Friday, June 3, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, June 10-19, 2016

Twelve films, many of them award winners, which deal with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender themes from 10 countries will be shown at the Quartier CineArt during the second edition of the Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. It’s organised by Attitude magazine.

With the theme “Love Wins”, the BGLFF opens next Friday with Tomcat, an Austrian drama that earned accolades at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival. The story of an orchestra musician and his boyfriend who live with their pet cat, Tomcat won the Berlinale’s best feature Teddy Award, a prize given by an independent jury to films with LGBT topics.

And the Teddy Award audience prize from this year’s Berlinale, Paris 05:59, is the BGLFF’s closing entry. It follows a young gay couple as they meet in a Paris bathhouse and pursue a relationship into the early morning hours.

In a move to boost the festival’s visibility, organisers have chosen a new venue, shifting from the hidden-away Esplanade Ratchadaphisek to the ritzy Quartier CineArt in the Em Quartier downtown.

“Last year was the first year for the Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and we were really happy with the turn-out. All sorts of people came out to support us and our films,” says organiser Marut “Nume” Prasertsri, a senior writer at Attitude magazine. “This year we’re working hard to increase the visibility of the festival to non-LGBT audiences. The films we’ve picked are all quality, well-made films with a wide appeal. We’re looking forward to sharing them with a broad audience of people, not just LGBT folks.”

Along with the prize-winning opening and closing films, Marut suggests a French entry, the lesbian romance Summertime (La Belle Saison) as one film the “straights” might embrace. Set in 1971, it’s the story of a young woman from the countryside who moves to Paris and is attracted to a strong-willed older feminist, who then follows the girl back to her farm. “Non-LGBT folk will better understand what it means to grow up different and they’ll enjoy the romance scenes,” says Marut.

Several of the films in the BGLFF are from Asia, such as Japan’s A Cappella (Mubansô), which takes place during campus protests in 1969 Sendai. South Korea offers a documentary, Weekends, about a gay men’s choir in Seoul. Directed by Lee Dong-ha, it placed third in the Panorama Audience Awards at Berlinale this year.

Further Asian themes are explored in Spa Night, in which a young Korean-American man struggles to reconcile his obligations to his immigrant family with his life in the underground world of gay hookups at Korean spas in Los Angeles. Spa Night star Joe Seo won the Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Performance at Sundance.

And there’s an award-nominee from India, Loev, about a businessman who heads out of town with an old friend, leaving behind problems with his boyfriend in the city. It was up for prizes at festivals in Jeonju, South Korea, and at the Black Nights of Talliin in Estonia.

The Asean bloc is represented by Miss Bulalacao, a quirky independent comedy about a drag princess who gets pregnant following an alien abduction. He is elevated to the status of a cult leader following rumours of immaculate conception. Directed by Ara Chawdhury, Miss Bulalacao won the festival prize at Manila’s Cinema One Originals Digital Film Festival and best first feature from the Philippines Young Critics Circle.

Latin American flavor comes in two entries, From Afar, from Venezuela and Four Moons from Mexico. Winner of the top-prize Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival last year, From Afar is about a 50-year-old man who pays for the companionship of young men. A meeting with the teenage leader of a street gang changes their lives forever. Four Moons, which won prizes in Montreal, Monterrey and Barcelona, has four stories of gay desire, love and self-acceptance.

And there are high-profile offerings from the U.S. and Canada, with Nasty Baby, which has Chilean actor-director Sebastian Silva working with Tunde Adebimpe in a story about a gay couple trying to have a baby with the help of a surrogate mum, played by former Saturday Night Live star Kristen Wiig. They have a violent run-in with a thug (Reg E. Cathey from The Wire).

And Closet Monster won the best Canadian feature film award and other prizes at the Toronto festival last year. Directed by Stephen Dunn, it’s the dramatic coming-of-age story of a high-school teen who dreams of being a special-effects makeup artist and finds new inspiration.

The Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival runs from June 10 to 19 at the Quartier CineArt at the EmQuartier mall. Films will have English and Thai subtitles. For more details, check or

(Cross-published in The Nation)

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