It is time to clear the schedule again and watch the most beautiful, interesting and tantalizing gay cinema available. This year is the festival’s twentieth edition from March 9-19. Cinema Het Ketelhuis on the Westergasterrein will be the GLBTQ hotspot again for eleven days. This anniversary edition features more than 130 entries, so you will be glued to your seat.
There are only movies that have never been screened in the Netherlands, and even a number of (world) premières. To get in the mood, but also to make the choice from 120 titles from thirty-eight countries a bit easier, we give an overview of some of the highlights.
Opening Night: Handsome Devil
The festival will kick off on March 9 with the Dutch première of the charming Irish feel-good movies “Handsome Devil.” Ned is the outsider in a boarding school where rugby is a religion, and education comes second. He hates rugby, but with his razor-sharp sense of humour he manages to survive. But then he gets a new room-mate, Conor, the new star player on the team. Conor was expelled from his previous school for unknown reasons. After a very rough start, the two develop a musical friendship stimulated by the new teacher. Secrets will be revealed, Conor runs, and Ned is expelled. But of course it would not be a feel-good movie if salvation would be at hand in the end. This film truly is a joy!
More handsome devils are easy to find at the Film Festival. Good stories we can identify with are important, but the eye wants something too. Russel Tovey (yes, the one-with-the-ears from “Looking”) in part of the film “The Pass” is starring in just his underwear. His opponent also provides enough eye-candy, but make no mistake, this cinematic triptych has fantastic performances and a poignant and emotional message. Jason en Ade are ready for the real thing - their very first big game as a professional football player. They are rough-housing at their hotel room, but then there is a kiss. A kiss with big consequences.
What if that one great sexy love of your life surfaces after fifteen years? In “Lazy Eye” Dean gets an unexpected email from Alex; the ex. In spite of Dean’s doubts, he decides to spend the weekend with Alex in his remote holiday home in the desert. If only to find out why the still very attractive Alex left without saying goodbye.
In these hot and desolate surroundings, but with a swimming pool to cool off, there is nothing to distract them from the question whether there is still a chance of a future together. In this stylish drama with intelligent dialogues, the passion between the sexy men stirs up quickly, and secrets are revealed.
“Pushing Dead” sounds like a melodrama, but in fact is a sparkling black comedy: Dan has been HIV positive for more than twenty years and is muddling along as a writer. A gift from his mother has unexpected consequences: suddenly he is dropped from his health plan for earning too much and has to pay thousands of dollars for his pills. Money he doesn’t have. With razor-sharp dialogues, this unexpected gem was already declared the winner of the audience award at several major festivals.
“King Cobra” is based on an almost unbelievable, but true murder of a director / producer who distributed gay-porn movies via the famous Cobra Films label. Films with under-age boys and pushing the boundaries ensure that the label rapidly becomes well-known and notorious. The latest discovery and rising star Sean Paul Lockhart, i.e. Brent Corrigan, soon has fights with “Steven,” the producer who made him famous. When Sean decides he’s better off without Steven, it is not that easy to get out of his contract. Meanwhile, some destitute rival producers are trying to cash in on his popularity in different ways.
They say that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, and in this festival section we see young people experimenting with growing up, searching for their sexual identities with each other. This search results in beautiful stories with interesting variations on the themes coming out and coming of age.
Youth can hardly be more different in the Italian “Un Bacio”: Lorenzo is exuberantly gay, Blu is seen as a “slut,” and Antonio is mostly struggling with himself after the death of his brother. As outsiders on their regional school they become best friends. Until disaster strikes. Or perhaps not? It is an extremely pleasant and flamboyant film with a serious undertone.
In the exciting murder mystery “Downriver” James returns to the spot where he supposedly killed another boy at the age of ten, after years in a detention centre. They never found the victim’s body, and James does not remember a thing because of his epilepsy. But the one who should know more, his childhood friend Anthony, is a first-class manipulator. And Anthony is not afraid to humiliate James’ new love, Damien.
In the brooding and sometimes intense “Teenage Kicks” Miklós is dreaming of travelling the world with his best friend. This plan is thwarted by a family tragedy for which he blames himself. Suddenly he’s faced with a dilemma. He feels compelled to stay true to his immigrant background and his family, but also wants to follow his own path and leave. As an emotional loose cannon, he tries to get support from his best friend whom he is in love with. But this friend has shocking news - he has a girlfriend!
Based on an award-winning novel, “Die Mitte der Welt” is a wonderful film in which the crushes, uncertainties and desires of growing up are refreshingly dealt with. In their small village, Phil, his mother, and his twin sister are outsiders. Not because Phil is gay, as that is not a problem in the family or for his best friend Kat, but because his mother’s free lifestyle is not appreciated by everyone. Then Nicholas joins his class, the athletic and handsome guy Phil has been dreaming of for a long time.
After his girlfriend broke off the relationship, Toey goes to Japan to leave everything Thai behind. A Japanese friend has arranged accommodations, and she encourages him to try new things, which is not easy for the traditional Toey. On his first day in Higashikawa he meets his attractive neighbour, Oat, also from Thailand. Slowly but surely a friendship develops into unexpected love in “Present Perfect.” But then Oat has to pack his things to go back to Thailand, where he will be getting married.
Reluctantly, the young Jonathan keeps the farm running, where he lives with his father Burkhardt. Burkhardt is dying of cancer, and their relationship is not improving. The tension rises when Burkhardt’s old flame Ron resurfaces. Ron and Burckhardt’s loving relationship is doomed but tender, and is in sharp contrast with Jonathan’s life and loves. “Jonathan” is beautiful but unusual drama: “coming of age” doesn’t coincide with “coming out” here.
This year again a lot of Spanish and Portuguese language cinema, which has effortlessly conquered the hearts of the Festival’s audiences for many years now.
Elias works in São Paulo as a designer in a clothing factory. He has very little contact with his family and finds his fun in casual sex and friendships with his also hard-working colleagues. When an African immigrant joins the team, Elias falls under the spell of this Fernando. In “Corpo Elétrico” he gets his colleagues involved, including the newbie, in an effort to get to know him better.
A remarkable work in this twentieth edition is “Los Ojos Llorosos,” a so-called “Work In Progress,” a film that’s nearly complete, but still needs work by its makers. The final montage may give different accents, but the movie is fascinating already. We follow a young journalist who is keeping an eye on police reports in a provincial town in Argentina. On the day his family drops by for his twenty-seventh birthday, he has to start his HIV medication. But under the influence of his dubious boyfriend and his need for drugs and money, this is not something he looks forward to, trying to delay it as long as possible.
Love, sex, cheating, and friendship. It is all dealt with in the delicious “Marica Tú.” Julián has moved to Madrid and wholeheartedly throws himself into gay life. Soon he meets Carlos, and that is bulls-eye. Living together, but also having adventures, a new job in another city. Seeking oblivion in one night stands and dating apps, and the friends who remain. Narrated with verve and momentum, and - also nice - with very handsome guys to watch, it is a great Spanish “crowd-pleaser.”
Bruno is a young soldier who just defected from the Brazilian army. He travels to Porto Alegre looking for his brother, whom he has not seen in years. During his quest, he get a warm welcome in a colourful queer community. Inspired by his new friends he takes the opportunity to explore his sexuality. Meanwhile the clock is ticking in “The Nest” - is there still time to find his brother?
In their budding sexuality, Jerónimo and Matias spent many a night in each other’s arms during the endless summer vacations in the swampy deltas of Argentina. But a move puts a stop to that childhood love. Ten years later, Matias temporarily returns to celebrate the local carnival with his girlfriend in “Esteros.” But old love dies hard. The intimate, naturalistic tone and fine actors result in an extremely enjoyable movie.
Deeper and Deeper
The Pink Movies Days provide both entertainment and depth; food for thought, and room for discussion. This year as well, there are a number of interesting documentaries that highlight community-related issues.
Firstly, there is the première of “PrEP&Me.” Film maker Tim Dekkers is keeping the momentum on the important PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) discussion. Those who take PrEP are hardly at risk contracting HIV, even without a condom. Fucking was never this safe. The filmmaker, who has lost a lot of friends because of AIDS, followed three participants in the Amsterdam PrEP experiment: Justin (24), Dirk (35) and Herman (68). They are very candid about the effects of PrEP as well as about their (sex) lives. We see the good sides of PrEP, but also the difficult side. And the criticism: PrEP would mean a license for wild sex. The experts and stakeholders have their say; Is PrEP a wonder drug or not?
A different Dutch language première is “Het zaad en de 11 eitjes” (The Semen and the 11 Eggs). Dennis and Lody, a young gay couple from Delft, would like to have children. Their cousin offers to act as surrogate mother to carry their child, but not with her own egg. The wannabe dads therefore are in need of an egg and a clinic that wants to help with the fertilization. What follows is the harrowing account of a long road with hopes and disappointments of a gay couple with a desire to have a child.
The debate on the opening up of marriage to same-sex couples was a cutting edge debate in France. The mother of co-director Mathias Thery was one of the experts as a sociologist in the advisory committee. The many telephone conversations between mother and son are the basis of “La Sociologue et l’Ourson.” But any similarities with other documentaries end there. Everything is presented with an irresistible playfulness and through a colourful mix of toy dolls that provide ironic commentary to the heavy debates. It makes it a very personal, funny and not to miss portrait of the era.
“Rebels on Pointe” is a very honest film that looks into the famous “Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo,” a rebellious men-only ballet company in tutus. Founded shortly after the Stonewall riots in New York, it is now a professional ballet company that has performed in thity-three countries. With unique behind-the-scenes footage and spectacular performances - a tour de force of expression and strength.
Somewhere in the centre of Seoul a group of men come together to sing. With their tenth anniversary concert coming up, the “G-voice” is attacked by an anti-gay group. Korea’s only gay choir becomes an important symbol of the country’s GLBT movement. Besides their admirable endurance, the singing in “Weekends” is mostly during rehearsals, performances and video clips especially made for this film.
Size Does Matter
Also in this twentieth edition, short films are not missing. As always there is the popular “Adventures in Dating” section with stories about on-line dates, cruising and other sexual outings.
A British paramedic must regularly give assistance to men who immerse themselves in chem sex parties, but despite the dangers Alex does perceive, he cannot get enough of it in “G O’Clock.” In “Hardcore,” two Israeli friends are sexually challenged by a German tourist. True love is found in “The Glory Hole,” and in “Trouser Bar” the excited sales staff, looking a lot like 1970s porn actors, do a lot of overtime in the changing rooms.
Also in repeat this year is a section about: Boys; untameable hormones versus first loves in “Be My Kind.” Spying on your naked neighbour in “The Roof” is great, but make sure your friends do not catch on. After having sex for the very first time in “En Aften,” the friendship between Frederik and Mathias becomes complicated, while the shy “Jamie” arranges that very first date through a dating app. For the Serbian boys things are somewhat more complicated, as in “It Looks Like we Are Alone” their homophobic surroundings force them to make choices. “Apollon” is fantasising about a muscular body and being well-endowed.
In the sectuion “Forbidden Fruit,” the illegal fruit tastes the sweetest. This holds true in “Climax,” in which Larry goes home with a date, but doesn’t find what he expected in his date’s crotch. The time traveller from “Time Quest” needs to have sex with his younger self to save the world, and in “Lilla Hora” a young man confesses to his girlfriend that he would like to try something else in bed.
For the aficionados there is also unadulterated horror on the festival in the section “Go To Hell,” which is nail-bitingly exciting and funny. With demonic love on the American countryside in “Tonight It’s You,” monstrous and fatal love in “Zerch,” and an extremely large genital as murder weapon in “XVWE.” Moralistic zombies star in “Sauna The Dead: A Fairy Tale,” and an ambushed Russian gay man in “Pyotr495,” who strikes back with a vengeance.
The theme section “Love Me or Leave Me” deals with choices we can imagine. Why are we having these sometimes important conversations over the voice-mail? (“The Orchid”) Can the porn actor in “Alfa” go on without his partner and loved-one? Summer, sun and holidays in the Italian movie “La Tana,” but how does la dolce vita fit in with this secret S&M relationship? A pleasant night among friends brings back memories in “Pangea.” Does this change their friendship?
The festival comes to a close with the exclusive première of “Souvenir,” in which Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”) stars as Liliane. Her years go by in an intensely depressing pâté factory. She once was the great star Laura, the runner up to ABBA at the Eurovision Song Contest. She has left that all behind her. But then the attractive young boxer Jean recognizes her, and knows how to penetrate her heart. Together, they embark on a come-back. The Flemish director Bavo Defurne - whose works “Matroos,” “Kampvuur” and “Noordzee, Texas,” among others, have been shown at the festival in previous editions - creates a delicious, but slightly melancholic atmosphere with light, sound and flawless settings. The perfect end of the festival!
Please visit www.rozefilmdagen.nl for more information and the full program.
There is so much more to see. Enjoy!