The holiday crush is over, so now may be the time to relax, and catch up on some LGBT films that were released online over the past few weeks. One drama and two documentaries are worthwhile, but one erotic thriller is a must-miss.
“Funny Boy,” on Netflix, is Deepa Mehta’s sensitive and evocative adaptation of Shyam Salvadurai’s award-winning novel about a gay boy’s coming of age in the 1970s-early 1980s during the Sri Lankan civil war between the Tamils and the Sinhalese. Arjie (Arush Nand) is first seen as a pre-teen dressed as a bride and wearing lipstick. His father, Appa (Ali Kazmi) disapproves of his feminine behaviors, but his mother, Amma (Nimmi Harasgama) doesn’t entirely discourage him. Moreover, Arjie’s aunt Radha (Agan Darsh) teaches him the value of being different. He observes how Radha lives freely. However, when she falls in love with a Sinhalese man — forbidden for a Tamil — she is soon sent to Canada in an arranged marriage.
A decade later, teenage Arjie (Brandon Ingram) faces a similar crisis when he falls in love with his Sinhalese classmate, Shehan (Rehan Mudannayake), who loves him back. While Arjie struggles to be discretely affectionate with Shehan in a country where homosexuality is illegal, there is a larger threat as the Sinhalese are violently attacking the Tamils. “Funny Boy” deftly chronicles Arjie experiences as a gay Tamil — a double minority. Mehta nicely balances the personal and the political as several of the main characters are challenged for their courage, beliefs, and actions.
The romance between the teens is tender, especially when the lovers are dancing to “Every Breath You Take,” and the larger drama of violence provides a valuable backdrop for examining prejudice. This is a beautifully filmed and acted story about the turmoil of sexual, ethnic, religious and class difference.
“Gay Chorus Deep South,” which debuted on Pop, Logo and Pluto TV, is a crowd-pleasing documentary about the week-long goodwill tour the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus took in five southern states with strong anti-LGBT laws. The film showcases the music, of course, which is wonderful, but it is how the chorus changes the minds of the people they meet — and how the people change the minds of the chorus that reverberates.
“Gay Chorus Deep South” showcases the personal stories of several individuals who are returning to their southern roots. Tim Seelig, the chorus’s artistic director recounts how his coming out nearly destroyed his life in the Baptist church. One performer, Jimmy, has mixed feelings about reconnecting with his father — whom he has not spoken to in nearly a decade — while another, Steve describes the bullying that occurred in his Southern school. But perhaps the most interesting story belongs to Ashlé, who is transitioning from male to female. Ashlé’s story emphasizes the family-like community of the chorus and features a showstopping rendition of “I am Changing” at a nightclub.
This earnest documentary shows how chorus members’ assumptions about Southerners are not always correct, and that while they experience some setbacks on their tour, the strength of their collective voices comes through as it inspires queer and closeted youth as well as old, white, straight, religious men and women.
Another musical documentary is “I’m Moshanty. Do You Love Me?,” streaming on Amazon. Director Tim Wolff’s film commemorates the late transgender singer and activist, Moses Moshanty Tau, from Papua New Guinea (PNG), who passed away in 2018. The film explains how difficult the very religious country is for women in general and the transgender community in particular. Moshanty was a beloved singer who was also an inspirational advocate who fought for rights for LGBTQ folks in PNG.
Often facing discrimination, a sequence where Moshanty visits the tropical Hula village, shows where the trans community faces more acceptance. Heartfelt testimonies from friends and family members flesh out this hour long film that also features music videos and Moshanty’s last interviews and public performance. It is a useful introduction to a trans artist who is largely unknown to American audiences.
One film that should be unknown or avoided is “The One You Feed” (various streaming platforms). Dubbed an “erotic thriller,” this misfire features far too little tension, sexual or otherwise. A handsome stranger (Gareth Koorzen) is rescued by a man (writer/director Drew Harwood) and a woman (Rebecca Fraiser) after he encounters trouble on a camping trip. During his convalescence, the woman bathes and seduces the stranger. However, he is more attracted to the man, who reminds him of someone he knew. One night, however, the man, who may prefer chickens to people, sodomizes the stranger while also breaking eggs on his back. Is the whole episode a dream? The deliberate ambiguity, along with the unformed characters, is too manufactured to generate much interest. What is more, the dialogue is largely risible, and the acting ranges from shrill (Fraiser) to stilted (Koorzen and Harwood). Like the stranger who is mostly trapped in the house, this excruciating film goes nowhere slowly.