Queer foreign cinema and TV shows you shouldn’t miss. Subtitles are like reading, honest!

October 20, 2018

XXY (ARGENTINA): Named after the intersex syndrome and more accurate in its representation of ambiguity than concerned with medical precision, it follows Alex, an intersex teenager presenting as a girl whose parents decided to refuse surgery for their baby. Alex is 15 and rapidly running out of time to get surgery before puberty hits full on and a surgeon comes from the capital to try and talk the family into operating. The surgeon brings along his own teenage son and Alex and he get on perhaps a little too well, which allows both of them to explore their interests and identities.

Not sure if that might be offensive to an intersex viewer but as a queer person, I found the supportive family and their insistence that is Alex's choice to change their body quite amazing.

 

 

The Way He Looks (BRAZIL):A blind teenage boy has only one close friend, a sweet girl who is in love with him... But then a new boy arrives and the three of them strike a connection... Especially the two boys. Lovely, atmospheric and low on angst but still full of delicious tension!

 

Romeos (GERMANY, 2011): Two young men navigate every day life, one of them is a hearthrob--confident and a little too macho to cover up how insecure his attraction men makes him feel. The other is a trans guy, just getting used to living as a man and trying to figure out how to deal with his attraction to men when he's working so hard to present as one himself. Absolutely brilliant.

 

 

SKAM (NORWAY, 2015-2017): For teenagers, right? Not quite, about teenagers is a much more appropriate descriptor. Saying SKAM (Shame) is about teenage drama is a bit like saying Queer As Folk (I'm thinking US but it’d apply to the original UK version equally well) is about gay men fucking. That is to say, there is a lot of it in the show but the underlying theme of QaF is family—the one you're born into and the one you make—and being brave enough to embrace them with all their faults and take care of each other. SKAM is not far behind, except it focuses almost exclusively on friendship (and romance is very much a shade of friendship. I.e. a connection forged with someone you have no formal ties to) and we only get glimpses of adults and family. Except that for all their youth, many of the teenagers in SKAM are perfectly sensible people—imperfect and prone to mistakes—who react in the same ways adults are allowed to react in TV shows instead of creating unnecessary drama. Sure, nobody is sensible all the time and that causes trouble, but strangely it is not always possible to predict how other characters will take it because SKAM relies on a profound understanding of each character’s inner truth and how mismatched that truth often is with their external appearance and actions. I watched season 3 first (gay boy/bi boy romance, don't be shocked!), but after season 4 was announced to have cool-headed sharp-tongued Sana as a the focalizing character, I decided I needed to go back and watch season 1. This time I found a version with English subtitles, which was infinitely better than trying to get through an episode with my Duolingo-acquired Norwegian (yes, I studied it for about 2 months because I was so in love with season 3). Season 1 starts slow, and Eva is still not my favourite character—she is too much of a teenager, too easily swayed—but then she meets the four girls who will change her life, and their friendship is the stuff of ships. They are all as different as can be but all outsiders as they start the last phase of secondary school and somehow, they make it work until they become each other's main support and main comfort. Its depiction of difficult topics will shock you every time, digging deeper and taking no prisoners in its pursuit of the truth but without disallowing the tenderness of human weakness and human strength both. I'm not talking homosexuality, myself, but stuff like the expectations that girl will provide sexual favours in exchange for social capital or serious mental illness that doesn't go away but needs constant attention and support, religion from all the possible points of view. Edit: Just discovered there's Italian, French, US and German versions of this show--guess it was cheaper to remake it than pay for the rights to the music?

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©2018 by N.J. Lysk. Contact NJLysk@lostinabook.org if there are any issues.