VQFF 2015: Bright Eyes, Queer Hearts Review

19 08 2015

Some mini reviews for some short films in last night’s Bright Eyes, Queer Hearts youth shorts program.

Regalia: Pride in Two Spirits

A personal documentary about a young two-spirited gay Native teen. Reminded me of the Playing It Safe Project I took part in, a documentary series about street youth and HIV. There is enough info and story here to be conveyed through multiple episodes/films — ie. What it’s like to be two-spirited, how others in the clan/reserve reacted to his coming out, etc. — and overall, felt a bit overloaded.

Grade: B


A cute little film from Mexico about a girl who has a crush on her art/dance teacher. Fantasies of driving away together like in old films abound her imagination and with no one to talk to about her feelings, she decides to go for it. Well directed and filled with pop songs, Carina makes for an entertaining watch — until the unsatisfying ending.

Grade: B

Big Time– My Doodled Diary

I was surprised to enjoy this film. Sure, there isn’t much of a plot and a lot of it is told in the voice over of a teenage girl living in India in 1984, but the everyday occurrences, like how she thought her friend’s dog was named Penis, are charming and feel genuine of a teenager’s diary. Although I was looking for the queer aspect, it’s subtle and part of the surprise of the film. Also, more a Capella please.

Grade: B+

Caged (Uitgesproken)

After the understated beauty if cliched storyline of last year’s Jongens, I thought it was a one-off of Dutch culture and society. Apparently not. In Caged, the friendship between two running buddies is torn apart when one catches the other (unabashedly) making out with the only other seemingly gay kid in town. Such a plot is reminiscent of gay teen novels from the early 2000s, so it was strange to watch something that seemed so anachronistic. Doesn’t help that the bullies are big, yelling homophobic stereotypes — not to mention the predictable, unearned ending. Maybe this is actually representative of the Netherlands after all.

Grade: C+

Penguins at North Pole

A queer film from Taiwan? Am I dreaming? The fact that this exists is enough to get me on board, not to mention the fact that the familial conflict of traditional Asian mother was almost too difficult (because it was relateable and understandable) to endure. Two Taiwanese women plan on getting married but want to come out to their parents — one’s mother and the other’s father, respectively — first. The majority of the film is focused on the overbearing and flabbergasted (and borderline caricature) mother as she tries to deal with her daughter’s in love with a woman. At 30 minutes, it’s a little long and a little too cutesy at times. Nevertheless, the film’s warmth will likely win you over.

Grade: B

Mosquita y Mari

17 08 2012

Alright, so here are my famous reviews for this year’s Queer Film Festival.  I won’t be going to see the big-name movies (ie. Tomboy, North Sea Texas, Invisible Men), as I’ve seen those already (all three of those are fantastic films, btw).  Nevertheless, I have a pretty full schedule lined up ahead of me.  Let’s get this thing goin’!

Mosquita y Mari

Synopsis: two Latina girls in the US deal with a friendship that may be more.

Super awesome things: I needed to think about this film.  I left quite quickly after because I had to run off to the next film of the night, and didn’t have much time to really absorb this very good debut feature film from Aurora Guerrero until, well, about now.  I left the theatre having really enjoyed what I watched, but why?  Could it be the obvious fact of a story between two Hispanic teenagers that wasn’t at all cliched or follow the typical formula of other gay teen romance films?  Could it be the pauses and silences between characters, ones that leave audiences wondering what the people on-screen could be thinking?  And then I realized it: it’s all of these things.  Moreover, all of these things are simple things.

What I like best about Mosquita y Mari is the simplicity.  Guerrero knows the formula (or at least, should be familiar of it) of other gay films, and having the film between the two, wonderfully-acted leads be more about a confusing but rewarding friendship than a super dramatic romance thing was a probably the best choice she made.  From the simple plot point of Mosquita (her real name is Yolanda, but Mari calls her Mosquita, which translates to “little fly”) helping Mari with math, to simply framed shots of the two girls lying in side by side in the abandoned car lot while the sunlight pours in from the open roof — there’s a very great sense of sincerity and genuineness for reality in this film.  It doesn’t strive to have everyone win.  This is a simple, realistic story of two girls.

Not so great things: the film is noticeably low-budget, but frankly, it’s so charming and well-made for an independent film that it doesn’t really matter.  I also didn’t quite understand why Yolanda, who says she is a sophomore, is given college pamphlets by her math teacher.  Really?  I mean, yeah, she’s super smart, but it’s just a tad early, isn’t it?  The dynamics between both sets of parents and their daughters is not excavated much, either.  We see Yolanda’s parents getting in a huff about a “boy” they think is the cause of their daughter’s declining grades, but when her mother makes the discovery of looking out the oft-looked-out-of-window by Yolanda to Mari’s place across the street, there’s a look of realization on her face.  It’s not a boy after all.  Unfortunately, there’s never a confrontation between parent and child, and in a film about an ethnic community said to have voted in large numbers in favour of Proposition 8, the infamous bill that kicked same-sex marriage back in dreamland in California a few years ago, there was a clear opportunity to explore the how and why the Latino community feels about queer issues.  But this film is about Mosquita and Mari, yes, and most, if not all of the conflict in this little film, comes from them, not from external forces such as homophobia.

Good for watching: as an exercise in what you can do with an independent production.

Overall: an excellent, simple first feature from Guerrero.

Grade: A-