This week we put the spotlight on some newly available gems from the US, the Philippines, Taiwan, Mongolia, Finland and more.
Calloused Hands (dir. Jesse Quinones, USA)
Twelve-year-old Josh is a mixed race Miami boy and a promising baseball player. He is neglected by his mother Debbie and abused by her boyfriend Byrd. But Josh manages to forge his own path in life when his long-lost grandfather Solomon insists he study for his Bar Mitzvah.
Now Showing (dir. Raya Martin, Philippines)
Rita is named after a famous American movie star whom her late, former actress grandmother once adored. She lives in one of Manila’s oldest districts with her busy mother and entrepreneurial aunt. Years later, she is still the same girl enamoured with television, now also tending to her aunt’s stall selling pirated DVD movies. Elsewhere, there survives footages of a movie done before the war.
Mixed Messages (dir. Alana Lake and Cleo Jacobe, Germany/UK)
One year single on the Berlin Lesbian Scene, how hard can it be? Ren is on the hunt for romance, but in a world of tinder and zero commitment, getting lucky has never been harder. Full of relatable misadventures, Mixed Messages is a frank, witty and cringe-worthy tale of looking for love in all the wrong places. From speed-dating, to meditation and even a kinky workshop, each unsuccessful liaison leads to her asking the ultimate question: is it me or them?
Tom of Finland (dir. Dome Karukoski, Finland)
Touko Laaksonen, a decorated officer, returns home after a harrowing and heroic experience serving his country in World War II, but life in Finland during peacetime proves equally distressing. He finds peace-time Helsinki rampant with persecution of the homosexual and men around him even being pressured to marry women and have children. Touko finds refuge in his liberating art, specialising in homoerotic drawings of muscular men, free on inhabitations. His work – made famous by his signature ‘Tom of Finland’ – became the emblem of a generation of men and fanned the flames of a gay revolution.
Absent Without Leave (dir. Lau Kek-huat and Chen Jing Lian, Taiwan)
They sacrificed their lives fighting for the independence of their country, but their stories remain untold for 60 years. The story begins with a man’s portrait, which has been hanging for more than 30 years in an old wooden house where I was born and grew up in Perak, Malaysia. It’s long become a taboo that my families do not talk about this man, not even to bring up his name or his past. Eventually I found out he is my grandfather, who sacrificed his life fighting for Malaysia’s independence and decolonisation, but his and his comrades’ stories are excluded from history. This documentary set out to unveil the mysteries.
My Brother is Boss (dir. B. Tamir, Mongolia)
On a stormy night young Khangai is running away from the murderer of his parents with his younger brother Monkhoo. Leaving Monkhoo at a stranger’s house, he promises to return one day. Fast forward to the criminal underworld of present day Ulaanbaatar. Khangai has just been released from prison and is welcomed back into the arms of his criminal gang. His boss has issues with a corporation that is threatening his business and enlists Khangai to do the dirty work. Everything goes to plan until Khangai, forever searching for his long lost brother, finally makes contact with his abandoned sibling, but as before, it is in the wrong place at the wrong time…
The Stolen Years (dir. Barbara Wong Chun-Chun, China)
Xie Yu (Joseph Chang) and He Man (Fay Bai) are a dream team at their advertising company by day and a couple that is madly in love by night. However, with the pressures of work and their troubles in life piling up, their passion fades through time and a break up is nigh. At the brink of their break up, He Man loses five years of her memory due to a car accident. And as if hitting the delete key on all the bad memories she had with Yu, she falls madly in love with him ‘again’, only to find that Yu is already dating someone else. Lost, heartbroken and confused, Man is determined to find out what caused them falling out of love, and Yu promises to help her. As bits and pieces of her memories start to resurface, their powerful romance turns a new and unexpected page…
Dot 2 Dot (dir. Amos Why, Hong Kong)
A girl from Northern China, who comes to Hong Kong for teaching Putonghua, starts exploring the surrounding and history of her new city when she determines to find out the boy behind the mysterious dot to dot graffiti outside every subway station.
Offshore: Elmer and the Swiss Bank Secrecy (dir. Werner Schweizer, Switzerland)
While, in the US, Swiss bank managers are apologizing for their practice of tax evasion, and lists of clients are made available to the American authorities, Rudolf Elmer, former auditor at Julius Bär, is accused of violation of the Swiss bank secrecy in the Cayman Islands. Once an insider, Elmer has turned into a critic.
B & B (dir. Joe Ahearne, UK)
Gay Londoners Marc and Fred plan for a weekend of mischief, baiting the owner of a remote Christian B&B. Events take a deadly turn when another guest arrives, who they think might have something more sinister in mind.
Shift (dir. Nyamdavaa Baasansuren, Mongolia)
When two schools are merged into one because of budget cuts, rival gangs and bullies declare war, each trying to declare themselves the top dog of the school during class break, which has become the new turf war.
Body Electric (dir. Marcelo Caetano, Brazil)
Elias works as an assistant designer in a clothing factory. As the distance between his professional and personal life closes, he explores his desires, invigorated by the freedom offered through his companions. Against the warnings of his superiors, Elias takes to socialising into the night and sleeping with his co-workers.
This feature debut by Marcelo Caetano captures the beauty and delicate excitement of sexual awakening, as seen through the intense colour and vibrancy of São Paulo.