Named for Vjeran Miladinovic Merlinka, a transgender sex worker who was murdered 16 years ago, this festival now proudly showcases dozens of queer and LGBT themed films, including over 100 short films. As Serbia takes steps towards making a safer world for LGBT youth, the Merlinka Festival has become more of a cultural event and source of local pride than an avant-garde film fest. As such, we were more than happy to get a sneak peek at this year’s catalogue.
Gay Chorus Deep South is one of the most timely feeling documentaries in recent years. They as a group are attempting many would consider life threatening and dangerous but they do so with smiling faces and hope in their hearts. The struggle between religion and queerness has always been present but with documentaries like this providing positive and enriching experiences, we can move closer towards global acceptance that can see us all come together.
How do you make a documentary about the downfall of a porn star without leaning in to some of the more problematic stereotypes about people in that industry? Tomer Heymann’s fly on the wall examination of Jonathan Agassi manages to be a cautionary tale without ever demonising its subject, or the industry he works in.
The Shiny Shrimps fits perfectly within the canon of heart-warming sports films that are happy to not take themselves too seriously. Having it’s premiere at the Merlinka Festival this December, this film is sure to prove to be popular among audiences while helping to promote acceptance in sports. Water polo has never looked so fun.
In the beginning, the harshness of these films, complete with their aforementioned surrealist edge, made things difficult. Nobody seemed interested in screening them, deeming them as too controversial. Some even called them homophobic and Hickling recalls, “I was criticized not only by the straight community but also by the gay community. But I think that as the work started being shown and selected, people started to re-look and re-think.”