REVIEW ROUND-UP: A Place of Our Own; Big Boys; Hidden Master. (NewFest 35)
We’re halfway through NewFest 35, and I’ve been watching a ton of narrative films, documentaries, and short programs. I've also been taking part in meaningful conversations about the past, present and future of Queer cinema. Here are some thoughts on a handful of the films I’ve seen. Many more to come!
A Place of Our Own
Dir. Ektara Collective
A Place of Our Own tells the story of two trans women in India, Laila and Roshni, who are evicted from their home and begin a journey to find a new one. They are met with struggles as they navigate not only housing insecurity, but also with their ultimate place in society. While their struggle with the world intensifies, so does their bond as family, as they discover a community that surrounds them with love and support.
This film is shot in a very intimate style, allowing for some truly lovely images. The camera lingers at the right moments, and is framed in ways that make the eyes move about to take it all in. The actresses who play Laila and Roshni do fantastic work. Manisha Soni as Laila is strikingly subdued, but consistently burning with an inner fire that is magnificent to watch. Muskan as Roshni matches her at every beat, making for some truly delightful scenes between the two. The film is a wonderful journey about the strength and perseverance of these two trans women and a thoughtful examination of the most marginalized.
Dir. Corey Sherman
Jamie is not like his brother. He isn’t into sports or drinking, instead finding his joy in cooking and art. When he goes on a camping trip with his brother, cousin and his cousin’s new boyfriend, he has moments of realization and self discovery. He realizes that he has developed a crush on his cousin’s new boyfriend, who, like he, is a larger framed person. How he comes to terms with himself and with his burgeoning romantic feelings are the heart that beats strongly at the center of Big Boys.
This movie is so funny and sweet. It immediately endears you to the lead character of Jamie and you are able to experience the world through his eyes immediately. Isaac Krasner fills him with an irresistible quality that makes him so fun to watch. He brilliantly balances the humor of the role with the sincerity of a young boy discovering he is different, in yet another way, from those around him. The cast of this truly feels like a family and works together stunningly. The story is sweet, and the choice to have an adult Jamie in his dreams (as opposed to how awkward it would be to see a teen flirt with an adult man) was truly inspired. This joins the annals of fantastic coming of age queer stories, as it showcases a story that is not often told.
Side note:This movie hit a bit close to home at times, as I had also been a larger framed, queer teen, crushing on my siblings’ friends and boyfriends.
Hidden Master: The Legacy of George Platt Lynes
Dir. Sam Shahid
George Platt Lynes is best remembered for his portraits of celebrities as well as a storied career as a fashion photographer. The documentary Hidden Master: The Legacy of George Platt Lynes looks at the artist's extensive catalog of nude male photographs that have been mostly overlooked in his legacy. It chronicles Lynes life as a mostly out gay man in a time when that was not the norm, and the rise and fall of his success. Through interviews with his contemporaries, family and art historians, we unravel his story and see that his heart and passion were in his male nude photos.
This documentary was engrossing in its wide grasp and understanding of the impact that Lynes’ nude photo catalog could have had, if it had been more popular. He broke boundaries and rules in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, which was a time in which the male nude was not only not considered art, but was shunned and frowned upon. Granted, most of these images were not showcased at the time of their taking, but seeing the imagery that he presented, one can clearly see the path Lynes could have paved for Mapplethorpe, Bianchi and others. The narrative storytelling that is utilized is wonderfully executed, and it achieved what I think most documentaries do, a new understanding and appreciation of the subject, and a renewed interest in their work.