One of spring’s favorite cultural events is around the corner; from March 12 till March 22 you can immerse yourself for eleven days in the world of the most interesting, stimulating and beautiful recent gay films. Again, the Ketelhuis on the Westergasterrein is the place to be. With no less than 118 titles, that will keep the entire community glued to their chairs.
To get in the mood, but also to make choosing from 110 titles from forty different countries a bit simpler, we present an overview of some of the highlights.
Opening Night: ‘Lilting’
The festival will kick off on March 12 with the Dutch première of “Lilting.” This is the first feature film and the highly acclaimed dream debut of the Cambodian Hong Khaou, who lives in the UK. He already proved he had talent with his short films “Summer” and “Spring,” that were shown at previous editions of the Film Festival with great success. At first you might think that the plot of the film resembles last year’s opening film (“Tom à la Ferme”).
That film also starts with the death of a loved one, and with a mother who is ignorant about her son’s sexual preference. Last year, the story evolved into an icy thriller, but this time the warmth and beauty of the drama is key.
After the death of Kai, two sad people are left behind: his mother Junn, who barely speaks English, and his boyfriend Richard. Junn was not aware of Richard’s link with Kai. While she’s having imaginary conversations with her son, Richard is trying to establish a relationship. A translator helps with that, but not always as one would expect. With lots of humor and emotion, and with a wonderful performance by Ben Wishaw (known from films as “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer,” “Brideshead Revisited” and “Skyfall”). In “Lilting,” Pei-Cheng (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) paints a wonderful picture of relationships and the barriers that we sometimes want to overcome, but that can also act as a shelter. A gem of a movie!
The Bigger Picture
The opening film “Lilting” has a good chance to win the jury award for best feature film, but there are more candidates to be seen. Another likely winner is the must-see “In The Grayscale,” in which a Chilean architect has the perfect life. Although seemingly perfect for him, it’s not very interesting to the spectator, so something starts nagging. He gets estranged from his wife and child to “think things over,” and soon enough, there is this great gay colleague who turns his emotional life upside down.
And if you intend to buy tickets for the above mentioned films, do not forget to buy one for “Xenia,” as it deservedly is also nominated for best feature film!... The flamboyant sixteen-year-old Danny stands in front of his eighteen-year-old brother Ulysses’ door. After the death of their mother, they not only suddenly find themselves alone, but also as illegal Albanians in Greece. But surely, their Greek father should be out there somewhere? This enchanting film follows the two on their quest along friends, enemies, dark forests, and forgotten divas.
After his impressive debut “Hors Les Murs,” director David Lambert returns with an alternative romantic comedy “Je suis à toi.” Baker Henry lives in a desolate Walloon village and has been in love for some time with the Argentinian Lucas, who makes ends meet with paid sex. Henry employs Lucas as baker’s assistant, but with “benefits”...
Visually totally different is the fabulously designed “Space Station 76,” in which we travel to both the future and the past. More precisely to a space station, and what it would have looked like in the mid-1970s. At the station, things are very tense, and Captain Glenn clearly has not yet recovered from the departure of his number one and former lover. A star cast makes us witness the intrigues, hidden desires and secret relationships that play out under their seemingly extremely efficient and brushed up exterior.
Back on earth, we meet three friends in “Boys Like Us.” They are now in their thirties, slightly neurotic and thoroughly Parisian. But if one of them has to go back to the small Austrian village he comes from, his friends naturally can’t let him go by himself. Life in the Alps does not live up to its romantic Julie Andrews image, putting their friendship and self-images to the test. And what is Nina Hagen doing there?
“Cuatro Lunas” is a wonderful Mexican quartet, full of familiar stories about love and self-acceptance. An eleven-year-old struggles with his love for his cousin. Two former childhood friends meet again, and start a secret relationship. The relationship of two men was great, but then there is this third party. In the fourth part, an old family man gets obsessed with a male prostitute, and starts looking for cash to be able to afford him.
We stay in Mexico for a while, and address a very sensitive subject with “Perfect Obedience,” which is based on a case of abuse in the Catholic Church. The young Julian is sent off to a seminary that aims for perfect obedience. His mentor is touched by his vulnerability and innocence, and takes him to his private residence. Julian is fascinated by his mentor, but where does one draw the line?
Things are heating up in Argentina... In “The Third One,” a student is chatting with a somewhat older couple on a gay site. The student is persuaded by the two men to have dinner with them, but with a steamy threesome as desert... Get ready for this positive film about modern forms of (sexual) relationships.
And now for something completely different: “First Period.” A delicious and quick-witted drag parody of the high school theme in 1980s style. Two (ahem) “girls” do everything to win the hearts of the hottest guys in school (even though they do not behave all that straight ...) But their popular girlfriends naturally do not give up without a fight!
Often, a porn actor tries to cross-over to mainstream film, not always successfully. But the performance of Johnny Hazzard in “Tiger Orange” is very praiseworthy. Two brothers have been estranged for years, but are now trying to resume the thread. They are two extremes, but have one thing in common: they are both gay. One would think that that creates a bond... Those who are not convinced by Johnny’s acting skills can always browse the Internet for more “action”...
“Ich fühl mich Disco” is the right title for lovers of feel-good German tragicomedy. Florian is bulky, likes schlagers, is gay and in love with a Romanian platform diver. He gets along well with his mother, and together they dance around the house in disco outfits when his father isn’t home. When Florian’s mother ends up in a coma, father and son have to manage together. They get help from Florian’s favorite schlager singer, and also a very straightforward sex therapist...
Sebastian, a seductive and androgynous boy, likes extreme experiences. Dressed as Ellie, his sexual adventures with total strangers quickly take place in succession. When a date goes pear shaped, Andreas, a rebel dressed in leather, comes to the rescue. Sebastian/Ellie then falls in love with this knight in shining armor. The Swedish “Something Must Break” shows the start of an unusual relationship, because Andreas cannot be gay?!
In “The Way He Looks,” blind Leo and his best female friend Giovana start a new school year when the handsome Gabriel arrives. All of a sudden, those two are not that inseparable any more when Giovana discovers that Gabriel is not going to become the love of her life. The film won the Teddy Award at the Berlin Film Festival, and is based on the successful short film “I Don’t want To Go Back Alone.” It is the ultimate “feel good” movie, and the lovely closing title of the festival!
The Deeper We Go
Besides a lot of great films about love, there is also a need for a different kind of depth. The festival also pays considerable attention to all kinds of different stories, both fictional and documentary, that tackle various issues in a fascinating way. Although here as well, the heart is key as we continue to fight for love.
“Der Kreis” is impressive and based on a true story. It reveals the fascinating world of one of the first emancipatory gay communities. Ernst, a shy young teacher in the 1950s is a member of the underground gay organization Der Kreis in Zurich. At an underground party, Ernst gets involved with Röbi. While the repression of homosexuals is seriously increasing, and the organization faces more difficulties, the two men continue to fight for their love and, together with friends, for gay rights.
In 2013, the Russian parliament passed a law banning gay propaganda. This law seems to be a license for gay haters to discriminate and even abuse. In “5000 Roebel,” Kris van der Veen talks to various youths and activists in the Russian cities of St. Petersburg and Murmansk about their coming out, fears and dreams. The fear of the consequences of this law is great. The visit of Van der Veen and his film crew ended with a raid by the police and a trip to court. He supposedly was making gay propaganda....
The fictional film “Stand” is also about the anti-gay culture in the Russian Federation. Anton and Vlad are a happy couple, even though it’s mostly in closed quarters in their apartment in Moscow. One night, they witness homophobic violence from their car. Anton can’t stand that the police does nothing and cannot let go, while his friend would rather hide his head in the sand. The consequences of Anton’s growing obsession are more severe than just his relationship suffering. The illegally filmed story may not be the most accessible one, but it is one of the most necessary ones.
The theme homophobia is also highlighted in “Drown,” but in a very nice package (or in this case Speedo!). It takes place on the legendary coast of Sydney, where Len has been the best lifeguard for years in a row.
This changes when the much younger Phil joins the team and overthrows him. When Phil turns out to be gay, Len loses it, especially after being confronted with his own repressed homosexuality.
The film is inspired by true events, and both confrontational and sexy.
“Stories Of Our Lives” is a special anthology of dramatized stories about Kenya’s repressed GLBT community. A brave art collective that is based in Nairobi has brought to life five stories. Their names have been removed from the film for fear of reprisals.
The stories are not only a labor of love, but also a very bold act of a willingness to fight, making it a film that should be shown and seen!
One of the most incredibly fascinating documentaries this year is “The Dog.” John Wojtowicz is the man who robbed a bank to pay for his lover’s sex change operation. Film fans know this bizarre story from the classic “Dog Day Afternoon.” But John’s life turns out to be far more extreme than the 1975 film adaptation.
Size Does Matter
This year again, the film festival has unique theme programs with a lot of short movies, and this edition has more than ever. Don’t miss them!
The immensely popular “Adventures In Dating” is back with new and exciting variations on the almost inexhaustible theme. We see role play that can make your sex life thrilling again, unless it gets out of hand of course... (“Safe Word”). Everything a thirty-year-old got for his birthday was a hangover and a one night stand that stayed a while in (“Good Morning”); 2,500 revealing photos from the Grindr pass by (“Pix”), and we see some heated encounters in the sauna (“Sic”). A deaf man tries to seduce a sexy swimmer (“Mum”), and we witness an embarrassing conversation between two men who just had a threesome with a woman (“Shots”).
The hormones cannot be tamed in another recurring favorite, about boys, their indomitable hormones, and their first time: “Love And Learn.” Of course with new boys and new stories: Relaxing on that last day before your best friend will move the next morning and then going for it... (“Reel”). Supporting your best friend because he broke up with his girlfriend opens up (especially with a Smart Phone in hand) new possibilities (“Ronny & I”). Matteo is in love with a young priest, who is also the leader of a drum band (“Anni 17”), and we have a look in the dunes, as there is much to see there (“We Are Fine”). A declaration of love is easiest via Whatsapp.... (“En Eftermiddag”).
A selection of Dutch films – “Made In Holland” – has to be included, such as “Bounty,” about a dark guy with two white mothers who wants to know who his father is; could it be rapper Kleine Viezerik (Little Pervert)? In “Steen,” a factory worker has a pregnant girlfriend and everything going for him, but a new colleague changes everything. Rodrigo is desperately looking for a date before the bar closes (“Nog 10 minuten”). Two boys love a girl, but also each other (“Als het schemert”), and Pablo is open-heartedly breaking the stigma surrounding his HIV status (“Pablo – Healthy Life With HIV”).
“The Beautiful Lie” contains a remarkable series of shorts about knights in shining armors who sometimes come to take us away, and sometimes completely miss us. A call center agent gets in the middle of a fight between two lovers (“Middle Man”); two friends go all the way with a noisy witness (“Pajas”); a retrospective of a failed relationship: sexual and far too short (“Fikon”), and an intimate portrait of two gay lovers in Iran (“Aban + Korshid”). When everything is planned for the marriage proposal, nothing can go wrong? (“Aceito”) And when you finally have a man all to yourself, one day he says: “I want an open relationship...!” (“Relación Abierta”).
“Islands In The Stream” shows a number of short films about a special meeting of two strangers, including the beautifully filmed “Contatto Forzato”; we witness love, betrayal and war. “Barrio Boy” takes us to a tough Latino barbershop in which a secret desire flares up when a new customer enters the shop. Two elderly grey gentlemen try to find Viagra in the middle of the night... (“End Of Season Sale”). And many more similar gems.
Check the website for other short film programs, but “Weird & Wonderful” is always good for a number of fabulous extremes. Expect the unexpected with these short movies that are always surprisingly different. You can find out everything you ever wanted to know about Madonna (“If We Took A Holiday”), we go back in time with a queer variant of the black and white film (“Happy & Gay”) and find out about the withdrawal method in Finland (“Je t’aime”). We see a boy squirm during dinner with his parents (“Out”), desire knows no bounds when a young man comes home to an older couple (“À a carte”), and a man seems to have a Holy cross... (“Followers”).
Enjoy the show!
More information/ tickets:
Cinema Ketelhuis / Westergasfabriek - March 12-22, 2015
More information about the festival, the entire programming,
trailers and (online) ticket sales: www.rozefilmdagen.nl