Pihalla

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Miku is 17, making his first tentative forays into sex and sexuality. His older brother, black sheep of the family Sebu, talks him into throwing a big party while their parents are away. Of course, the house gets trashed, so Miku is exiled to spend the summer with his parents (and without his phone!) at their summer cottage in the country.

He meets the (literal) boy next door, Elias, and, only partly for lack of other options, they quickly bond, exploring the lake and each other, comparing notes on whose parents and siblings are more fucked up.

Pihalla (Screwed) is another entry in the welcome trend of coming-of-age films in which being queer is only one of the adolescent issues, rather than the defining characteristic around which the bulk of the characters and of the plot are drawn.

It is refreshing to have sexuality be only one aspect of the story. That said, Pihalla has earned a place in the pantheon of all-time greatest coming out moments in cinema history. It’s fairly late in the film, so I won’t give away the details, but there is a surprising twist, giving a fresh take on, “Mom, I’m gay,” and casting light on some mysteries from earlier in the story.

The filmmakers, writer/director Nils-Erik Ekblom and writer/producer Tom Norrgrann, said that the script evolved during production, as they found the lead actors capable of much more than the light comedy originally written.

To be sure, this is a comedy with its share of laugh-out-loud moments, but we also get real insight into the two young men individually and together, and into their family dynamics. The touching moments of genuine connection are interwoven into the comedy, giving a more solid foundation for us to laugh along with characters we care about. The wit and humour of the dialogue shine through clearly, even through the filter of subtitles.

Mario

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There aren’t too many gay-themed sports movies with the exception of 2016’s queer-themed soccer movie The Pass and the 2000’s sweet romantic comedy The Broken Hearts Club.

Now, Mario, a new movie from Switzerland about footballers falling for each other beyond the locker room had its premiere at BFI Flare London LGBTQ Film Festival this week and will premiere in North America at Miami’s Outshine Film Festival on April 21.

A love affair between two players on a pro soccer team ignites when the team’s new striker Leon shares a rivalry and a flat with the the titular Mario, who’s in denial about how his passion for the new guy.  Despite Mario’s inability to admit his queerness, the pair engages in a relationship that threatens to crush their careers and throw the entire team off balance if exposed. Will Mario choose love over his career?

Personally I’m pretty excited about the fact that parts of the film where shot in the stadium of my beloved FC St. Pauli, a firmly queer-friendly club <3

Pretty Boy

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Sean is taken to a motel and is given a prostitute for his 18th birthday by his father. He must sleep with her to “fix” his questionable homosexuality.

Eyewitness

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It’s one thing to have a romantic moment interrupted, but it’s quite another to have it interrupted by a triple murder.

That’s exactly what happens in the first episode of the new series Eyewitness. The show follows teen boys Lukas and Philip (played by James Paxton and Tyler Young) as they deal with not only having witnessed a murder and survived, but also being unable to go to the police because one of them doesn’t want to come out as gay.

“[Lukas] doesn’t even acknowledge that being gay is a possibility. It’s his first time kissing and being intimate with a boy at all. It scares him a lot,” Paxton says. “He doesn’t realize that secrets of this magnitude can have some dangerous repercussions that affect everybody else in town.”

The Wound

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Protests erupted over the The Wound, a queer film that premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, and its director John Trengove for appropriating African culture and publicising a secret tribal circumcision ritual depicted the film.

The traditional Xhola circumcision ritual  that is a  major topic in the film marks a boy’s passage into manhood. Considering that the ritual has resulted in over 800 deaths, it makes sense why young Kwanda, the youthful initiate in the film, wouldn’t want to go through it. His resistance forces his mentor Xolani to reconsider the traditions and the tribal notions of manhood altogether.

The actual ritual has gotten public exposure before. Former South African president and civil rights leader Nelson Mandela wrote about the experience in his autobiography.

The ritual involves a traditional surgeon (called an ingcibi) who severs the initiate’s foreskin using a spear, which is then tied to the initiate’s blanket. The penile wound is covered with a healing plant and for the next eight days, the initiate is confined to a hut (called a bhoma) and forbidden from eating certain foods. After eight days, an ukosiswa rite removes the food restrictions and marks the start of the second phase, which lasts two to three more weeks. The initiates’ seclusion ends when they race to the river to bathe themselves. Finally, the initiates’ hut and possessions are burnt, each initiate gets a new blanket and is called an amakwala (new man) henceforth.

Quartz Africa reports that protestors, like South African journalist Lwando Xaso and the current Xhosa king, say Trengrove (a white South African) appropriated Xhosa culture, particularly “jealously guarded secrets of a tradition that has managed to endure oppression and modernization.”

Xaso said, “It is not okay to subjectively delve into traditions and practices you are not a part of under the guise of sparking debate and engagement. It is not your place because you are not speaking as a member of that society.”

Two South African cinemas stopped showing The Wound over security threats, but it remains available elsewhere internationally.

Hidden Kisses

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Sixteen-year-old Nathan (Bérenger Anceaux) is the new kid in high school. One night, while attending a party, he falls in love with Louis (Jules Houplain), a boy in his class.

Able to sneak away from the crowd, they find themselves out of sight, and eventually work up the courage to kiss each other, but someone has seen them, someone took a photo of the kiss. As soon as the photo has been posted to social media, a storm of bullying and rejection overtakes their lives.

Departure

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Beatrice (Juliette Stevenson and her teenage son Elliot (Alex Lawther,) are preparing for the sale of their vacation home in the south of France.

Elliot struggles with his dawning sexuality and an increasing alienation from his mother. Beatrice in turn is upset over the sale of the house and her crumbling marriage.

When an enigmatic local teenager, Clément, enters their lives, both mother and son are compelled to confront their desires and, finally, each other. Departure is an intimate story beginning at dawn on the first day and ending at night on the sixth, charting the end of a summer, the end of a childhood and the end of an otherwise nuclear, middle class family.

 

Alex and the Handyman

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Alex And The Handyman takes a look at pre-adolescent sexuality in a sweet way. The film precocious nine-year-old Alex, who develops an instant crush on much older handyman, Jared. The child wants the moody 20-something man’s attention, but Jared isn’t that interested in humoring the fantasies of a kid.

The short starts off as a sweet and sometimes funny look at pre-sexual awakening. However, some people will probably be freaked out a bit by the end.

You can watch the whole short here. Submitted by Marvin.

Saturday Church

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Saturday Church tells the story of 14-year-old Ulysses as he struggles to express his personality & sexuality in a hostile environment.

Ulysses, the young protagonist of Saturday Church, is first seen at the burial of his father, a soldier killed overseas. The New York teen, played by Luka Kain, has delicate features and carries an air of quiet about him.

He and his younger brother will now be looked after by both their mother Amara and strict Aunt Rose. The latter does not mince words after Ulysses is discovered trying on his mother’s shoes. “If I ever hear of you even looking at women’s clothing, I will beat it out of you. You are a man. Start acting like one,” she says, enunciating each word with controlled rage.

But the boy is in no way conflicted about his sexual orientation — he’s just surrounded by disapproval. As a form of escape, he imagines his life as a musical, and the movie is dotted with song and dance, beginning with a particularly audacious locker-room scene in which Ulysses’ jock tormentors turn into backup dancers.

For real-life affinity, Ulysses seeks companionship on the pier by Manhattan’s Christopher Street, where he is enlisted into Saturday Church, a program for at-risk queer youth (the program in the movie is based on a real one).

The film was written and directed by Damon Cardasis, making his feature debut. It is a disarmingly and consistently sensitive movie that remains engaging even when its reach sometimes exceeds its grasp (a musical number set in what might be the world’s tidiest homeless shelter for example).

The wonderful cast brings the story home, and Luka Kain in particular is a real find. When Ulysses first puts on lip gloss in a room full of people who accept him, the smile that plays on his face is both ebullient and heart-rending.