Last Friday, I was invited by IFFR (International Film Festival Rotterdam) to visit their Mash-Up evening with Kunsthal Rotterdam, which is a museum of contemporary art. They had a pre-premiere screening of Lukas Dhont’s Girl and after that, we had the opportunity to visit the Action-Reaction exhibition and enjoy some music. In this blog post, I will briefly describe this new transgender movie. I do not want to give away too much because I highly recommend it and I just want you to see it for yourself. Below the image, you can find a video of me visiting the Mash-Up evening and discussing the movie. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel if you have not already!
Girl is the astonishing feature-film debut of Flemish filmmaker Lukas Dhont. The movie tells the story of Lara, a 15-year-old girl, is born in the body of a boy and wants to become a ballerina. She is working really hard on her dancing and takes extra classes for this. At the same time, she also starts her hormone therapy. You can already tell this is going to be a massive challenge.
The leading role is played by Victor Polster, whose impressive performance was awarded the Un Certain Regard Prize for Best Actor at Cannes Film Festival. Girl took home more awards from Cannes 2018. The film also won the FIPRESCI Prize, the Caméra d’Or, and the Queer Palm for best LGBT film.
The idea for Girl
In an interview with Screen Daily, which you should read in full, Lukas Dhont said that he was just 18 years old and still in the closet with his own homosexuality when he got the idea for Girl. He read a newspaper article about a girl in Belgium who had been born in a boy’s body but wanted to become a ballerina. “This story struck me so much. This 15-year-old has the courage not only to say, ‘I was born in the wrong body,’ but also to strive for this high form of femininity, to be a ballerina. She was a hero. I was 18 and up until that point, I had hidden a big point of myself. I said, ‘If I make a feature, I want it to be about this!’”
Girl is intense
I am glad Lukas did. What an intense movie Girl is. The entire time I felt Lara’s pain. Her pain is both emotional and physical. I mean, ballet dancing is painful and transitioning is painful; there is just so much pressure and tension 24/7. I was also constantly on guard for her, watching everybody closely to see how they would react to her. Already after twenty minutes, I was ready to find a relief. It made me wonder how Lara would find it. They sure know how to convey those feelings! Lara does find her relief in the end but is it really relief? Let’s just day the entire room of people gasped… Go watch it!
What lesbian movies can you watch at the 2018 Roze Filmdagen (Amsterdam LGBTQ Film Festival)?
March 8th to March 18th, you can visit the 21st edition of the Roze Filmdagen, which means the Pink Film Days, or the Amsterdam LGBTQ Film Festival. It has so many great movies that I almost want to urge you to go every day. I completely understand it if you cannot clear your schedule for all 125 movies, so I have listed the top lesbian movies you should go and watch. The organization of the 2018 Roze Filmdagen has allowed me to watch some previews, so I can tell you what I thought of them. You can find the program here, which has info in Dutch and in English.
I have been waiting a while for this movie starring Ellen Page and Kate Mara. Now, we can finally watch it here in The Netherlands. I wish I had been able to watch a preview for you, but alas.
With her father on death row, Lucy has been a passionate campaigner against the death penalty for years. Every weekend she and her siblings travel to a protest outside a jail. And every week they are met by death penalty supporters. Then, one day, one of ‘those people’, a young woman named Mercy, starts chatting her up.
2018 Roze Filmdagen Tip 2: Becks
On Twitter, Myron Floyd told me about this movie when I had just published my blog post about IFFR. It made me very curious, so I would like to see this one. Again, I was not able to watch a preview for you, so I cannot tell you if I am as excited about it as Myron is.
Betrayed by her girlfriend, aspiring singer/songwriter Becks returns to small-town America and her ultra-religious mother. After some self-pitying couch potato time, she ventures out into the world again, with some scandalous affairs waiting to happen. Tony Award winner Lena Hall shines in this warm, sexy and fun tale of a love life going bad in all the good ways.
2018 Roze Filmdagen Tip 3: Seventeen
Oh, this movie is so cute! It has been a while since I was in high school but I do remember wanting things that just seemed so far out of reach or that were made impossible because of circumstances or other people’s behavior.
I loved listening to German and French again. I admired the protagonist for her discipline at home, looking after her father without her sister caring that much, and at school, doing “the nerdy thing” even though peer pressure could have led her to do “the cool thing.”
Oh, and ouch, the bad decisions you can make as a teenager! I truly wanted this movie to end differently. I am just going to leave it at that because I do not want to give away too much.
In the final weeks of school, we follow the trials and tribulations of a group of young teenagers. Paula is in love with Charlotte, who may be interested but is still also dating a boy. And then there is Lilli, who has an affair with a boy while they both have the hots for Paula. Their fluid sexualities are never considered a problem; they are simply a matter of fact in this refreshingly naturalistic portrait of life at seventeen.
2018 Roze Filmdagen Tip 4: Signature Move
How refreshing to have so much diversity in one movie. We can get a glimpse of American, Pakistani, and Mexican culture as it is all combined in these eighty minutes. I have seen Fawzia Mirza in other LGBTQ productions but never in the lead of a movie; that is great for her! Apparently, she is also the writer and producer of this movie. I love how this movie is a love story in which both women are trying to balance their cultural backgrounds, beliefs, and insecurities and that you follow all this through a story of wrestling. Yes, wrestling, what else?
Deliciously entertaining, this colorful love story is as much about culture as it is about love. Zaynab is lesbian, Muslim and of Pakistani origin. With an overbearing mother, things get complicated as she meets flirty ‘love-em-and-leave-em’ Alma, while she is also dabbling in her new-found love for Mexican style wrestling. Warm and witty, this is a real crowd-pleaser of a movie.
2018 Roze Filmdagen Tip 5: Sisterhood
If you want to see a happy movie, this 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 (yes, “best friend”) but at the same time, you are constantly smiling during the flashbacks of their friendship (yes, “friendship”) 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. Great acting performances drive this award-winning film.
2018 Roze Filmdagen Tip 6: Hello Again
Yay, I loved this musical! If you are looking for a strictly lesbian movie, I urge you to broaden your mind and include this movie in your plans. This masterpiece is extremely well done. There are ten protagonists who all have two love stories. Or, should I say sex stories? The best thing is, they are all set in different eras and when they subtly change storylines, they still refer back to their old character with a line or two.
When the movie started, there was an insensitive sex scene that made me question whether I was going to like this movie but I am so glad I kept watching. The sex/love interest of the protagonist is the protagonist in the next sex/love story. The whole LGBTQ spectrum is incorporated into the stories. I especially loved seeing Jenna Ushkowitz and Tyler Blackburn in completely different roles from what they did in Glee and PLL.
Loosely based on the 1897 play “La Ronde”, this dazzling and sexy musical celebrates love, regardless of gender. Ten very New York encounters, each set in appropriate time and music styles. With the best of Broadway performers, the seemingly disconnected stories reveal their unifying factor – the human desire to love and be loved.
I had the pleasure of watching Chavela during IDFA’s Queer Day. Like I said in that blog, the movie immediately teaches you about her music, building the foundation of your documentary experience.
It slowly follows her life: ranging from her songs, being nervous before performing, and her flirting skills to alcoholism, being allowed to be a lesbian on stage but not in real life, and the lack of support from her family from an early age on.
You find out that she has a beautiful side and a dark side and at the end of the movie, you grieve her death as if you have known her personally. The fact that you can become so emotionally attached to someone in a documentary means the creators have done a great job.
2018 Roze Filmdagen Tip 8: Mr. Gay Syria
You are right. Mr. Gay Syria is not a lesbian movie. Still, I want you to see it or at least know about it. I also had the pleasure of watching this documentary during IDFA’s Queer Day and it made a big impact on me. You are constantly hoping for Husein and his friends to get a break and be granted a visa. You are also left wondering about their culture. Even though they speak of it so lovingly, you never get to see the beauty of Syria. The despair is real and you cannot help but wonder what you would do had you been in the same situation.
So many options at the 2018 Roze Filmdagen!
These are my movie tips for the 2018 Roze Filmdagen but when I look at the program again, there are so many movies, documentaries, and shorts that I still want to see. Another fun thing to highlight is the screenings that will be held of the winners of the 48 Hours Project on March 11th, 9.30 pm. The project had an LGTBQ theme this year and so the movies, which were created from March 2-4, match the program of the 2018 Roze Filmdagen perfectly.
Want to stay in Amsterdam?
If you want to stay in Amsterdam for the 2018 Roze Filmdagen from March 8-18, I have found you some hotels on Booking.com.
The 47th edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) takes places from Wednesday, January 24 to Sunday, February 4. Unlike IDFA, there is no special Queer Day but IFFR 2018 does offer a selection of LGBT+ themed movies. I was allowed to watch previews of those movies, so I can tell you all about them!
I have ranked the 5 LGBT movies from my favorite one to my least favorite one so you can decide whether you want to follow my recommendations or not. If you click on the title of the movie, you will be redirected to the IFFR 2018 page with screening info.
I have also included a vlog, so you can watch me highlight the LGBT movies there as well. As I have just started vlogging on Dailymotion, I could really use your help. Will you subscribe to my channel and like or share my video?
Synopsis: In this unflinching yet open-hearted portrait of prostitution, we follow the transgender women Tuesday, Amanda and Barbie, sex workers and friends, through Burgos, the red-light district in Manila. Tuesday has an encounter with a rough client who she fears might not accept her. Amanda returns to her province to attend the christening of her ex-girlfriend’s son. Barbie finds herself deeply entangled in the precarious world of drug dealing.
While the risks that come with their job are on full display, the film’s inclusiveness and affection for its characters leave us with warmth. Calmly gliding through bustling neon-lit streets, cinematographer Bradley Liew’s camera exudes a confidence that matches the attentive focus in Gerardo Calagui’s direction. In the film’s rejection of stereotypes, the three women take varying approaches to their work and identity, but most importantly, they accept one another first and foremost as friends.
Review: This movie was definitely my favorite one and the only movie that I wished lasted longer. I loved how you closely follow the three women in a row while you still see them meet each other every now and then. You start to feel a bond with them (and feel sorry for them at times). After the movie, I really felt like I wanted to know more about their lives. Go see for yourself!
Synopsis: After twenty years, Nina’s marriage to Wojtek is going nowhere, partly because of their failed attempts to have children. When they meet a young woman, Magda, they decide to propose that she become a surrogate mother for their child. But things get more complicated when Nina suddenly feels attracted to Magda.
This accomplished debut paints a sensitive portrait of a strong yet confused woman trapped in her role as wife and daughter. The energetic, apparently carefree Magda breaks open her world. The camera stays close to the three protagonists, almost without the use of establishing shots, creating a sensorial, highly vibrating atmosphere. But there is one location that plays a crucial role: Natalia Bażowska’s artwork Birth Place, which represents a womb you can lie in and serves for the characters as their only shelter, where their love, freedom and identities are not bound by any conventions.
Review: The first hour, I had a really hard time liking Nina. She is so distant and awkward that I constantly wondered why Wojtek is so crazy about her. I instantly liked Magda though, who you will get to know (and fear) as a player and party girl. For me, the turning point in the movie is when Magda comes to Nina and Wojtek’s home as that is when Nina starts to become less distant. I will not give away too much but the plot twists after that make you want to watch everything, even though I think the movie could have been a little shorter. I definitely recommend this movie!
Romania, Serbia, Belgium – 2017 – Ivana Mladenovic – 119 min.
Synopsis: Ferentari is a run-down neighborhood in Bucharest largely inhabited by Roma. “The closest to a ghetto you can get in contemporary Romania,” according to director Ivana Mladenovic. This is where she sets her fiction feature debut, a modern Romeo and Julio. Ferentari is not somewhere you would expect to find an introverted academic like 40-year-old Adi. The anthropologist comes to the area soon after being dumped to study the Roma pop music, manele. Adi needs help navigating this shady, often mob-related, world and finds this in kind-hearted criminal Alberto.
As do many contemporary Romanian filmmakers, this originally Serb director plays an intriguing game with fact and fiction in her film, which is populated by amateur actors from Ferentari. Soldiers. Story from Ferentari is based on the eponymous, semi-autobiographical book by Adrian Schiop, who also plays the lead in this loose adaptation.
Review: I thought this was a highly interesting setting as it gives you a peek into Roma life (or misery). I did sometimes feel the movie was slow. However, after a few days of watching this movie, I found myself questioning at times whether Alberto’s love was real or merely a survival strategy. We can probably all agree that this movie has an impact on you.
Synopsis: Gelatin is of animal origin, odorless and, when liquid, can be molded into almost any imaginable shape. Swedish Candy, Some Violence and a Bit of Cat is also fluid: a sugary clash between violence and love, old and new, Tarzan and Jane. Above all, incitement to transgress the boundaries between all these binaries.
Review: If this synopsis is already hard for you to understand, you will be left dumbfounded by this 45-minute-movie. I asked myself what the hell I just watched. At one point, you feel like sympathy vomiting with one of the two protagonists. If absurd movies are your thing, this is your go-to movie.
Synopsis: The boys are unleashed. In the early 1900s, five teenagers from rich families are sent on a repressive cruise after murdering their teacher. Led by a violent captain, they arrive on a strange island with luxuriant, supernatural vegetation. As the song says, “a change is gonna come.”
In his first feature, Bertrand Mandico deepens the universe of his award-winning shorts: cinema as something organic, only-shot-on-film, where bodies are shrouded by highly-stylized, sexy, and wild visuals. A world of literal (bodily) and metaphorical fluids. The Wild Boys manages the crazy feat of merging such disparate influences and genres as Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Kenneth Anger, 80’s New Wave, Joseph Von Sternberg and Wakamatsu Koji in a gorgeous (mostly) black-and-white feast of magical visions. With the strength of poetry rather than speeches, the film pleads for a fluid sexual identity to free ourselves.
Review: I will be honest with you: I have not watched this movie. After reading the synopsis and watching the trailer, I did not feel inclined to watch it. The movie is simply not for me. Still, I am sure it will draw a crowd.
Want to stay in Rotterdam for IFFR 2018?
I hope my information has inspired you to go see the movies yourself. If you want to spend one or more nights in Rotterdam because you want to watch several movies, take masterclasses or visit a number of events, you can find hotels in Rotterdam at Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia or Tripadvisor.
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