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The Harvesters

Gay Essential Review: The Harvesters (Die Stropers) at Thessaloniki International Film Festival

With his feature writing-directing debut, Greek-South African filmmaker Etienne Kallos takes a subtle but sharply pointed look into Afrikaans culture as it grapples with larger social shifts. Within this, The Harvesters (Die Stropers) explores the thorny issue of identity and sexuality in a provocative and darkly moving way.

Mapplethorpe

Gay Essential Review: Mapplethorpe at Thessaloniki International Film Festival

For her first narrative feature, award-winning documentary filmmaker Ondi Timoner spent more than a decade developing this biopic about photographic artist Robert Mapplethorpe. Her passion in the project shows in its striking attention to detail and her willingness to dig deeply into the more complex corners of this iconic man’s life.

Sauvage

Gay Essential Review: Sauvage at Thessaloniki International Film Festival

First-time French filmmaker Camille Vital-Naquet takes an offhanded, almost documentary style approach to the story of a young prostitute who is looking for love in Sauvage. Among the film’s awards, lead actor Félix Maritaud won the Louis Roederer Foundation Rising Star Award at Cannes.

Benjamin

Gay Essential Review: Benjamin at BFI London Film Festival

Comedian Simon Amstell’s second film in the director’s chair follows a socially awkward filmmaker suffering from crippling anxiety due to the imminent world premiere of his second film. And if this didn’t already feel dangerously close to autobiography, Amstell’s second directorial outing has just had its world premiere at this year’s London Film Festival, just like the embarrassingly personal film directed by the title character of his latest effort, Benjamin.

Kill the Monsters

Gay Essential Review: Kill the Monsters at Raindance Film Festival

This offbeat independent film is subtitled “An American Allegory”, and indeed it’s seriously on-the-nose. With Kill the Monsters, writer-director Ryan Lonergan makes every scene mean something. The film is skilfully shot in black and white, and inventively edited and performed.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Gay Essential Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me? at BFI London Film Festival

Despite the cultural cache from having works in the New York Times bestseller list, Lee Israel fell upon hard times, with no publisher wanting to release her biographies on increasingly lesser known subjects – which led to a drastic career move that gained her notoriety.

I Hate New York

Gay Essential Review: I Hate New York at Raindance Film Festival

First, it should be noted that the title of this documentary is ironic, as it explores the lives of four LGBTQ artists who have chosen to make New York their home. I Hate New York is directed by Spanish filmmaker Gustavo Sanchez, who shot his subjects over 10 years.

Rafiki

Gay Essential Review: Rafiki at BFI London Film Festival

So much attention has been devoted to the controversy surrounding Rafiki, the first LGBT film produced in Kenya, that discussions on the film itself have been something of an afterthought. To put it simply, the Kenyan censorship board didn’t have the same rapturous response to the film as audiences at Cannes (where it premiered earlier this year), effectively banning it – only to upturn the ban, submit the film as their entry for the foreign language Oscar, and premiere it to sold out audiences upon opening in Kenya.

Dykes, Camera, Action!

Gay Essential Review: Dykes, Camera, Action! at Raindance Film Festival

Fast-paced and fluidly edited, this feature documentary explores both the history of lesbian characters in the movies as well as the rise of queer female filmmakers. Dykes, Camera, Action! is a thoroughly entertaining film covering quite a lot of material in its brisk running time.

The Favourite

Gay Essential Review: The Favourite at BFI London Film Festival

The Favourite is something of a change of pace for Lanthimos. Not only is it the first time he’s adapted a screenplay he didn’t pen himself, with a comparatively muted surrealism compared to his previous films, it’s also the closest he’s got to crafting something that could be described as emotionally sincere.

Ruminations

Gay Essential Review: Ruminations at Raindance Film Festival

Basically an accidental documentary, Ruminations came about when director Robert James went in search of stories about gay hippies in 1960s San Francisco and stumbled upon Rumi Missabu, a notorious raconteur who calls himself a “male actress”. As one of the original Cockettes, he is an oracle of anecdotes.

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