Friday, August 6, 2010

Reverend's Reviews: New International Films of GLBT Interest

Summer is traditionally a time for travel, both domestic and international. If you aren't able to get away this year, a number of new GLBT theatrical and DVD releases from different countries may yet provide a perfect, armchair travel escape.

Men for Sale is an eye-opening, hard-hitting documentary set for DVD release on August 31 by Breaking Glass Pictures. Respected filmmaker Rodrigue Jean spent a year following 11 male sex workers in Montreal, Canada. Through candid interviews with his subjects, Jean exposes a uniform, vicious cycle of childhood neglect or abuse, drug addiction and prostitution. Some of the men started having sex for money when they were as young as 12, usually after they started abusing drugs.

The revelations in Men for Sale become repetitious within a lengthy 145-minute running time, but this serves to underscore the tragic trap in which these men are caught. Although most are in their 20's and identify as heterosexual, one is a 40-something gay man who starred in several porn films starting when he was 16. The majority of self-professed straight subjects bolster their masculinity on-camera by saying they refuse to engage in anal intercourse. However, one of them tells Jean bluntly that this simply isn't true. The film makes clear that when the need for a drug high to ease the pain of a sad childhood is desperate enough, moral and/or physical taboos are easily shed.

Also of note is one sex worker's observation of his numerous political clients. "The guys who pass laws against us (re: prostitution/solicitation and homosexuality)," he says, "are the ones who come looking for us at night." Even in more liberal Canada, sexual hypocrisy is alive and well.


If you're looking for something more upbeat on your cinematic world tour, Spinnin', now available on DVD, is a thoroughly enjoyable dramedy from Spain. The film won the award for Best Feature Film at the Barcelona Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival. It opens with the love-at-first-sight meeting of two men, Garate and Omar (played, respectively, by the very attractive Alejandro Tous and Olav Fernandez), and recounts their subsequent efforts to find a surrogate mother so they can father a child.

The process doesn't go as easily as the couple had hoped, but they gain important insights and new friends in the process. While stylized and erratically edited, Spinnin' is a rainbow-hued movie that also takes on such wide-ranging subjects as Star Wars, soccer, HIV/AIDS and God's homosexuality (!). It is very well-directed and -written by the obviously talented Eusebio Pastrana, who has been described as a "rising auteur." I also found inspiring the numerous moments of physical (not necessarily sexual, although it has that too) and emotional intimacy in the film between even those characters who don't know each other well.

Finally, I would feel remiss if I didn't mention Brazil's From Beginning to End (Do Comeco ao Fim), even though it isn't yet scheduled for release in the US due to its controversial plot. Shown during the just-completed Outfest Gay & Lesbian Film Festival in Los Angeles, it is the romantic, sexy, crowd-pleasing, heart-warming love story of two brothers in love ... with each other!


Ok, the film's protagonists, Francisco and Thomas, are technically half-brothers but they share the same mother and were raised together. Their unusual closeness is noticed by their mother and Francisco's father while the boys are still young, but the parents assume it is a natural phase they will grow out of in time.

Following their beloved mother's death, however, the grown (and gorgeous) Thomas and Francisco feel "liberated" and their formerly chaste, brotherly love becomes sexual. Over time, they even exchange wedding rings! As one of them declares, "To understand our love they'd have to turn the world upside down."

Their relationship is tested, though, when Thomas is accepted as a member of Brazil's Olympics swim team, requiring him to go to Russia for three years' worth of training. Left behind and lonely, Francisco gets close to a woman. Will the brothers decide to live more "normal" lives? I'm not going to give things away. Suffice to say that the movie's writer-director, Aluizio Abranches, isn't afraid to go where few have ventured outside of exploitive porn/fetish films.

Most viewers will find the moral implications of the brothers' romance challenging, but it is hard to criticize their sincere love for one another or the desire to express it physically. Moving and thought-provoking, keep your eyes open for From Beginning to End when planning your next international movie experience.

UPDATE: From Beginning to End is now available on DVD from Amazon.com.

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

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