The Best Foreign Gay Films...So Far


Mar 3, 2007


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I had been contemplating writing a review like this for a long time and had set my mind to coming up with a list of the best gay films not made in the U.S. (and primarily non English) that I have seen. I have a penchant for foreign and foreign language films and over the years I have developed a taste for the queer cinema coming out of foreign cinema as well. So, without further ado and in no definite order, here are my picks as the best foreign films.

The Adventures of Felix

I have just recently seen this gem and have purchased it for my own collection. Quite a beautiful film concerning a young french man's journey from Normandy to Marseilles in an attempt to meet the father he never knew. While hitchhiklng his way south, Felix, the title character, encounters several intriguing people. This film is beautifully crafted and sam Bouajila, the primary actor, exudes charm and beauty from the screen. This is definitely one of the best gay films ever made.

The Wedding Banquet

I saw this film a very long time ago and was drawn in by this intriguing story. A young gay chinese man lives a very successful, urban life with his white American lover much under the radar of his traditional chinese parents. The clincher comes in as his parents urge him into marriage which obviously creates friction with his boyfriend. The tension between these three individuals, the two boyfriends and the intended wife, really creates an intriguing film that is full of surprises.

Fresa y Chocolate

This must be one of the first gay films I have ever seen. I first saw it on television around 1999 or 2000 and I found it a most delightful film. Whimsical and light-hearted, Strawberry and Chocolate begins with an artistic, gay cuban (Diego) and his pursuit of another beautiful, young cuban, David, who is a dedicated communist and who has enough machismo for everyone around. Diego's pursuit of David is delicious and funny and what starts out s a love conquest turns into a very real friendship. Rounding off the delightful trio that makes up the cast of this film is Mirta Ibarra, who plays the hysterically funny, yet suicidal Nancy, Diego's upstairs neighbor. This film is beautiful, heartwarming, and full of Cuban charm.

Bulgarian Lovers

I found this film while roaming through netflix and, upon watching it, immediately added it to my collection of movies at home. This beautiful, intoxicating Spanish film relates the story of a middle aged,spanish, government bureaucrat named Daniel who has been through a whirlwind romance with a bulgarian political refugee, Kyril. This film casts a very bright light on the "mutually beneficial" relationships formed between gay spanish men and these political refugees, who are by and large young and male. This film is sensuous and exquisite. Dritan Biba, who plays Kyril, is absolutely beautiful. Bulgarian Lover's also touches on the concept of activo and passivo roles and how they play out in Latin and nonwestern cultures. In those cultures where this concept exists,only the passivo is considered truly homosexual. It can be perfectly acceptable for a man to have sex with another man as long as he serves the function of a top and not as a bottom. This phenomonon is clearly exhibited in the film in the love triangle that develops. All I can say is, watch the film. It is intriguing, beautiful, and engrossing.

Steam: Turkish Bath

I provided an overview of this film in my Top Ten Gay Films list review. Again, this is a very senuous film. A groundbreaking portrayal of love between an Italian landlord, Francesco, and a young Turk, Mehmet who meet when Francesco goes to Turkey to look after a Turkish bath left to him by his aunt. This love story riveting and the presence of Francesco's wife, Marta, adds a level of suspense here that makes this film thrilling and captivating.

Sixth Happiness

I saw this film on Sundance several years ago and was completely drawn into the story of this young,wheel-chair bound Indian boy, Brit,who goes from suffocating under the guise of his overbearing mother to discovering his sexuality with a young college student that his mother takes in as a tenant. Based on the life of the filmmaker, Firdaus Kanga, this film is an elegant narration of this young man's self-discovery. The scenes between brit and the young college student, particularly the love scene and the dance scene are truly beautiful and touching. This film is rarely shown anymore and is not avaialble to American audiences for sale. This is a gem that should be appreciated by all.

Yossi and Jagger

This is a very intriguing real-time film that depicts a love affair between two Israeli soldiers, Yossi and Jagger, who must keep their lifestyle secret within their professional/military setting. This film makes great commentary about the horrors of warmongering and provides a great critique of the treatment of homosexuality within the Israeli military. The love story here stands out and really makes this film worth watching.

Proteus

I have to give Proteus the highest accolades and fully commend this film on its powerful and gripping depiction of an 18th century homosexual love affair in South Africa's penal colony on Robben Island(where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned).Detailing the true account of the years long affair between a bushman named Claas Blank, who was wrongfully convicted of stealing cattle and a Dutch sailor convicted for homosexuality named Rijkhaart Jacobsz, this film is shot in real-time and is captivating and alluring.
The filmmaker's use a lot of visual play in this film, dropping little hints of the 20th century into this 18th Century drama. They brilliantly bring this off with small gestures like putting the governor of the island's wife in a Jackie Kennedy style dress with a Jackie Kennedy style hairdo while she is standing in the middle of her 18th century home and her 18th century guests. Aside from the visual play, the love affair that unfolds between Claas Blank and Rikjhaart Jacobsz is simply hypnotic. Proteus is a powerful film and one of the best gay oriented films I have seen.


Les Amants Criminels (Criminal Lovers)

I talked about this film as well on my Top Ten Gay Films list. While not primarily focused on homosexuality, this theme weaves its way through this film and lures its audience into this agonizing tale of a young man and a young woman, Luc and Alice, on the run after they brutally murder an arab classmate. This film plays with several themes including racism and sexuality. This film is intense and riveting. It will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat.

Nico and Dani

This was an interesting film that I saw one evening on the Independent Film Channel. Depicting the developing sexualities of two young friends, Nico and Dani, this film provides an interesting look at the way in which this friendship develops as each discovers what it is they truly want. This was a profound and eloquent statement on the nature of sexuality by director Cesc Gay.

These are my choices as the top ten foreign gay films. I hope you enjoy this list and find these films as enjoyable as I have.

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