Carmen & Lola: A Lesbian Love Story in the Roma Community
This month, the 22nd edition of the Amsterdam LGBTQ Film Festival will take place. In Dutch, it is called De Roze Filmdagen. March 14-24, you will be able to see 44 feature films, 10 documentaries, and 84 short films from 48 countries. The festival opens with Carmen & Lola, a lesbian feature film from Spain. In this blog post, you will find my review. You will also find their social media accounts to support them online and to see when the movie will be screened at a festival near you.
The storyline of Carmen & Lola
Carmen and Lola are two young women from the Roma community on the outskirts of Madrid. Like every other woman she has ever met, Carmen is destined to live a life that is repeated generation after generation: getting married and raising as many children as possible. Lola is supposed to do the same, but she is different, as everybody describes her. Lola dreams about going to university, draws bird graffiti, and likes girls. The two women fall in love. As a result, they have to face up to a culture where family honor and centuries of tradition are still very strong.
I am divided in my opinion about Carmen & Lola, and I will describe why. Carmen & Lola is a lesbian coming-of-age and coming-out story. As some of you say, we already have so many of these stories. We are not defined by our coming out. There is more to our lives, and I am sure we have plenty of other stories to tell, preferably ones that do not only center around our sexual orientation.
That said, if you are in that stage of your life where you are struggling with your sexual orientation and coming out, a story like that of Carmen & Lola might be just what you need. It has all the classic elements. Is she gay? If she is, is she into me? If she is into me, what will that lead to? How will our families react? What do we do?
However, if you are at that stage, a movie that shows a positive image of our lives as a whole might give you more hope than a movie that focuses on that one (possibly) big, scary moment. Let’s be honest, coming out continuous to occur throughout our queer lives.
That said, if you get over that fact, Carmen & Lola is a beautiful movie. I was interested in it precisely because the story plays in the Roma culture. I had heard of it, but I had never really seen anything about it. This movie is brutally honest about this culture. It shows the good parts, and it shows the discriminations and lack of hope for a prosperous future the Roma people face. It also shows the traditions that seem very suffocating to me.
I mean, it starts with two seventeen-year-olds getting engaged. They are not allowed to interact much with each other even though they both know they will be getting engaged soon. Then, the dads have to have this big talk about why this marriage would be good for the families and what the kids have to offer. Only after ‘the deal is sealed,’ the two see each other, fully dressed as if they already are getting married. It is quite the spectacle, and this scene could occur in one of my nightmares, I am not going to lie.
At the same time, this otherness is what makes the movie so interesting to watch. However, let’s not forget about the actors. The entire time, I was wondering where they got these actors from. After all, they look like they could be Roma themselves. As you learn from the movie, career prospects for Roma women are not abundant. If they are lucky, they can become a hairdresser. So how did these people end up in this movie?
After watching the movie, I learned these actors are indeed from the Roma culture themselves, and they are not professionals. However, there is nothing unprofessional about their performances! They are all so very good, and it made me so happy to learn about this opportunity for them.
Follow Carmen & Lola on social media
As said, you can watch Carmen & Lola at De Roze Filmdagen in Amsterdam. If you are unable to attend, you can best follow the movie online to see when it will be screened at a film festival near you. They are active on Facebook and Instagram.
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 then 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.
Judging which movie is the Best Feature Film
I can tell you that watching a movie just for fun is very different from watching a movie to decide if it deserves an award. You experience all these emotions while watching a movie. When you are a judge, you constantly have to ask yourself how those emotions influence your decision.
What makes a movie a good movie? 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. So, 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.
My Life with James Dean
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 is beaten up. Vjeko is a gay transvestite and high school professor from Croatia. He was raised by his Nazi father of whom he is now taking care. 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. At the same time, though, these contrasts also invite you to look further. It invites you to 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. These 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 and I loved watching London from the water. Yes, I loved getting a glimpse of boat life (but not boat poo). Also, 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. 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 offering the conflict of the story?
Eva is not happy when her partner Kat invites over her Spanish friend Roger on their small London houseboat. 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? 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. This way, I would have some flexibility in picking the Best Feature Film with the others. I picked 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.
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?
We agreed that we wanted to make the audience see a movie that might not be their first choice. We are all used to our own cultural context. Watching movies that fit that context perfectly are easier for us to consume. As judges, we decided to look beyond our personal boundaries. We decided to choose 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, I decided to go back to my viewing experience. After all, 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 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.
Best feature film: 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.
If you like what you have read about me selecting the Best Feature Film at the Amsterdam LGBTQ Film Festival, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel. For instance, I will be blogging and vlogging at ClexaCon in Las Vegas and Love Fan Fest in Barcelona. Plenty of LGBTQ vlogging goodness is coming!
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.
2018 Roze Filmdagen Tip 1: Days of Mercy
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.
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.
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.
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.
2018 Roze Filmdagen Tip 7: Chavela
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. This builds the foundation of your documentary experience.
It slowly follows her life. It focuses on her songs, being nervous before performing, 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. 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.
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. You cannot help but wonder what you would do had you been in the same situation.
So many options at the Roze Filmdagen!
These are my movie tips for the 2018 Roze Filmdagen. Still, there are so many movies, documentaries, and shorts that I still want to see. Also, there will be a screening of the winners of the 48 Hours Project. The project had an LGTBQ theme this year. So, the movies 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.
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