I got to watch a lot of LGBT films this year, some were fantastic and some, well not so much. Of the really great films that came out, it was tough to whittle it down to just five.   There were some films that almost made the list, like THE BATTLE OF SEXES, the biopic about tennis legend Billie Jean King starring Emma Stone, and the film PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN, a film about the creator of wonder women and the relationship with his wife and their female lover.  The list includes films from France, South Africa and even Hong Kong. I hope you get the chance to watch these films that truly are some of the greats in LGBT cinema.

Italian director, Luca Guadagnino adopted American writer Andre Aciman’s novel, Call Me By Your Name for his wonderful feature film. Guadagnino also directed I AM LOVE in 2009. The bittersweet story is set in the 90’s and tells the story of Oliver, an American who comes to Italy to be an assistant for 17-year-old Elio’s dad. Elio is still exploring his sexuality that summer, fooling around with a French Girl for a time. He also has feelings for Oliver soon tells him about his feelings. The relationship is growing but Oliver has to leave the small town after the summer.\

The leader actors could easily fall into an over-the-top acting style from this new relationship but they are very in control. You start falling for these two characters and championing for their relationship to last. The film brings back memories of your first puppy love. Arthouse fans will love this film being shot in 35mm, it makes the film more romantic. It almost feels like you can smell the air from the little town while you are watching the film.

The awarded winning film will be released in Hong Kong on 1st March 2018.

2. 120 BPM
No film this year can match the energy and poeticness of 120 BPM.  The French film directed and written by Robin Campillo, places the audience right at the heart of the French AIDS activist group ACT UP in the late 80’s.  Based on Campillo’s own experiences in the group, we see everything from a love story between two of the characters going to pharmaceutical companies and splattering fake blood on their walls to meetings about pride parades.   We feel when a character is going through heartache or sickness or anger.  With superb editing, it shows the cathartic chaoticness of the protest but also the gentleness of the friendships and bonds these members have.  120 BPM is that film every LGBT person should see to know the history. even Hong Kong. I hope you get the chance to watch these films that truly are some of the greats in LGBT cinema.

The awarded winning film will be released in Hong Kong in 4th January 2018.

Japan surprised us this year with the subtle yet emotional and non-confrontational trans film called CLOSE-KNIT.  The country has never really made a film about trans issues until now and it is close to perfect.  Naoko Ogigami, after living in the USA for a bit, came back to Japan and noticed the invisibility of transgender stories in the Japanese cinema.  The film revolves around Tomo, an 11-year-old girl, who goes to live with her uncle after her mother leaves with a boyfriend on a trip.  He has a girlfriend, the gentle and soft-spoken Rinko who is transgengered.  Together, they form an unconventional but loving and warm family who has to deal with prejudice from the people around them.  It is a film that will overfill you with emotion, both happiness and sadness, in almost every scene.

Not many directors can say that they have had their film banned by a king but John Trengrove, first time director who wrote and directed THE WOUND, can.  South Africa’s entry for best foreign language film at the Oscars this year, this is a film that explores masculinity and sexuality in the context of cultural traditions with a tribe in South Africa.  When boys come of age in this tribe, they are taken to huts and circumcised and taken care of by a watcher for weeks while learning about manhood.  During this ritual, we see repressed homosexuality come to light between two of the watchers, who go off in the woods to have sex in secret.  It is a film that shows the repercussions of Hypermasculinity and the effect it can have on a society.  At times hard to watch, but is so impactful and one of the top films of the year.

Out of all the films that were released this year, one short film really stood out and deserves to be on this list.  LOSING SIGHT OF A LONGED PLACE, a short 7-minute animated film from Hong Kong that is as beautiful as it is poetic, is about a gay man named Adam who is fighting for gay rights in Hong Kong and also struggling in his relationship with his father.  He begins to relate his story to the struggles of Hong Kong.  Even though it is only seven minutes, it is more powerful than most feature films that came out this year.  The three first time directors went on to win the Golden Horse Award for Best Animated Short and deservedly so.  If you get the chance to watch this film, it is worth seven minutes of your time.

Words by Joe Lam




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