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International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam 2018

by our Editors in Films & Books , 03 november 2018

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar
Length: 5 minutes

From Wednesday, November 14 to Sunday, November 25, the thirty-first edition of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) will take place in different theatres throughout Amsterdam. As was the case in recent years, again there are various documentaries programmed about, in the broadest sense of the term, experiences in the GLBTQ world.

Cassandro the Exotico
Although Christine Jorgensen, a former GI who underwent sex reassignment surgery to become a woman, was in the news as early as the early 1950s, and was an advocate for transgender people and a famous actress and singer as well, and transsexuality therefore certainly is not a new and recent topic, currently the filmmakers (or the IDFA programmers?) seem to be predominantly interested in transgender themes.

Perhaps it is not that remarkable, because - especially in the Western world - homosexuality is normalized and therefore perhaps less spectacular a subject. It shouldn’t come as a surprise therefore that the documentaries dealing with homosexuality come from countries where the subject is still controversial, to know Lebanon and Poland.

Mother’s Sons

In the production “Room for a Man,” the young Beirut filmmaker Anthony Chidiac (1988) has the camera focus on the details of his mother’s house: the textured wallpaper, the gilded mirrors, the woven carpets, and the ever-vigilant Doberman. The apartment in Beirut is Chidiac’s refuge, but also a cage. “I think it’s the loneliness that I have filmed,” Chidiac says. When his old bedroom needs to be renovated, he sees it as an opportunity to explore his own identity. To the dismay of his mother, the renovation is carried out by Syrian construction workers.

ChiciacDuring the renovation, Chidiac involves the workers in a game of questions, searching for answers of his own about nationality and masculinity. A tense Skype call with his uncle underlines the contempt with which Chidiac’s homosexuality is treated by his family and in Lebanon in general. Also, his mother keeps the Doberman, as there is, as she says, no “man” in the house to protect her, even though Chidiac lives there as well. Finally, Chidiac contacts his estranged father in the hope to find acceptance.

In the Polish movie “Unconditional Love,” director Rafa? ?ysak also points the camera to a family member, in this case his extremely religious eighty-year-old grandmother, who raised him.

This grandmother is joyful, lovable, and overflowing with love, which she predominantly invested in her grandson. The smile disappears from her face when he tells her he is gay, and that grandchildren will not be coming along soon. She is struggling with her grandson’s sexual identity and hopes that he will not spend his life in solitude as she herself did. “Unconditional Love” is a unique documentary, which mainly focuses on the importance of openly discussing matters that often are a taboo within the four walls of (Polish) families.

Unconditional Love

Vivienne Westwood

That gay relationships can be extremely problematic also becomes evident in the life of the rebellious, homosexual writer Joe Orton. His live came to a violent end on August 9, 1967, murdered by his lover Kenneth Halliwell, who then killed himself. In the 1970s, a T-shirt with the text “Prick Up Your Ears,” which was originally from Orton and accompanied by a statement by Orton that cheap clothes suited him, was offered at the London fetish and bondage boutique SEX. This boutique was owned by fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and her former partner Malcolm McLaren, the manager of punk band The Sex Pistols.

The fashion designer is the subject of “Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist” by director Lorna Tucker. In her own words, the now seventy-six-year-old Westwood offers a peek into her creative processes and her life’s journey, from the punk protests in the 1970s to her current world status as fierce, independent woman. Even now, Westwood is still a controversial figure not only facing the fashion establishment, but also fighting to save the environment, without fail.


Bixa Travesty
As already noted, IDFA seems particularly interested in the transgender theme this year. In “Cassandro the Exotico!" Marie Losier follows the Mexican wrestler Cassandro during the last five years of his long and bone-breaking career. Cassandro is an openly gay champion in the Mexican wrestling genre “exotico,” in which the macho fighters dress in drag, and put on an action-packed show filled with punches, pile-drivers and high camp.

In the Brazilian production “Bixa Travesty” (Tranny Fag), Kiko Goifman and Claudia Priscilla follow the black transgender singer and activist Linn Da Quebrada from São Paulo. Her shocking performances (with ample nudity) take on Brazil’s hetero-normative machismo.

Obscuro Barroco
In “Obscuro Barroco” another Brazilian transgender takes centre stage, to know Luana Muniz (1961-2017). In this documentary-fiction, the director delves into Muniz’s various quests for the “self” through transvestism, carnival and political struggle. On the other hand, the film also raises questions about the desire for transformation of the body, intimately as well as socially.

IDFA Queer Day

On Monday, November 19, it is IDFA Queer Day in the EYE Film Museum, IJpromenade 1, Amsterdam, in which five GLBT related films will be screened. After the screenings there will be a discussion, with Jonathan Agassi as one of the guests. Agassi in the protagonist of Tomer Heymann’s “Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life.” For ten years, Heyman (director of “Mr. Gaga,” 2015) followed the booming gay porn star, Jonathan Agassi, through his rise as a young guy from Israel to the performer that revolutionized the gay porn industry.

The most defining moments of his life are revealed through shocking and emotion-wrenching events that bring a far away world close-to-home. Agassi builds his fame, fortune and success in a world taboo on the surface but enjoyed by millions in private. The film pushes the boundaries of freedom and oppression and blurs the line between them until we see Agassi’s power become his greatest weakness.

 See for the full program.




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