Last updated May 22nd 2016

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Love can take you by surprise anytime, anywhere – even when romance is the last thing on your mind, like around 4am at a sex club (more about Théo and Hugo later). But it’s no surprise to me that I am loving so many of the films to be shown at TLVFest 2016! General and Artistic Director and Yair Hochner presents a diverse and intriguing program of films, spanning a wide spectrum of themes and cinematic approaches. The 11th Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival will take place from May 29 – June 7, 2016, with international and Israeli features, documentaries and short films, as well as special events, workshops, and several illustrious guests. Opening night will feature the Israeli premiere of Oriented, Jake Witzenfeld’s a documentary about three gay Palestinian friends living in Tel Aviv, and the conflicts that are an inescapable part of their lives.

Alan Cumming/Photo courtesy of PR

Alan Cumming/Photo courtesy of PR

Alan Cumming (The Good Wife, Eyes Wide Shut, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion & more) will receive the TLVFest Special Award 2016, recognizing his social activism as well as his artistic contribution. Pioneering transgender filmmaker Buck Angel will receive the festival’s Opening Night Award, and will be in attendance for the screening of his film Sexing the Transman. Special events include: conversations with Alan Cumming, comedian, jazz musician, and actor Lea Delaria (Orange is the New Black); scriptwriting masterclasses with Ivan Cotroneo (Un Bacio), Michele Ehlen (S & M Sally); and a panel on Porn and Sexuality in LGBT cinema with Michelle Ehlen (S&M Sally), Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau (Théo et Hugo dans le même bateau), Händl Klaus (Tomcat), Buck Angel, Colby Keller, and Goodyn Green, hosted by festival director Yair Hochner.

Now let me rave about films!

Théo et Hugo dans le même bateau/Photo courtesy of PR

Théo et Hugo dans le même bateau/Photo courtesy of PR

Théo et Hugo dans le même bateau (also known by the title Paris 05:59) is one of the most romantic movies ever! Written and directed by Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau is filmed in real time, creating a sense of immediacy and intimacy: we are there, in the Paris night, starting at 04:27 in a sex club. Subtle might not be the first word that comes to mind when talking about a film that opens with a long (about 20 minutes), multi-participant sex scene, yet the nuances of imagery, theme, and character make this film magical. You know that moment when you walk into a room and you look around with an indifferent gaze, then suddenly – you see someone across the room and everything is charged with a sense of urgency and desire? Then comes the suspense: will she/he feel the same? The film takes up the question of chance – as coincidence, opportunity and risk – in different ways as the night progresses, and the film’s leads Geoffrey Couët (Théo) and François Nambot (Hugo) bring a sense of candor and vulnerability to their portrayal of the two young men. Directors Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau and actors Geoffrey Couët and Francois Nambot will attend the screening.

Viva is a film full of compassion, celebrating life as it is – rough edges and all, rather than conforming to conventions or illusions of ‘life as it should be.’ The Irish production (short-listed for the Oscars) directed by Paddy Breathnach and written by Mark O’Halloran, depicts life in Havana from the perspective of twenty-something Jesus. Hector Medina (Jesus) captures the heart and imagination from the first, gazing in wonder at Mama (Luis Alberto García), a drag queen and owner of the club, singing Ojala Que No Puedas, a song of love and betrayal. His mother is dead, and his father (who abandoned the family years ago) is in jail for killing a man. Jesus is alone in the world and barely eking out a living as a hair dresser to the poor by day, and wig dresser for the club at night. So quiet he seems almost muted, he endures from day to day, submitting to the small injustices and hardships of life, hoping to avoid sex work.

Just as Jesus dares to take his first stumbling steps to realize his dream of performing, taking the stage name of Viva – back into his life comes his errant, macho father Angel (Jorge Perugorria). Now, although he does not have the father he might have wanted, he is in a sense caught between two fathers: Angel and Mama. There is much potential for melodrama in this film, yet the outstanding performances by Medina, Perugorria and the indomitable García, feel very natural, as the relationships shift and change. Watching Jesus struggle, stumble and seek out his own path, may just make you want to sing.

The festival’s closing film, Un Bacio (One Kiss), is a brilliant emotional roller coaster ride through that alluring yet dangerous amusement park called adolescence. Written and directed by Ivan Cotroneo, the film focuses on the relationships that develop between three young outsiders: Lorenzo (Rimau Grillo Ritzberger), a bright fashionista and Lady Gaga fan, who embraces his homosexual identity and deals with the social fallout through cheerfully choreographed fantasies; Antonio (Leonardo Pazzagli) a star basketball player who is looked down on for being inarticulate and therefore considered dumb; and Blu, beautiful, confident, strong and smart, branded a slut by the high school gossip mongers. When these three find each other in this fast-paced, witty film, it feels like every outsiders’ fantasy rewind:  the problems are the same problems many adolescents face, but their responses are so brave and cool!  As Blu says: “friendship is something awesome!” It’s a densely textured, visually rich film with a terrific soundtrack by Mika (with nice touches of Lady Gaga)  and fun cinematic interludes that all work to let the underlying themes permeate one’s consciousness. It all builds slowly as confidences are shared, secrets revealed, and external forces push just a little bit harder on inner fears and vulnerabilities to the inexorable, explosive conclusion. Un Bacio is the kind of film that catches you with your heart wide open, and leaves an indelible mark. Director/Script writer Ivan Cotroneo and actor Rimau Grillo Ritzberger will attend the screening.

The full program of films, events, and ticket information may be found (in English) on the TLVFest website.

 

 

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