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.
Watch Even Lovers Get the Blues on Vimeo!
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.
The Cakemaker trailer from JIFF on Vimeo.
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.
Watch the full movie on Vimeo!
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.
Anchor and Hope
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!