The Female Closet (1998)

The Female Closet
Director: Barbara Hammer
Seen on: 22.4.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia

The documentary looks at photographer Alice Austen, dada artist Hannah Höch and painter Nicole Eisenman, considering their lives and their sexual orientation, how that relates to their art and the way they are spoken about.

I wasn’t really familiar with any of the three artists portrayed in this documentary before, but The Female Closet serves as a nice introduction to their work as well as to the erasure queerness and queer people face in the art world, also suggesting a historic trajectory that may be questioned.

The film poster showing a photograph by Alice Austen with four women who are holding each other in pairs as if slowdancing.
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Totul nu va fi bine [Everything Will Not Be Fine] (2020)

Totul nu va fi bine
Director: Helena Maksyom, Adrian Pirvu
Writer: Helena Maksyom, Adrian Pirvu
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 13.12.2021

Just before Adrian Pirvu was born, his mother traveled from Romania to Ukraine on a business trip. Unfortunately that was just when the nuclear accident in Chernobyl struck, exposing both his mother and Adrian to radiation. As a result, Adrian almost lost his eyesight entirely. Doctors were able to save one eye, though. Now an adult, Adrian starts looking for people who are suffering similarly from long-term effects of the disaster. He finds Ukranian Helena Maksyom whose spine causes her problems and chronic pain. As they work on the documentary together, tracing Chernobyl’s lasting effects, the two fall in love.

Totul nu va fi bine is an usual film, and a surprisingly personal one. While it is a bit of a pity that the actual Chernobyl disaster takes a backseat to the relationship of the two filmmakers, there is something precious about the resulting film.

The film poster showing the top of a high-rise with two people walking along it, but the image is turned 90 degrees. There is also a smaller image of Helena Maksyom and Adrian Pirvu cuddled together.
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Eva-Maria (2021)

Director: Lukas Ladner
Writer: Lukas Ladner
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 10.12.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) ableism

Eva-Maria is spastic and so has been using a wheelchair for pretty much all of her life. Now she is in her 30s, works as an assistant, and she would like to have a child. That she doesn’t have a partner doesn’t keep her from seeking fertility treatment and attempting to have a child on her own. That’s easier said than done, though.

Eva-Maria is a nice documentary that follows its protagonist over quite a long time, making it a very personal portrait that could have touched on systemic issues a little more. But either way, it shows us what it can mean to be a disabled parent, and that is something we need to see more of, I think.

The film poster showing a drawing of a pregnant woman in an electric wheel chair.
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Shadow Game (2021)

Shadow Game
Director: Eefje Blankevoort, Els van Driel
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 9.12.2021

Every year, or rather every day, more refugees attempt to get to Europe for a bit of safety and hope for a future. Among them are a lot of teenage boys, who have crafted a “game” out of their attempts to cross various borders within Europe, hoping to finally get to the countries where they can stay.

Shadow Game follows a handful of teenage boys from the Middle East and Africa who are on their ways into Europe, or stranded along the way, painting a harrowing picture of the inhumane and shameful policies and practices of the European countries. It’s not easy to take, but even more important for it.

The film poster showing a teenage boy looking down at the camera, above him just blue sky.
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Fly So Far (2021)

Fly So Far
Director: Celina Escher
Writer: Celina Escher
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 9.12.2021

Content Note: abortion, miscarriage

Teodora Vásquez had a miscarriage under the most dramatic circumstance, shortly before the baby was due to be born. Since she lives in El Salvador with some of the strictest abortion laws in the world, she faced murder charges next and was sentenced to decades in prison. There she connected with other women imprisoned for the same “crime” of losing a child, and together they started fighting for a change.

Fly So Far is an emphatic call to action and solidarity in the feminist fight. I can very much recommend it.

The film poster showing Teodora Vásquez in front of some microphones. Behind her we can see a barbwire fence.
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Obkhodniye puti [Detours] (2021)

Obkhodniye puti
Director: Ekaterina Selenkina
Writer: Ekaterina Selenkina
Cast: Denis Urvantsev
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 26.10.2021

The treasureman (Denis Urvantsev) is one of the next generation of drug dealers, basically arranging sales by geocaching. He makes his way through Moscow, discovering and communicating hiding places.

Detours is a slow film that is as close to a documentary as a fictional movie can probably get. It asks a lot of its audience, and – still loaded with frustration and anger from The Hand of God – I wasn’t entirely able to give it everything it needed. But it is definitely an interesting film.

The film poster showing various places and people superimposed over each other, creating a collage effect.
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Alien on Stage (2020)

Alien on Stage
Director: Lucy Harvey, Danielle Kummer
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 24.9.2021

An amateur theater group from a bus driving company in Dorset have set their eyes on a new project. Instead of the usual pantomime, they want to bring Alien on Stage. It’s an ambitious idea, but with the strenght of community, everything is possible.

Alien on Stage is a warm, wonderful, uplifting film and an ode to passion projects that is sure to put a smile on your face. An instant favorit.

The film poster showing a bus with spotlights on it. Below it we see a xenomorph taking a bow in front of a crowd.
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Blue Boy (2019)

Blue Boy
Director: Manuel Abramovich
Writer: Manuel Abramovich
Seen on: 9.7.2021

Content Note: homomisia

Abramovich interviewed male sex workers in Blue Boy bar in Berlin, then showed them their statements and filmed them while they watched it. The film shows them reacting to their own statements.

Blue Boy chose an interesting format to capture its subjects, opening up the gulf between talking a good game and then listening to yourself talk. The statements they give are as different as their reactions to themselves – from embarrassment to careful neutrality that can’t quite cover the fact that they are having a very emotional reaction, but don’t want to share what it is. While their statements give us an insight into their work life – from chatting up clients to police harrassment -, their reactions give us a look at who they are as people. A careful balance that Abramovich captures impressively.

The film poster, showing the title in big, loopy letters, with two eyes, cut out from a newspaper, peeking out between the two words.

Picture a Scientist (2020)

Picture a Scientist
Director: Ian Cheney, Sharon Shattuck
Seen on: 23.6.2021

Content Note: sexualized violence, sexual harrassment

As in many other fields, women are marginalized in academia as well. Picture a Scientist shows us what that marginalization looks like, especially regarding sexual harrassment, and how it affects women in science.

As I work in gender equality at a university, Picture a Scientist is a must-see film for me. And I’d say, if you’re interested in academia/science at all, it’s also a must-see for you, though depending on how much you know about universities and gender equality, you might not learn that much that is new.

The film poster showing several scientsts at work in a black drawing on beige and light blue background.
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Welcome to Chechnya (2020)

Welcome to Chechnya
Director: David France
Writer: David France, Tyler H. Walk
Part of: Transition Film Festival
Seen on: 13.6.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia, including explicit homomisic violence, torture and rape; attempted suicide

Starting in 2017, Chechnya saw a sudden and widespread outbreak of homomisic violence that was denied by officials. The Russian LGBT+ Network, especially David Isteev and Olga Baranova, started helping queer people escape Chechnya and Russia altogether. But as long as nobody came forward, no officials seemed willing to investigate the situation, or even acknowledge that anything was going on.

Welcome to Chechnya is an important documentary, but it is definitely not an easy watch. Still, it should be seen.

The film poster showing Maxim Lapunov with his fake face in black and white, behind him a red background with faces from several other people in the documentary.
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