Female Director Spotlight: Desiree Akhavan Tackles Sexuality with Refreshing Honesty

Often semi-autobiographical in nature, Desiree Akhavan’s work unabashedly celebrates what it means to be an Iranian-American bisexual woman. As an openly bisexual filmmaker who centers her experience of bisexuality in most of her works, Akhavan has had to frequently deal with critics expecting her to deliver a “taboo-breaking drama on bisexuality.” To this, Akhavan responded in an interview for the Independent that she is merely trying “to figure shit out for [her]self” rather than put forth a “taboo-breaking” narrative on the matters of gender and sexuality. Indeed, it is worth questioning why gay artists are expected to deliver ground-breaking work when the film industry persistently denies funding, access, and support for gay artists. When gay people are still fighting for their right to simply exist, ground-breaking becomes a luxury reserved for the most privileged. 

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MUBI Review: ‘The Duke of Burgundy’ and the Theatrics of Love

This review is part of our coverage for MUBI’s August’ 19 slate.

Focalised through the slowly waning romantic affair between two women, director Peter Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy (2014) is an intriguing examination of the theatrics of love. The film occupies an alternate plane of reality altogether — temporal markers are removed, only women exist, and all everyone ever does is attend lectures on butterflies or customise beds for those interested in S&M. Perhaps the almost surreal setting of Strickland’s film is a fitting match for the isolated romance at hand, which borders on consumingly solipsistic.⁠

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‘Consequences’: On Gay Loneliness and the Spectacle of Hyper-Masculinity

Slovenia’s first LGBTQ-themed film, Consequences (or Posledice, 2018), is an arresting portrayal of what happens when institutional and judicial structures fail young gay men. The debut film by director Darko Štante asks: if men haphazardly placed in youth detention centers do not receive adequate support, what happens to the gay men in it? How do failing political structures further marginalise gay men, and leave them twice-removed from society?

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‘Hard Paint’ and the Tenderness of Gay Love

“Is this paint the kind that shines in the dark? Do you have someone who makes you happy? Someone who makes you shine like paint?

While an unflinching look at the plight of LGBTQ Brazilians up to this day, Hard Paint (or Tinta Bruta, 2018) is a sweepingly tender portrayal of gay love. Directed by Brazilian writer-director pair Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon, the film astutely illuminates the realities of poverty, sex work, and gay loneliness amidst the backdrop of rising homophobic violence against Brazilian LGBTQ people. 

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‘The Lavender Scare’ Criticises Homophobia, But Errs in Glorifying American Patriotism

“They just disappeared.”

While The Lavender Scare reminds us that the political systems which reproduce our oppression can never be trusted upon for our freedom, it fails in its glorification of American patriotism. Josh Howard’s documentary details the height of McCarthyism in the late 1940s to 50s, when gays and lesbians were purged from state offices for fear that they were “morally susceptible” to Communist influences. Continue reading “‘The Lavender Scare’ Criticises Homophobia, But Errs in Glorifying American Patriotism”

‘Gentleman Jack’ Celebrates Lesbian Existence, Bravery, and Love

Gentleman Jack (2019) makes me feel that my life is possible. As a long-time fan of Sally Wainwright, I trusted her to do justice to Anne Lister’s diaries. My expectations were high, but after having been let down time and time again by most lesbian-centered representations, they were still within reason. Before the series premiered, I expected a brilliant portrayal of Lister – one that is done with respect and empathy. However, on the topic of lesbian sexuality, I had far less hopes. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Gentleman Jack unabashedly delights in including its lesbian audience, and revels in speaking only to lesbians. The series goes beyond merely portraying lesbians on the screen, and takes lesbian representation a notch further by being unapologetic about its depiction of lesbian desire, lesbian sex, and lesbian mannerisms.

Just as the real Anne Lister was proud of her ability to seduce women, Lister’s fourth-wall breaks in the series seduces the audience, charms them with her wit, and most importantly of all – remind lesbians that we have always existed. In-between 200 years ago and now where our lives have been violently annihilated by virtue of homophobic cruelty, we always have existed, and we continue to exist.

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Seattle International ’19 Review: ‘Long Time No Sea’ Fails to Capture the Heterogeneity of Indigenous Culture

Taiwanese director Heather Tsui’s debut film, Long Time No Sea (只有海知道, 2018), may have intended to bring awareness to the indigenous Tao people of Orchid Island, but it drastically falls short by focusing on their struggles through the perspective of the mainland. Continue reading “Seattle International ’19 Review: ‘Long Time No Sea’ Fails to Capture the Heterogeneity of Indigenous Culture”