Rafiki: A Lesbian Love Story from Kenya with a Happy Ending
What do you think when you hear that there is a lesbian movie from Kenya? Is that even possible? Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, so my biggest fear was that the movie was going to be full of hurt and pain, with no hopes of a good future. Can you imagine my surprise when I found out Rafiki actually has a happy ending?! This movie is wonderful, and I want to share with you what I liked about Rafiki and where you can watch it. You can read the blog post but you can also watch the video below this image.
Let me first tell you that you will have lots of feelings. Knowing the situation there, I was constantly scared for Kena and Ziki. You follow Kena, so you’re more scared for her as you see her in more situations.
The moments when she talks to friends and families, you are constantly wondering whether they are going to ask something or whether Kena reaches a point where she can’t take it anymore and yells out something. For instance, she is not “the only gay in the village.” There is a gay man, and everybody knows about him. Her friend laughs at him, has probably beat him up at one point, and bumps into him on purpose.
When Kena and Ziki find moments together, you are constantly worried they will get caught. And as I was not familiar with Kenyan culture, I did not know what the consequences would be if that were to occur. That adds to the tension even more.
A lot of feelings
Yes, they do get caught. Yes, bad things happen. It is bound to happen; you know it will at one point, and you will feel every fiber of your body object when you see the consequences.
And you will have a lot of feelings about the two town gossips. My biggest question is: what does it bring them, to hunt them down like that?
You will also have feelings about the two dad’s different responses. And then, you will have a LOT of feelings about the happy ending.
Basically, Rafiki is a rollercoaster ride of emotions, but you can now be assured that you will not be crying for days. In fact, now that I know about the happy ending, I might want to watch it again just to be able to enjoy the story without having these feelings of tension the entire time.
The first thing I liked about Rafiki: the sheer fact that it is a lesbian love story from Kenya
Yes, critics who might say that Rafiki is another coming out and another coming of age movie are right. We get it: we want different narratives too. However, for a movie from Kenya to talk about a lesbian romance is huge. Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya and signs of it will be met with violent responses.
In fact, Rafiki was banned from screening in the country by Kenya’s Film and Classification Board (KFCB). KFCB said it banned Rafiki because of intent to “promote lesbianism” in the country: “The film has been restricted due to its homosexual theme and clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law.”
Director Wanuri Kahiu filed a lawsuit earlier challenging the censorship board’s ruling. She won, and the ban was temporarily lifted for seven days. This way, it could be eligible to be submitted for the Best Foreign Language film at this year’s Academy Awards. As a result, Kenyans went to the cinema’s “en masse” to watch it.
Can you imagine the impact Rafiki can have on Kenyan queer women watching this movie? The hope and sense of community it can bring? And it does not even end badly, which I had to experience often growing up. I am so very happy for Kenyan queer women to be able to watch a high-quality lesbian movie with a happy ending.
The second thing I liked about Rafiki: getting a glimpse of Kenya
Not all is bad about Kenya. As a queer woman, I find it easy to be against everything Kenyan when I know about the situation there for my community. Consequently, I was hesitant to find Kenya’s beauty in this movie. However, the colors, the people, the language, the accent when they speak English, the games played in public, its nature; there was just so much to enjoy for me in my first introduction to Kenya. I always love seeing different cultures and countries, so this movie being set in Kenya definitely adds something for me.
The third thing I liked about Rafiki: the chemistry between Kena and Ziki
The chemistry between Kena and Ziki is certainly there. It is well played. Being in such a restrictive environment, you find ways to find a connection with a person. It starts with looks and with small talk. I was actually surprised that they went on a date quickly. It was at night, in the dark, but it still took me by surprise that they found that opportunity.
I also think that because it is illegal, a lot of people are not used to seeing our community. Therefore, they might not recognize things. I think that if you put Kena in the western world, many gaydars will go off. Here, she constantly gets hit on by men. When she puts on a dress, she is described as a proper lady. People do not seem to see it.
When the two town gossips start staring at them, I think it is more because they are the daughters of two political enemies rather than because it might be a starting romance.
According to a Facebook post, “Rafiki screened at over 100 film festivals and won 14 awards since May 2018, and this year is starting strong! In January you can catch the film in the US, Germany, Australia, and the Netherlands.” Therefore, there is a good chance you will be able to see the movie at a festival near you.
A Girl’s Band/Una Banda de Chicas: A Feminist Take on Argentina’s Music Scene
International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) will take place January 23-February 3, 2019 and one of the LGBTQ movies it is showing is A Girl’s Band or Una Banda de Chicas. I have seen a screener of it, which means that I can tell you all about it. If you are looking for good LGBTQ movie tips for IFFR or a good LGBTQ movie tip in general, this blog post might be something for you. Below, I explain what A Girl’s Band is about and what I liked about this music documentary.
Synopsis of A Girl’s Band
For six years, Marilina Giménez rocked the bass guitar in Yilet, a three-woman band in Argentina. But like female musicians everywhere, she was constantly confronted with a male-dominated, often sexist industry. In this documentary, she probes Argentina’s music scene with her camera and many pertinent questions. Why are there so few female superstars who write their own music? Why is it almost obligatory to look a certain way? Has the position of female musicians improved in recent decades?
Giménez moves through Buenos Aires by night, filming female artists (many of whom operate underground) attracting sell-out crowds with punk rock, reggaeton, pop or electronic music. She films them behind the scenes and in full glory on stage and listens to their experiences. As diverse as these women are, their stories of the sexism, inequality, and aggression they face are equally painful – whether they have dreadlocks, twerk in a G-string or pose in hipster attire.
What I like about A Girl’s Band: the introduction to Argentina’s music scene
Actually, the first thing that I like about A Girl’s Band is a very simple thing. It introduced me to the Argentinian music scene. I don’t know anything about it, so to see a diverse sample of this country’s music was highly entertaining and an exciting learning experience. Because most of the bands are underground bands, I am curious to know what mainstream is in Argentina and what role the underground music scene plays in Argentina.
What I like about A Girl’s Band: the feminist take on Argentina’s music scene
I think Giménez has an interesting take on her country’s music scene. She was part of it for years, and she now takes a step back to review it through the camera lens (and allows us to go on that journey with her). As a result, she shows a good understanding of what is honestly going on in Argentina’s music scene for women, and she has the connections to tell the whole story. That insider perspective makes you want to listen.
I was quite blown away by the gender inequality in Argentina’s music scene. It made me compare Argentina’s music scene to the Dutch music scene. I have no inside knowledge of our music scene, but I do know that the music scene is just one part of a bigger whole: our culture. If I compare Argentina and The Netherlands, I think Argentina has a more significant gender inequality. This must be reflected in the music scene as well because I simply cannot imagine the things happening in this documentary happening in my country too. Yes, the Dutch music industry is a man’s world too but not to the same extent.
I feel bad for these women just trying to follow their dreams and passion and barely surviving. The bravery they show is fantastic. I think that courage combined with good music is what made this documentary a fun watch.
What I like about A Girl’s Band: the diverse range of LGBTQ women
Look, whenever you have a big group of strong women, it is only natural that a part of those women is LGBTQ, amirite? This documentary shows a diverse range of LGBTQ women. There are differences in how they identify and how they look and dress. There are individuals, couples, and families. To me, this type of representation is beautiful!
One thing A Girl’s Band could have done better
If I must make a statement on something this movie can improve, it is the following. I noticed halfway watching the movie that I was missing a sense of direction. Why am I watching band after band after band play and introduce themselves? What do these band presentations mean? I mean, they are cool, but is this documentary simply a list of women in bands sharing their experiences?
Then, at the end of the documentary, there is an event that brings all these bands together. I won’t give away what it is. You see many familiar faces, and you see that many of them know each other. It is the moment the storyline of the documentary comes together.
I just wish I had known this a little earlier. In the beginning, I was trying to invest in the first bands, thinking we’d see more of their journey. However, by the time the fourth band was introduced, I did not feel like paying close attention anymore because I knew we would not establish a deeper connection. Therefore, a more evident storyline would have led me through these introductions better.
Where can you watch A Girl’s Band?
As mentioned, you can watch A Girl’s Band at IFFR, so check out their website for the schedule. However, if you are not close to Rotterdam January 23-February 3, you might want other options.
The best thing you can do is follow them on social media. There, they will tell you at what other film festivals the documentary will be screened. Here are their Instagram and Facebook pages. Another option is watching their Vimeo page since it has the trailer on it. They might upload their movie there after a festival run.
5 New Queer Documentaries on Queer Day 2018 by IDFA
November 19, IDFA (International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam) held the sixth edition of Queer Day. Queer Day 2018 kicked off with a video essay by queer artist Finn Paul, followed by a visit to Rio de Janeiro through the eyes of transgender icon Luana Muniz and a look into the life of Mexican wrestler Cassandro de Exotico. The day winded up with a portrait of performance artist Linn da Quebrada in Bixa Travesty with a live performance by Guillermo Blinker (OTION) and ended with an intimate portrait of a porn star in Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life In between these last two films, the audience was welcome at the Queer Drinks in the foyer of EYE. I could not stay until the very end, but I can tell you what I thought of the first four documentaries.
First documentary on Queer Day 2018: Beside the water, 1999-2004 by Finn Paul
Info by IDFA: Queer artist Finn Paul tells the story of transgender sexual awakening in this provocative video essay that looks back at the early 2000s when transgender lives were less visible. He energetically combines both history and photographs of lovers to create a personal story of sexual discovery. Real and imaginary events blend in a mix of erotic snapshots, found footage, home videos, postcards, and desert landscapes. At the same time, he criticizes the misconceptions about queer people that existed at the time.
Finn Paul not only delves into his own personal collection but also creates new, imagined images. This way, he proposes alternative ways to bring a trans-past to the surface of his memory. This unconventional video diary rewrites the past to herald a queer future, with a place for pleasure, sincerity, and beauty.
An essay film is not the type of movie I usually watch. There were some moving images but mostly photos. It was interesting to see and hear these different types of footage, such as listening to a voicemail and watching a photo of an envelope that once contained a love letter. It is exactly why I love visiting film festivals; they open up a world to you that you may not have looked for yourself. It felt like a visit to the museum while simply sitting in your chair. So, I am happy that IDFA and the director offered me this opportunity. It is definitely a creative piece of work.
In terms of story or impact, it did not really move me personally but I can understand that if you are transgender yourself, this short documentary can be of much value to you given the fact that much transgender history is erased or hidden.
Second documentary on Queer Day 2018: Obscuro Barroco by Evangelia Kranioti
Info by IDFA: [This] is a spellbinding, hallucinatory film essay that wanders off the beaten narrative track and takes us to Rio de Janeiro, the go-to city for anyone wanting to transform into a new version of themselves at the exhilarating, gender-bending carnival, or one of the many nightclubs for the queer scene.
This visual homage meanders through the steamy clubs, the vivid carnival parades with their buttock-shaking dancers, and the raging protests, before drifting onwards into the nocturnal streets of Rio, a city of extremes where queer culture is in full bloom.
Our guide and narrator is the famous Brazilian transgender activist Luana Muniz (1961-2017), who is sensual and melancholy as she recites lines of poetry from Clarice Lispector’s experimental monologue Água Viva. Reflections on identity, aging, and self-expression all flow into the lights of Rio. Political events that herald a new conservative era seep into the background of this dizzying dream.
I do not really know what to say about this documentary. It felt very much like a dream. You see Luana Muniz but not enough to establish a real connection with her. You see many different images from Rio, which offer very bright and beautiful colors. In the meantime, you hear this poem being recited. I was constantly wondering what it all meant. As a result, I was not really present, which may have distracted me from the true meaning of the documentary. I can see that it was very creative, though.
Third documentary on Queer Day 2018: Cassandro, the Exotico! by Marie Losier
Info by IDFA: Cassandro is often referred to as the Liberace of lucha libre (Spanish for “freestyle wrestling”). This tough Mexican show wrestler wears glittering costumes and has more than earned his wrestling stripes in his gender-bending exótico persona. In this intimate 16mm portrait, we follow this likable entertainer and athlete in the twilight of his 26-year career. His body is, at last, succumbing to the years of broken bones, concussions, and alcohol and drug abuse.
The characteristic color palette of this analog film perfectly complements Cassandro’s life: his spectacular costumes, his home filled with trinkets and the poor neighborhood where he grew up. On just a few occasions the protagonist himself appears in a Skype conversation. These are often his darkest moments, and it’s in these scenes that director Marie Losier becomes most deeply involved. Cassandro needs to reconcile himself with the prospect of his impending retirement. But without the spotlight, who is he?
Because we closely follow one person, I was drawn in much more than in the previous documentaries. When Cassandro is happy or cracking jokes, you laugh with him. When he tells you about his dark past, upcoming retirement or relapse, you feel for him. And when he is adjusting his hair for the umpteenth time, you chuckle at his vanity. You admire his perseverance when you see his scars, x-rays, and casts. Finally, when you see him jump from the ceiling during wrestling matches, you understand his talent.
Fourth documentary on Queer Day: Bixa Travesty by Claudia Priscilla and Kiko Goifman
Info by IDFA: Raw, vital and sometimes very intimate portrait of the Brazilian artiste Linn da Quebrada, a “tranny fag” who uses her own body as her medium of political expression. Her performances are confrontational, subversive and colorful—and they offer no room at all for a heteronormative perspective. She deconstructs the self-image of the alpha man and examines what a tranny fag really is.
Public and private life are completely intertwined in this journey of discovery, with discussions about gender and how to define it—or undefine it—taking place in the shower, in the bedroom, and on the radio. We see Linn da Quebrada sharing tender moments with her family, during playful exchanges with friends and bursting with self-confidence onstage.
I am happy to have watched this. Quite a few people walked out, though. Were they offended by the many genitals shown? Were they bored by the huge amount of text spoken, sung or shouted? It shows that no matter what you think of this documentary, you will have an opinion. And is that not precisely the reason why art exists? To challenge you and the world around you?
For me, I have seen enough penises for a while but I enjoyed the moments when they sat down for the radio shows. There, they stripped away most of the show and came back to their message. That is when I really listened.
Queer Day 2018
Queer Day 2018 was the second time I visited IDFA’s Queer Day. Last year, I watched Chavela, Queerama, This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous, and Mr. Gay Syria. I have to say that Queer Day had a bigger impact on me last year. I feel the 2017 program was more diverse in terms of stories from the entire LGBTQIA community. And if I have to compare Chavela and Mr. Gay Syria, which I have seen winning quite a few awards over the year and shown at many different film festivals, with Cassandro, the Exotico! and Bixa Travesty, then I think the first two movies have a longer-lasting effect on its audiences. Bixa Travesty does have the potential to win some awards because it is so very outspoken. However, that may also be what works against it. Time will tell!
Today, I can finally talk about Anne+. I have been anticipating this new Dutch lesbian web series for a long time now. Last Sunday, it premiered at the Dutch Film Festival (Nederlands Film Festival, NFF). I also watched all six episodes that day, so I can tell you all about them. In this blog post and video, you will see spoilers. I try to keep them to a minimum but I need some things to explain how I feel about the show.
Before watching this web series, I knew that every episode would center around Anne and one of her relationships. After watching it, I like how it shows that you can learn a lot about yourself through your relationships. Anne+ starts when Anne goes to college in Amsterdam and after six episodes and five relationships, she graduates and begins adult life. The episodes of about ten minutes each take you on this journey.
At this moment, no subtitles are available in their videos but on their Instagram page, they do often write in English. So, make sure to follow their Instagram and keep an eye out for a version with subtitles! Under my Instagram post, they did say they are working on their international release. The first two episodes can be found on their website; there will be a new episode every week.
We get to know Anne, who is sitting next to moving boxes in her new house in Amsterdam. She needs to run some errands but then she sees her ex, Lily, with her new girlfriend. You know, precisely the moment when you do not look your best.
This is how we enter the flashbacks to the relationship of Anne and Lily. They fall for each other in high school, go to college together in Amsterdam, and are completely in love. Yet, slowly but gradually, they grow apart until they reach their breaking point.
We go back to Anne in her living room. After the encounter, Lily texts to see if they can meet up for coffee anytime soon and they agree to meet up this Sunday.
This is the introduction. Now I’m wondering: will they get back together again or is the next episode completely different and at a later time? After all, you know that every episode focuses on a different relationship but how will the series approach that?
Episode 2: Anne+ Janna
We still see that Anne is surrounded by moving boxes. That means little time has passed. Her two best friends help her unpack. Anne tells them that she saw Lily. Her friend first thought Anne was talking about Janna, another ex.
That is how we move to the second story. Anne needs excitement after the tame part at the end of her previous relationship with Lily. She finds that in Janna, who offers her parties and drugs. However, Anne doesn’t feel at home in Janna’s world. At the end of their fling, Anne is dumped for “living in a bubble.”
This was simply no match and you notice that Anne feels hurt but that she quickly recovered with the help of her friends.
Episode 3: Anne+ Sophie
In the third episode, we see Anne on the couch going through Tinder. Oh no, she sees Sophie’s profile. She was madly in love with her but the feeling wasn’t mutual.
I really liked the flirting scene. That’s when you see that awkwardness and exploring in the beginning for the first time.
Anne indicates that she thought she was quite a strong woman but that Sophie made her realize she wasn’t really. This episode offers us a twist: it goes from “what I want” to “oh no, the other person doesn’t want to so what do I do now?” This is a moment of growth for Anne, which allows you to establish a more in-depth connection to her.
Episode 4: Anne+ Esther
The episode starts with Anne on the phone. She needs a reference for an application: “Oh no, I need Esther for that.”
That leads to a flashback to the time she was an intern. As she casually says: sex with the boss, that’s really hot. She has no feelings at all; for her, it is just about sex. That is different from what we have seen so far. As a result, I think the series becomes funny as well.
Then, it turns out in (an embarrassing way!) that her boss does have feelings for her. Here, you see that she is in control again. Clearly, she is no longer upset over Sophie and you notice that she has become more mature.
Episode 5: Anne+ Sara
Sara calls when Anne is hanging a photo of Frida Kahlo. We notice that they have not seen each other for a long time. Sara is in Argentina. Anne thinks Sara super good looking and you see that she is very impressed again now. The balance is off and she immediately has a lower position.
In their flashback, Sara just doesn’t feel very lesbian. She just likes Anne, she says. Anne does value her lesbian identity much, which you have noticed all season. She doesn’t fully realize Sara’s struggles because she is just so in love. Sara is still really discovering her sexual orientation. That leads to a painful moment in public with a “F*ck off, dyke.” Then, there is one of those painful cry breakups in which you don’t want to let the other person go.
This was clearly a painful moment for Anne, right when she has just graduated and wants to start adult life. In fact, that means her student life starts and ends with a meaningful relationship that ends.
Episode 6: Anne
We now focus solely on Anne. We start the day. It’s Sunday. Anne is very busy with “real life.” The entire season, we have seen her brushing her teeth with her girlfriends but now, she is looking at herself in the mirror all alone. She also has breakfast by herself, standing at a table. She seems to be aimless.
Her parents come for a visit. They have that conversation about that life isn’t going as Anne wants and that she doesn’t know what she wants. This episode, it is also the time for the coffee date with Lily. The conversation remains uncomfortable and on the surface, while old feelings definitely play back and forth.
After watching Anne+
I liked the fact that her whole student life is shown from beginning to end and that it ends with big questions like ‘What am I supposed to do with my life now?’
After the six episodes, you know that you have gotten to know her through her loves and friendships and that she has also gotten to know herself like that. Occasionally, she is hurt and at other times, she experiences something beautiful. Now that she is all by herself, she wonders who she is without a girlfriend. She has often learned about herself through the other person.
This is how you end up with at a beautiful, well-rounded story with an opening for more stories and more seasons. I’m curious. If there will be more episodes, I want to watch them for sure. Will they add more toothbrushing?
I am really excited about this week’s blog post and video. For the past few months, when talking about queer representation in media, I have mostly addressed shows and movies from the US and Canada (and Brazil, hey RED 😊). This week, I finally get to talk about productions from my own country, the Netherlands. The Nederlands Film Festival (NFF – Dutch Film Festival, the link leads to English program) has sent me a list of LGBTQIA productions that will be shown at NFF 2018, which is held September 27 to October 5. I will discuss my favorite ones in this blog post and in the video below this image. Most of these have English subtitles so you can enjoy them too!
From that impressive list, I have picked the movies that I would want to watch myself as a visitor to the festival after watching the trailers and reading their synopsis. That means not every LGBT production available at the NFF will be described in this blog post and the video below.
I have contacted the production companies of the movies that I have picked for a preview and so I am able to give you my opinion about those and help you decide which ones you want to see. One production, which I have been anticipating for a long time now, was not able to give me a preview but their material will be available this Sunday. That means I will be able to dedicate a single blog post and video to Anne+ next week.
LGBTQIA movies to watch at NFF 2018: Taxi Stories
Feature film, 101 minutes
I first want to talk about Taxi Stories. Before watching this movie, I was the least fascinated by this production because I did not know how it could be interesting. I knew there would be three stories in one movie, all revolving around a taxi ride. I knew class differences would be highlighted and that there would be some LGBT elements. Nevertheless, this movie was the biggest surprise for me.
The movie takes place in three different Asian cities: Beijing, Hong Kong, and Jakarta. I am immediately drawn to the colors and the people. I want to know the backstories of the main characters and I am constantly wondering where the stories are going. At some moments, I feel disgusted and at other moments, I feel intrigued. The cultural differences are interesting and the scenery is beautiful. There were much more LGBT elements than I expected too.
Let me tell you, though, this movie does not make us people look good! We are a pretty disappointing bunch. Yes, you will definitely have feelings after watching this movie.
LGBTQIA movies to watch at NFF 2018: Mother’s Balls
Short documentary, 48 minutes
You need to know about ballroom dancing before watching Mother’s Balls. If this is your first introduction, your questions are left unanswered for a long time, which distracts from the real story. The real story is Amber’s efforts to have The Netherlands and Belgium get to know ballroom dancing. She puts so much time, effort, money, and love into it. The ballroom scene also means being a family and that really comes to the forefront.
I could really relate to the ending, where Amber starts talking about her family. She does not want to cry but she does. You just feel for her. As a kid, you simply want to be loved by your parents. It is amazing to see how she finds that family love in her ballroom family and gives that feeling back to others. I am happy they did not just show the confident performer Amber. If they had not shown vulnerable Amber, I would never think the ballroom scene would be something I could possibly belong to; this part makes the ballroom scene look more accessible and relatable.
The documentary has beautiful close-ups and nice breaks from the colorful, loud scene to small dances, like the one with a white background and a man in black dancing and moving merely with his hands. Those 48 minutes flew by.
LGBTQIA movies to watch at NFF 2018: Otherland
Short documentary, 13 minutes
Otherland offers a small peek into the life of one of the men who has joined House of Vineyard. Elvin grew up in Saint Martin. As a gay man, he felt he was suffocating on the island. Elvin discovered ballroom through a friend. They practiced it in the dark “because if we had been caught, we would have been killed.”
His story ends when he arrives in Rotterdam. Up to that point, we see him dancing in contests (where Amber is present), we see him all by himself, and we see him together with his mom. Most of this is shown in slow motion so you can really listen to his story and still get a glimpse of his dancing.
This documentary offers many close-ups and artistically shot poses and dance moves to support the story. I really want to hear what happened after he arrived in Rotterdam, how he felt, and how he ended up with the House of Vineyard. So, the documentary drew me in; I felt it.
NFF shows Otherland before Mother’s Balls but I prefer watching the movies the other way around. Still, I get why they have chosen to put a short film before a longer film.
LGBTQIA movies to watch at NFF 2018: Dòst (One Night Stand XIII)
TV drama, 41 minutes
I really liked Dòst. The setting of this movie felt really familiar to me. I grew up in a village in the countryside and this movie focuses on two teenage boys working together on the land, cutting asparagus. It is all very relatable, how awkward the guys and girls are with their first kiss. I sometimes even felt embarrassed for them.
Things change halfway the movie. You have come on a journey with the main character but now, you start to dislike him. You feel bad for him but you feel bad for the other character ten times more. The peer pressure in this group of guys is real.
After watching the movie, I really wondered how the story continued and what happened to the two characters, apart from each other but also together. It pulls you in, thanks to the beautiful close-ups and the perfectly cast actors.
LGBTQIA movies to watch at NFF 2018: Stille Dorst
Short film, 22 minutes
Stille Dorst highlights the moment Tarik rents a holiday home from Jonas to process his divorce. This short film offers few lines and many moments of silences. As a result, you are really focused on what Tarik is seeing and you are constantly wondering what he is thinking. His inner struggles are clearly visible, which is powerful. However, even though the movie is only twenty-two minutes long, it still feels long to me. I think it feels this way because it focuses on details so much and offers so many silent moments. One moment I like in particular is when the two main characters go outside to find some peace and quiet. You can clearly hear the sounds of nature, which almost made me feel zen at home.
LGBTQIA movies to watch at NFF 2018: Wognum
Short documentary, 54 minutes
Wognum took me by surprise. This short documentary is very special because you see two completely different worlds and only one main character. Matthijs is forty-two years old and still frequents the rave world. In the first few minutes, you feel his loneliness, which is painful. At big, crowded parties, he does not seem to connect with anyone. You learn that he has a boyfriend but at home, things are not going great. It seems as if he has money that he feels that people use him for that. He has a big collection of model trains in the attic, with which he plays. He invites others to play with them as well. You can tell this is where he feels safe.
Then, you discover another side of Matthijs. You wonder what a man like him is doing in a piano store but when he starts playing, you know why. It is lovely to watch him play. The ending is very emotional and heartwarming. It is beautiful to see when a person is finally recognized for one’s talents. It obviously has not happened a lot to him.
LGBTQIA movies to watch at NFF 2018: Vlam
Short film, 16 minutes
Vlam is a very short production of only sixteen minutes but you see quite a lot. This short film revolves around a camping trip with two friends, who meet three French guys. The first thing you notice is the colors of this movie. There are a lot of neon colors and bright pink, which make the story a bit absurd. Since they smoke weed at a certain point, you are almost looking at everything in a haze.
The story is very relatable too. I am sure you can remember the jealousy when someone you liked made out with someone else right in front of you. You can probably also remember some stupid things you did after that.
Also, the ending left me wondering what happened next. I really wanted this short film to last longer!
LGBTQIA movies to watch at NFF 2018: Yulia & Juliet
Short film, 11 minutes
Yulia & Juliet is a brilliant short film. Yulia and Juliet are in love with each other but they are in a juvenile detention center. We know TV shows with lesbian relationships in institutions: Orange is the new black and Wentworth. Now we have Yulia & Juliet too. You can truly feel the sense of confinement. They speak to each other through the ventilation system, they whistle to let the other person know they are there, and they find short moments together. This movie knows how to use the main elements of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet in a very short amount of time and it is great to see this version of the classic.
LGBTQIA movies to watch at NFF 2018: Dante vs. Mohammed Ali
Short film, 28 minutes
Dante vs. Mohammed Ali is an absurd and entertaining short film. Most of the time, you are wondering what the setting is. The way Wolf talks (and he calls himself Dante) makes you wonder whether you are watching a movie set in medieval times; or, is it a play turned into a movie? But then the clothes remind me of the 80s/90s. Also, where in the world is everyone so occupied with a weekly boxing match on a boat? In a way, this movie raises a lot of questions that it never answers. You do not really mind though. What you are here for is the love story and yes, that guides you through all the weirdness.
Bonus LGBTQIA movie to watch at NFF 2018: Niemand in de Stad
That said, if you are okay with that and you want to look for (straight) beauty elsewhere in the movie, Niemand in de stad is a good choice. The movie has likable actors, it has its funny moments (I mean, the beginning nearly had me vomiting while still making me laugh), and it makes you go on a journey with the main character. You do not always like him or his actions but you do understand how he is trying to figure everything out growing up. Plus, I always love seeing Amsterdam frat boys make themselves look like idiots. :p Consequently, despite the lack of positive queer representation, I am happy I watched this movie so I still want to add it to my list.
Other LGBTQIA movies to watch at NFF 2018
Other LGBT movies that you can watch are At Midnight Plays a Dance-Tune, Error of Eros, and A Double Life.
Best Feature Film De Roze Filmdagen: And the winner is….
Two weeks ago, I published a blog and vlog about De Roze Filmdagen, or the Amsterdam LGBTQ Film Festival, which was held March 8-18. The organization must have liked what I did because they asked me to become a judge for their Best Feature Film Award. I feel very honored that I was asked. Thanks, De Roze Filmdagen!
The nominees for Best Feature Film were Anchor and Hope, Even Lovers Get the Blues, Just Charlie, My Life with James Dean, Porcupine Lake, Sisterhood, The Cakemaker, and The Constitution. Below, you can find my reviews and find out which movie won. In addition, you can watch my 3.5-minute vlog about the experience.
Judging which movie is the Best Feature Film
I can tell you that watching a movie just for the fun of it is very different from watching a movie in order to decide whether or not it deserves an award. You experience all these emotions while watching a movie but when you are a judge, you constantly have to ask yourself how those emotions influence your decision.
What makes a movie a good movie and what makes a movie the Best Feature Film? For me, I decided that I wanted to make my decision based on the impact the movies made on me and how much of a connection I felt with the main characters. The latter does not mean I have to agree with what the main characters do; I simply have to understand why they do what they do and see an in-depth representation of them.
I watched Sisterhood before being asked to be a judge. As you can read in my previous blog, if you want to see a happy movie, Sisterhood is not it. But to dismiss it just like that would mean you are missing out on a great movie. You can constantly feel Sei’s sadness about losing her best friend (or is she?) but at the same time, you are constantly smiling during the flashbacks of their friendship (or is it?) and hoping for happiness. As she has already passed away, you know from the start you are not going to get a happy ending but you are curious about how they met and what they meant to each other. Oh, and if you are curious about what happens in massage parlors, this movie might enlighten you.
Love intertwines at the wrong time. The past almost feels like a foreign country in Tracy Choi’s female-oriented melodrama, which juxtaposes the regrets over a lost lesbian romance with the alienation of a former Macau native as she returns to what is now a glamorous gambling capital.
Even Lovers Get the Blues
The movie started with a sex scene. And another one. And another one. I was worried that we were doomed with the age-old combination of gays and sex again, not highlighting other aspects of our lives.
But no, not quite. My worst nightmare quickly happened: the partner of one of the main characters dies unexpectedly. This leaves the woman left behind in mourning and the group has to face the loss of their friend. It sends them on a journey, together and apart, but the death of that character is not necessarily a major theme.
What I liked about the story was that it focused on long-term relationships and the struggles that they can bring. I find that refreshing as many LGBTQ films center on finding your first or true (or both) love. I thought the movie did not really affect me much but I noticed after a few days that the scenes kept popping up in my head. I must have liked it more than I realized the first night!
Ana is sleeping with Hugo, Dahlia with Graciano, Leo with Louis, and Arthur is sleeping with seemingly half the hot men in Brussels. Together, they make up a good-looking group of friends with some serious dysfunctionalities. A take on modern romance and how we deal with sex and relationships.
If you are looking for a coming-of-age movie, Porcupine Lake is the one for you. It shows you the poorer side of Canada and how two teenagers there fall in love. Kate orders Bea around and Bea happily follows. For me, it was rather repetitious. Am I getting too old for these young love movies?!
During a hot and hazy summertime in northern Ontario, 13-year-old Bea wants a best friend more than anything else, but when she meets boisterous Kate, she gets more than she imagined. A story of bravery, small-town summer love, and the secret world of girls.
This movie is very French. Can I describe it like that? I mean the short answers in dialogues or questions as answers, the several scenes in which multiple characters follow each other around town, spying on each other, and the crazy spins in the story. It pleased me for about an hour but since this movie is nearly two hours long, it became a bit too much for me. You do want to keep watching to see where the movie and Géraud finally end up.
Moving. Demanding. Unclassifiable. Rare. These are the words given to the gay film that Géraud is invited to present in a sleepy seaside town. Géraud is drawn into the lives of the handsome young projectionist obsessed with him, the snotty hotel desk girl hoping to become an actress, and the slightly neurotic theater owner embroiled in a heated lesbian affair of her own.
I am happy to have seen this movie. Not that it is a happy movie, but the story gave me many questions to think about.
For starters, I would never do what the protagonist did. German baker Tomas starts a relationship with Oren, who has a wife and son back in Israel. Then, he finds out Oren has passed away in Israel. What does he do? He moves to Israel to watch the wife and he even starts working at her restaurant. I cannot comprehend why anyone would do that but it made me want to watch the rest of the story.
Also, apparently, Tomas’ vocabulary is mostly limited to ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ so you are constantly wondering what he is truly thinking and feeling. There are also some very smart details that add up and together, they create a well-rounded story.
Tomas, a young German baker, has a passionate affair with Oren, an Israeli man. However, their life together consists of brief episodes as Oren also has a wife and kid back home. When disaster strikes and Oren is killed, a grief-stricken Tomas travels to Israel to track them down.
I was most touched by this movie. Yes, this was my personal favorite; I cannot deny that. No, I was not crying; you were crying!
Charlie plays soccer and is offered a chance to study at a great academy. His heart is not into it though. After all, Charlie is struggling with the fact that she is really a girl but, in her environment, this is a really big challenge. I nearly started crying when she was putting on makeup, after checking she was home alone, and her father walks in unexpectedly and starts yelling, almost hurting Charlie psychically as well.
Yes, this could be described as merely a coming-out story, but I feel that would not do justice to the fact that even now, you can hardly find a teen M2F coming-out story on our screens. And, wow, how great is Charlie, both the actor and the character!
I even could not hate the father because as a mom, I do understand how you want the best for your child. You just have to figure out what “the best” is (and unfortunately, some people need more time than others to do so…). In fact, I was simply sad that he was missing out on all the meaningful moments he could have had with Charlie.
As the star player in his football team, Charlie is living up to the high, maybe too high, expectations of his father. But when Charlie can no longer deny the facts and starts to accept that she wants to be a girl, this is only the start of a long journey. Unflinching, and with stellar performances, Just Charlie manages not only to handle difficult topics but also to be a damn charming, delightful movie.
This movie has four main characters and several other characters that sometimes return to the story. Vjeko, a gay transvestite and high school professor from Croatia, who was raised by his Nazi father of whom he is now taking care, is beaten up.
In the hospital, he is being looked after by nurse Maja, who is also his neighbor. At home, she continues to take care of him and his father. She asks Vjeko to help her husband Ante study for his Croatian Constitution exam.
The problem is that Ante is an ethnic Serb and Vjeko a Croatian nationalist; they are each other’s opposites when it comes to opinions about nationality and sexual orientation. That means you are likely to hate the main characters from the beginning but at the same time, these contrasts also invite you to look further and find “the good and bad” in all of them. You wonder how they can resolve their conflicts while also asking yourself if they even have to resolve them at all. All in all, this is not an easy watch but if you want to be challenged, this movie is for you.
The tagline for this movie is “a love story about hate,” and frozen hate is what best describes the neighbors in a Zagreb apartment complex. The deep divisions of ethnicity and sexual identity may not follow the lines that you presume, and they all start shifting as the protagonists have to start working together.
As this movie is about two women trying to have a baby together, you probably expect me to love it. I did not though. Yes, the humor definitely made me laugh. Yes, I loved watching London from the water. Yes, I loved getting a glimpse of boat life (but not boat poo). Yes, I loved watching the three main characters interact with each other.
I just could not get over the fact that Kat only decides to have a baby with Eva to end a fight and then gets cold feet WHEN EVA IS PREGNANT. Yes, I had to write that in caps. I feel that you simply cannot do that to a child and so I was having a really hard time feeling a connection with Kat’s process. When can we see a movie in which lesbians become parents without the pregnancy being the central topic that should offer the conflict of the story?
With space tight on their London houseboat, Eva is not happy when her partner Kat invites over her old friend Roger from Spain. Although, on second thought, it could be an answer to their desire to have a baby together.
Discussion with the other judges about the Best Feature Film
Before the discussion with the other judges, I was nervous about how that discussion would go. Would the idea of which movie should win be shared by all immediately or would all the judges have a different opinion on which movie should win? And if so, how do you finally pick a winner? To prepare, I decided to pick my top three so that I would have some flexibility in picking the Best Feature Film with the others: Just Charlie, Sisterhood, and Even Lovers Get the Blues.
There were three judges, including myself, and we first started a round of discussing our favorite ones. I offered to start off with writing down our favorite one and throwing it on the table simultaneously but the other two stated that they had some favorites and did not know the order yet.
What does the Roze Filmdagen Best Feature Film Award mean?
After that first round, we asked ourselves what we want the Roze Filmdagen Best Feature Film Award to mean. When you see a movie poster with an image of the award on it, what should that say to the public?
We quickly agreed that we wanted to offer a bigger audience to a movie that might not be the audience members’ first choice. We are all used to our own cultural context and so watching movies that fit that context perfectly are easier for us to consume. As judges, we decided to look beyond our personal boundaries and offer a platform to a movie that might make us struggle as we are unfamiliar with its environment.
Two movies: The Constitution or Sisterhood?
That offered a problem because we thought that both Sisterhood and The Constitution fitted our criteria. This problem took us over an hour! In the end, if I speak from my point of view, I decided to go back to my viewing experience as I had stated beforehand that I would select movies that had an impact on me and that had characters with whom I could feel a connection.
I could not feel a connection with Vjeko from The Constitution. Before watching Sisterhood, though, I was interested precisely because I know so little about Asian culture and how the LGBTQ community exists within those cultures. While watching the movie, I felt a big connection to the group of friends from the younger years. So, my vote went to Sisterhood.
And the winner is…
One other judge was rooting hard for The Constitution but thought Sisterhood was worthy of the award as well. The final judge decided to choose the subtlety of Sisterhood over the big contrasts of The Constitution. That means Sisterhood won the Best Feature Film Award! To do justice to The Constitution, we gave it an honorable mention in our speech.
Hope you enjoyed this glimpse of what happens backstage at a film festival when an award has to be granted to a nominee! There were more awards to be received by the movies.
The next edition is March 14-24, 2019, so you can start clearing your schedule 😀
If you like what you have read about me selecting the Best Feature Film at the Amsterdam LGBTQ Film Festival, you can sign up for my newsletter. You will be informed when I publish a new post. For instance, I will be blogging and vlogging at ClexaCon in Las Vegas and Love Fan Fest in Barcelona, so plenty of LGBTQ blogging goodness is coming!
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