carries us away in a whirlwind of success, doubt, rancor and reconciliation.
For the fetishists among us, there is the documentary “Kink” (by producer James Franco). San Francisco seats the largest producer of online SM porn in the world: the website kink.com. From foot fetishism to bondage, with a theme channel for every preference. The film offers a revealing and explicit, but mostly surprisingly humoristic peek into a subculture that usually takes place behind closed doors.
Besides the clearly “gay” cinema, a number of great films are included that will be very popular and sit close to the risk-free gay themes.
The lives of two young couples in New York (one black and gay, one white and straight) are intertwined when they discover their sexual identity and redefine monogamy. When musician Stan is told by his girlfriend that she wants to put the relationship “on hold,” he flees into an affair with Marcus. When Marcus’ boyfriend Aaron catches them in the act, “The Happy Sad” gets complicated.
After a sex change, a Finish woman in “Open Up To Me” falls in love with a football trainer, but her past as a man can’t so easily be left behind.
Initially, the beautiful Thai triptych “It Gets Better” seems to be made up of three independent stories, but at the end of the film the stories of the fifty-year-old transgender, a twenty-something and a teenage monk come together in a surprising ending.
Size Does Matter
This year again, the film festival features a lot of different film themes in its programming, and the festival has more short films than ever. Don’t miss them!
“Adventures in Dating” is included again, but with new, exiting, provocative and sometimes (ir)responsible pornographic variations on the theme. About the pleasures and dangers of online dating (“Skype + Grindr”), one night stands (“Chat Romeo”), cruising (“The Men’s Room”), a full-frontal web course (“How To Be A Porn Star”) and a fetish for ginger men (“Gingers”) including a “happy ending”!
Again, in the “The Young & The Restless,” there are films about boys and their raging hormones... With, among others: What to do when you are in love with your neighbor, but are too young to have sex? (“Happy Birthday”). To be well-prepared for “your first time,” of course one practices with another boy (“Boygame”). Young love as well has to face obstacles with far-reaching consequences (“O Pacote”), and the fascination for a man is expressed by stealing his swimming trunks(“Le maillot de bain”).
The festival should not be without a selection of local short films: “Made in Holland,” with a fascinating animated documentary about a homosexual football hooligan (“I Love Hooligans”) and an online date that ends unexpectedly (“Kort”). Your best friend comes out of the closet, so what now? (“Uitgesproken”). And what if the world comes to an end and you are stuck with your ex in a bomb shelter? (“Fall-Out”) And a great animation about a man who needs to be rescued from criminal bears by a motorcycle policeman (“Cruise Patrol”).
The bitter-sweet beauty of saying goodbye in “Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow” remains a source of inspiration for film-makers: the only warmth on Iceland is on the other side of the army base (“Bóbó”), and you will be amazed to find out there is a death penalty for love! (“On Suffocation”). Impressive is leaving behind a long-term relationship (“A Last Farewell”), and a familiar situation for many is moving on after a short affair (“Mi Realidad”).
“Together Forever?” features extraordinary short films about the prince on the white horse that we see and find everywhere, but hope will stay with us. By buying a new mattress, all the bedroom secrets come out in the open (“Spooners”), and the absence of that wonderful ex during the vacation really makes the new relationship impossible (“Summer Vacation”). A family tries to force a man into marrying a woman, while his friend is still hidden under the bed (“Zazaland”) and walking hand in hand does not seem that easy (“P.D.A.”). Touchingly beautiful is: years together, but separated by the law (“Luigi e Vincenzo”).
And some wonderful extremes can always be found in the short films in the category “Weird & Wonderful.” Expect the unexpected in this collection of shorts that are different. With poisonous hateful exes (“Ratas”), a drag queen who gives campy “safe sex” education (“A Backside Approach”), a somewhat obese boy who auditions for a sexy girl group (“Born To Dance This Way”), and horrifically hilarious Barbie artwork that is not handled with care (“The Altered Lives of LaVonne Salleé”).
The theaters at the Ketelhuis will stay turbulent for a long time. Don’t miss out!
about the festival, the entire program,
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