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Twenty-Third Edition of the Pink Movie Days, Amsterdam’s GLBTQ Film Festival

by Werner Borkes in Films & Books , 09 March 2020

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar
length: 13 minuten

UPDATE: Cancelled due to Corona measures

Cinema Het Ketelhuis on the Westergasterrein will again serve as the GLBTQ hotspot for cinema enthusiasts from March 12 till March 22, 2020. This twenty-third edition of Amsterdam’s annual queer movie festival again contains an impressive number of beautiful, interesting and at times simply wonderful films.

To get in the mood, we will guide you past one highlight after another. (Most films are shown in English or have English subtitles).

Between the excellent opening and closing movies are no fewer than 150 shows in which sexual diversity is celebrated with 140 long and short films from over forty countries. Our annual cinematographic journey starts in Bolivia and ends in Vietnam. During the festival, all continents will be visited from a queer perspective.

Tu me manques
“Tu me manques,” the opening film, is a beautiful and impressive film that is more than justifiably the Bolivian Oscar entry. Grieving father Jorge is looking at the online profile of his son Gabriel, and discovers his son’s relationship with Sebastian in New York. After first accusing Sebastian of making his son gay, Jorge finally travels to New York to find out who Gabriel actually was. The movie, based on the theatre hit by the same creator, plays with all conventions to give the story more power. Flashbacks and the theatre play a role, but Gabriel is also played by several actors, which works wonderfully well.

MonsoonIn the closing film “Monsoon,” hunky rising star Henry Golding (“Crazy Rich Asians,” “Last Christmas”) reveals a completely different aspect of his personality in this poetic story by director Hong Khaou (“Lilting” - Pink Movie Days opening film in 2015 with Ben Wishaw). Henry Golding plays Kit, a gay man whose family left Vietnam when he was a child, and who returns to Saigon from the United Kingdom to distribute his parents’ ashes. Lonely in Vietnam, he quickly meets Lewis through a gay dating app. This African-American expat has his own personal relationship with Vietnam.

Crossing Borders

Borders are not just between countries. Due to migration, segregation, class differences and other mechanisms, there is a wide range of fault lines that go straight through neighborhoods and communities. Where borders are crossed, conflict arises. Film makers use these tensions to tell sharp, relevant, sometimes abrasive but therefore all the more powerful stories.

El Cazador
Festival favorite Marco Berger (of movies such as “Ausente,” “Plan B,” “Sexual Tension: Volatile,” “Mariposa,” and one of last year’s hits, “The Blond One”) presents with “El Cazador” another beautiful study of sexual awakening that is accompanied by uncertainty and lust, although this time it has a dark edge. The fifteen-year-old Ezéquiel has a date with the rough and tough Mono. This date entails much more than the connection, intimacy, and sex that Ezéquiel is looking for, and as a result of blackmail, he finds himself in an eerie situation that may make him even more lonely than he was.

Director Marco Berger will be present at the festival and give a Masterclass based on his rich oeuvre with its own and exciting nature.

“Moffie” - Nicholas learns this word in 1981 when he is summoned as a conscript by the South African army. There, “Moffie” is a gay-hating, African name that is used by some men with great pleasure. Nicholas has always known that he is different and keeps it hidden from the world. During his compulsory military service, he develops a close relationship with a fellow soldier and explores his sexuality. But, no kissing, and no passive penetration.
The rules are very clear to Waseem in “Label Me.” When Lars pays him for sex, then only in a way that is consistent with his heterosexuality. On the one hand a refugee from Syria in an asylum seekers centre, on the other hand the rich German with a loft apartment; the differences cannot be greater and yet both are connected by a genuine interest in each other. Their dates are a constant alternation between dominance and the desire for intimacy, but Waseem’s double life becomes a threat to his stay at the asylum seekers centre.
This Is Not Berlin
This Is Not Berlin” is set in 1986 and World Cup fever has struck Mexico. Carlos and Gera are best friends who do not feel at home in their protective environments. But their sleepy existence changes when they are invited to a mysterious nightclub that was previously forbidden territory. There they discover the underground nightlife of Mexico City, with punk, sexual freedom, and drugs. Immersed in a new world, the relationship between the friends is put to the test. It is an exciting coming-of-age story with a fantastic new wave soundtrack.

In “Fireflies,” fleeing from Iran, young Ramin ends up in a port city in Mexico. During the day he works in the docks, and in the evening, he tries to keep in touch through chat apps with his boyfriend who has stayed behind. Slowly a friendship develops with Leti, the young woman who runs the guest house where he lives. And, more complicated, with the attractive Guillermo who also works in the docks, but actually wants to leave for the USA.

No Hard FeelingsIn “Los Fuertes” young architect Lucas travels to his sister in a remote southern Chilean town before moving to Canada. During the visit he meets Antonio, an attractive local fisherman and their chemistry is instantaneous. When they surrender to these sultry sexual tensions, the men have to face the fact that Lucas’s planned move abroad is getting ever closer.
In “No Hard Feelings,” Parvis, the son of exiled Iranians, fills his days with Grindr dates and parties. After being caught shoplifting, he is sentenced to community service as an interpreter in an asylum seekers centre. There, he meets brother and sister Amon and Banafshe who have fled Iran. As the attraction between Parvis and Amon grows, tensions in the asylum seekers centre increase, and deportation is imminent.

Crisis, What Crisis?

Fortunately, more attention is being paid to mental health lately. The power of film is that it can show this theme in many ways, from dead serious to light-heartedly. An example of a “lighter” version is the very personal and refreshing “Cubby,” in which the uncertainties and neuroses of a newcomer in New York City lead to magic-realist animations and a delusion of reality, and come together in a most entertaining way.

Fin de siglo
In the great, Argentinian movie “Fin de siglo,” we will never fully know what is reality or fantasy. Does it really matter? It is a beautiful, layered and erotic narrative about desire, missed opportunities and chance encounters, in which flashback and the present go together effortlessly.
At the festival, a lot of attention is being paid to relationship conflicts, since they come in many, often recognizable variations and remain a source of inspiration for film makers.

In “15 Years” Yoav seems to have his life together. He is a successful architect in Tel Aviv and already has been, as the title suggests, in a fifteen-year relationship with Dan, a handsome young lawyer who worships him. When Yoav’s best friend Alma announces that she is pregnant, Dan also wants a child. But Dan’s parental instincts have the opposite effect on Yoav. Long-buried demons lead to self-destructive behavior threatening to ruin his relationship with Dan and jeopardize his long-standing friendship with Alma.

Present Still Perfect“Present Still Perfect” is the long-awaited second part of the love story between Oat and Toey. The first part of this instalment was a true cult hit (“Present Perfect” - Pink Movie Days 2017). This sequel was eagerly awaited worldwide. The young men got to know each other while traveling in Japan and fell in love, but Toey’s heart was broken when he realized that Oat had to return to Thailand to marry his fiancé. A few years later the paths of the young men cross again, but can a broken heart heal?

The coming-of-age movie “Yo, Adolescente” energetically helps to break the taboo on the theme of suicide (among GLBT youth) and makes it debatable. After his best friend’s suicide, life continues for Zabo with the normal secondary school drama’s, illegal parties and first sexual experiences with boys and girls. A teenager like everyone else, but everything that lingers below the surface, Zabo gets off his chest through his writing a blog.

Yo, Adolescente 
In “The Teacher” Kevin is a social studies teacher at a Taiwanese secondary school. When he openly expresses his support for same-sex marriage, this is not well received by everyone. Then he meets the somewhat older Gao, whom he falls in love with it. However, Gao only later reveals that he is formally still married to a woman, and that he is HIV positive. This will put their relationship to the test, especially with the rumors circulating the school.

Relish“Relish” is a variation on the coming-of-age classic “The Breakfast Club,” and an inspiring and authentic road movie about friendship and the struggles and challenges that today’s teenagers have to face. Five teenagers, led by the rebellious trans man Kai, escape from a private psychiatric clinic with the aim of visiting the infamous Dreamland Music Festival. Together with a social media influencer, an addicted athlete, a boy with bipolar disorder, and a nerd obsessed with aliens, Kai embarks on the journey of a lifetime.

In “Men of Hard Skin,” young Ariel lives on his homophobic father’s farm on the Argentinian countryside. While seeing the farm laborers, there is also a darker relationship: that with the older priest Omar. The priest seduced him as a teenager, and still manipulates him with his inexperience. Despite that controversial beginning, the relationship is by mutual consent, although Ariel wants to break it off, as there is no future in it. Without easy answers, “Men of Hard Skin” is a fascinating, thought-provoking film.

Siberia and Him
In “Siberia and Him” two men have a complicated relationship. They are brothers-in-law, traveling companions and, secretly, lovers. On the way to one of their grandmothers they spend their days walking and looking for food, and the nights in each other’s arms. However, the relative freedom of traveling through uninhabited Siberian territory does not last forever; someday they will have to return to their village and its inhabitants.

In “Greta” the hospital of seventy-year-old nurse Pedro has no bed available for his sick friend Daniela. He secretly takes a wounded young man suspected of a murder in his house and gives his bed to Daniela. Despite the young man’s past, a tender, physical relationship develops between the caring Pedro, whose passion for the actress Greta Garbo even influences his sex life, and Jean, his recovering house guest.

El PríncipeIn the Chilean movie “El Príncipe” the young Jaime is sentenced to a severe prison sentence and comes under the protection of “the Stallion,” an older and respected man who determines all informal rules in the prison. Jaime also learns everything there is to know about power struggles, loyalty and the paradoxical acceptance of gay affection. The bold and erotically charged script reveals unexpected tenderness.

Why So Serious?

There is a lot of drama in the aforementioned films, otherwise life would be a bit boring, also on the silver screen. However, one can also solve major problems with a lighter approach, for example with the love-preaching approach of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Douze PointsIn “Douze Points,” a delightful musical and romantic comedy, there is, in addition to a cat and mouse game between extremists and Mossad agents, an entertaining story about friendship and love between the two Muslim guys TJ and Rasoul. The friendship came to an end after a coming out. TJ is an “out & proud” singer with a dream now: To represent France at Europe’s largest 2019 music competition in Tel Aviv. A musical twist of fate brings together the friends of yesteryear. Will love flourish again on Europe’s Biggest Stage?

More campiness is to be found in “Miss”: young Alex does not want to become an astronaut or agent, but Miss France. Fifteen years later, he lives in a tatty guest house after his parents have died. Landlady Yolande watches over her colorful group of tenants like a broody hen: from drag queen Lola to refugees, everyone is welcome as long as they pay the rent. When Alex meets his childhood friend, who has realized his dream as a boxer, he decides to take part in the qualifiers as Alexandra.

The Shiny Shrimps
The Shiny Shrimps” is a classic “feel good movie” that is an ode to freedom and openness. Matthias, an over-the-hill Olympic swimming champion, makes a homophobic statement on TV. As punishment, he must become the coach of “Les Crevettes Pailletées,” a flamboyant amateur water polo team. They only have one goal: qualification for the Gay Games in Croatia. The road to this is long because every member of this motley crew has their own personal interests, and parties are higher on the agenda than training.

Then there is the bitter-sweet romantic comedy “Benjamin.” A somewhat clumsy young movie maker panics about the première of his second feature film. His lack of confidence in the film makes him doubt everything, so it feeds his self-proclaimed inability to love. When the beautiful young French musician Noah comes into his life, he begins to let go of his romantic past traumas and sees the light. All’s well that ends well?


Size Matters?

The short film programming is becoming ever more popular, with a thematic approach this year. About the wild years between boy and man (“Up Against It”), about the different aspects of relationships (“Between Two Islands”), on secrets and leading a double live (“To Face The Truth”) and about family ties that are tight or not (“Friendly Fire”). In the last mentioned program, Yariv moves his son to a home above a gay sauna in “Moving Day,” and Brazilian Leo sees his father kissing another man in “After That Party.” In “Are You Hungry?” a Finnish mother suspects that her adoptive son is gay, but her being overanxious has her lose control in a drily humorous way.

After That Party

Anything is possible in “The Weird and the Wonderful,” the traditional ode to the unexpected: the best lessons in life sometimes come from an unexpected angle in “Sammy the Salmon.” In “Room 16” the question is how far does one go to get one’s youthful appearance back? In the animation “Toomas Beneath the Valley of the Wild Wolves,” a young handsome wolf is forced into prostitution, and in “Inferno” a religious sense of guilt is transformed into an exuberant celebration of homosexuality. In “A Beginner’s Guide to Hanky Code” a professor explains everything in a colorful and thorough way.

The annual program about online dating, one-night stands and cruising variations, or “Adventures in Dating,” is back with new dating adventures: in “Sweater,” unexpected kindness brings out a sexy dance in you. “Dix Pix” gives a sneak peek into the world of nude photos via dating apps, and in “Stalls” a man is on a mission in the toilets of the Opera.

“Closer To Heaven” is a program with content and explicit imagination, about the temptations of earthly love. Screened are “Renovation,” about sexual encounters and attempts to thus improve one’s self-image, and “La Ráfaga,” in which a young athlete imposes himself upon a lonely, peeping man. In “Military Dog” a young officer wants to be dominated but first has to show his loyalty to his master. You will experience a literal climax in “Serodiscordantes” in which a good conversation about an HIV status is sealed with intense copulation.

However, there is of course much more to experience on and off the silver screen. You can find the full program on:





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