One of the most popular cultural spring events in the Dutch gay scene is at hand. Time to clear the diary from March 10 to March 20 and watch the most beautiful, interesting and tantalizing gay cinema. Cinema Het Ketelhuis on the Westergasterrein will be the GLBTQ hotspot for eleven days.
The more than 130 productions will keep the entire community on the edge of their seats, and will offer a chance to see what the world of gay cinema has to offer. To get in the mood, but also to make the choice from more than a hundred titles from forty countries a bit simpler, we will give an overview of some of the highlights.
Opening Night: Guidance
The festival will kick off on March 10 with the Dutch premiere of “Guidance.” This hilarious dark comedy from Canada has a viscous look at the teacher’s lounge, with lots of love for the school’s misfits. Former child star David has a brilliant idea: to become a counselor on a high school! His alcohol and drug problems, and his struggle with his sexuality, do not seem to be the ideal qualifications for this work, but precisely because of his, let’s say, unconventional advice, the pupils flourish again. Until suddenly, everything seems to fall apart. In spite of this, our anti-hero with an identity crisis becomes a role model for us all.
After this perfect kick-off, one highlight is followed by the next, night after night.
During a sultry night in Philadelphia, four men are looking for a connection and identity. The meetings that follow in “Beautiful Something” do not only lead to sexual escapades, but also to some realizations. This daring and autobiographical story about what love, lust and desire actually are, sheds light on various aspects of gay existence.
The Argentinian festival favorite Marco Berger (“Plan B,” and “Ausente”) in his recognizable and sultry style, plays with concepts such as jealousy and repression, desire and destiny. This also holds true for “Mariposa.” A brilliantly constructed, romantic and sexy drama in which the “Butterfly Effect” is literally taken as the point of departure. Two interwoven parallel stories are set in motion by a decision that has various romantic and erotic consequences for the protagonists. One of them is the handsome Bruno, whose discovery of his sexual preference for men is the catalyst for the romantic destinations of the others in both stories.
In the golden cage of Upper Manhattan, Sebastian and his inseparable best friend Charlie lead an exuberant life. In “Those People,” Charlie is still hoping for more, but their friendship is threatened when he meets the handsome pianist Tim, who falls for him immediately. When Sebastian’s father is incarcerated for fraud, he withdraws in his own neurotic world and forces Charlie to choose between the men in his life.
Jesus is scraping together his income in Havana by cutting the hair of older ladies and doing the wigs for a group of drag queens. He discovers that he feels totally free when on stage. Transformed as “Viva” (his beautiful alter ego and the title of the film), he escapes reality with classic songs about impossible love and raw pain. However, his dream is met with opposition when his alcoholic father Angel is released from prison. This must-see has its heart at the right place, and will also become one of the crowd favorites at the festival.
When the homosexual was introduced in cinematography as a character in the early days, none of them survived the end titles. They were killed for being “bad” or committed suicide because they knew they were “bad.” Slowly this image is changing, but it hasn’t completely disappeared. Luckily, there is a counter-movement. We can now also watch gay men who do not behave like victims, but are cool-headedly taking on the fight in exciting thrillers and action movies.
Australian Mervyn tries to leave his time in prison behind in “Cut Snake.” Meanwhile, he has an honest job and a beautiful fiancee. But then, his charismatic and fiery former cell mate Jim shows up. In no time, he is sucked back into his old existence. Jim and Mervyn did not only share a cell, but also the bed. Filmed sweltering with an authentic 1970s look and cool soundtrack, it is an unusually fascinating thriller.
We now jump in time with “Death in Buenos Aires.”This sexually charged whodunit with shoulder pads and quite a lot of tension takes place in Buenos Aires in the 1980s. Detective Chavez has to solve a mysterious crime. To reveal the identity of the murderer, Chavez arranges for a hot and young colleague to go undercover in the gay scene. This stirs up unexpected interests.
“Desde Allà” offers a cat-and-mouse game in the present. In this winner of the Golden Lion of the Venetian film festival, Armando is a middle-aged man who lures young boys at bus stops. He offers them money to go home with him. Armando also spies on an older man, with whom he apparently has a traumatic connection. One day, he meets Elder, a young gangster and member of a local gang.
Cruising is off all ages. In “Amor Eterno,” middle-aged teacher meets one of his young pupils in the local Spanish woods while looking for an adventure. Their love affair takes a dark turn. The film explores the dangers of illegal cruising with a mysterious atmosphere that is shocking at times, but also stimulates.
Lovers of the true gay-slasher cannot miss “You’re Killing Me”; buckets full of artificial blood and an outrageous mix of horror and romantic comedy. When Joe tells his new boyfriend George he is a serial killer, he thinks it is all a big joke. Even when people keep disappearing, Joe, blinded by love, does not see that very peculiar events are unfolding in close proximity.
Boys, Boys, Boys
For those who prefer puppy love, there is a whole range of wonderful material to choose from. Not only when it comes to actors (not completely insignificant), but also to titillating images and stories. Jess from “Jess & James” is not happy. He hates his family, especially his brother. But he does like boys who look like him, and obviously, James is one of them.
They decide to leave everything behind and take a trip together. On their fascinating and undeniably sexy journey through the Argentinian pampas, they meet Tomas. And Tomas is interested in them both.
One of the most sympathetic romantic films of the year is “Akron.” Two young students fall in love. And for once, this is not a problem! All their friends and family encourage the relationship. But a tragic moment from the past in which both their mothers were involved, threatens to make them drift apart. They are truly meant for each other, which will certainly make you wish for a happy ending.
In “Beira-Mar,” the young friends Martin and Tomaz leave for a sleepy coastal town in the south of Brazil, where Martin’s grandfather recently died. Tomaz knows that it will be a difficult time for Martin, but that doesn’t mean they cannot have some fun. Even though in this town, Tomaz developing different feelings for Martin are giving their long friendship sexual undertones. A film you really should see in the cinema.
Everything is coming up roses for seventeen-year-old Milan. Friends, nice parents, a good education. But then he literally takes a wrong turn: a drunken accident with his father’s car. Well... accident... more of an act of desperation. The desperate parents are relieved to finally find out what is wrong: Milan is gay. The extremely well-acted “Shed My Skin” is not just a “coming-out” film, but also focuses to the same degree on the expectations of parents and fellow pupils.
For a film with an attractive and famous young man, we would like to refer to a special screening. Who doesn’t want to see the young Ryan Phillippe once again, and especially in a film that shows him more without his shirt than with his shirt on. “54: The Director’s Cut” is programmed as a single screening. A recut (2015) of a cult classic as it was actually meant. When “Studio 54” was released in 1998, director Mark Christopher was extremely unhappy about what he was allowed to show.
Film studio Miramax had commissioned the film to be stripped of much of its gayness! But with partly kept and partly retrieved material, we can now finally admire “our version,” including the removed gay/bi story line. The movie tells the story of the famous club Studio 54, a place where in the 1970s the elite of New York spent their nights; life as one great (disco) party with lots of glitter, glamour, sex and drugs.
Anything went. Shane, played by Ryan Phillippe, starts there as a bar keeper. Quickly, he also loses himself in experiments with sex and drugs. And on the background, the most fantastic soundtrack to make the most of the night.
Deeper and Deeper
The festival offers both entertainment and depth, and this edition has a higher number of interesting documentaries than ever before. Under the category “Game Changers,” a number of films are shown that are dealing with the latest taboo - homosexuality and sport.
“Out to Win” gives an overview of the lives and careers of ambitious and professional gay and lesbian athletes from all around the world. Narrated in the past and placed in a historic context of the athletes that went before them, this film gives the highlights of experiences and struggles these athletes had to face.
Forever doubting: in or out of the closet? The remarkable stories of Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King and Michael Sam, among others, command respect and offer hope for the future.
“Scrum” tells the story of the Sydney Convicts, the largest gay rugby team of Australia, in the months leading to and during the Bingham Cup, the biggest international gay rugby tournament. There is an intense feeling of brotherhood between the team mates, but of course there is also competition. They have to fight to get selected in the team of fifteen best players the coach will bring to the Cup. Special portraits in between all these tastefully captured physical efforts that precede the selection and during the Cup matches.
In “Back On Board,” we see four time Olympic platform diving champion Greg Louganis. Worshiped as an American Hero, but trashed when he came out of the closet and as being HIV-positive. He was dropped by almost all of his sponsors with near bankruptcy as a result. But since 2012, he has become active again as mentor of the US Olympic Diving team and outspoken activist.
The movie also falls under another category of the film festival. In collaboration with the Dutch AIDS Fund, three films will be screened with personal, sometimes touching stories of extremely different people with HIV. Stories about their struggles, hopes and dreams that will make you think.
In addition to the inspiring story of the platform diver, there is “Desert Migration.” After the introduction of effective medication, many HIV-positive men had to rebuild their lives after believing it was over. Filmed against the backdrop of the beautiful desert landscape, the film gives an impressive portrait of a generation that had to invent a new life for themselves, even after they had stopped believing it would ever happen.
In the fascinating and entertaining French documentary “Alive” we follow five HIV-positive men for a week. They are training for their first solo parachute jump, and in the various groups, special friendships develop. The air shots and the adrenaline of the jump interchange beautifully with moments of reflection and intimacy.
In the documentary category, “Weg van de kerk” has its world premiere during the festival. A film about Club Church, a mini society in Amsterdam which is sometimes misunderstood, but in which director Robin Vogel feels at home. About freedom, unknown sex, the apparent absence of being judged, legitimizing the stretching of boundaries. An exciting look into a club for those who were afraid to enter this important sanctuary in the Amsterdam scene. Also, it gives you something to think about when it comes to relationships.
Size Does Matter
Each year, the shorts are becoming more popular. This year, there are over seventy short films. The first section that normally sells out is the traditional program with sexually charged outings, or: “Adventures in Dating.” This year will be thrilling as well with excitatory stories on toilets (“Mirrors” and “Pitstop”), in forests (“The Cream”), at home (“We Are Not Here To Sleep” and “Want It”), and at hotel rooms (“Pop-Up Porno: M4M”).
Just how far you are willing to go for Mr Right is explored in “Where Do You Go.” On attempts to win the ex back (“Buddy” and “We Could Be Parents”), making choices between him or her (“Den Sidste Pige”), keeping your hope up or letting go (“Letargo”), and being open to relationships in a time of fleeting dates (“Les Méduses”).
One of the most beautiful and romantic shorts of the year cannot be missed. In “Trémulo,” a love grows between a Mexican barber’s assistant and a soldier passing through. For more diversity, one can visit the Israeli “Aquarium,” or “Heavenly Peace,” which is based on the works of German cartoonist Ralph König, and the delightful musical “Lady of the Night.” Amsterdam plays a part in the Irish “Snowfall,” and “the Society” is the festival’s first ever short film from Iraq.
We will time-travel in “Closets,” or go Sci-Fi in “The Future Perfect.” The bear is on the loose in “L’Ours Noir,” and the devil rears its ugly head in “Venenas Bibas.” Finally, there is this young Danish actor who reveals all in no less than two movies (“Sammen for evigt” and “Perpetual”).
And that is not all... Please visit www.rozefilmdagen.nl for more information and the full program.
Have fun in the dark!