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The Nuns, the Priests, and the Bombs

Must-see documentary
The Nuns, the Priests, and the Bombs (2018) was written and directed by Helen Young. It's a documentary depicting the brave women and men of the Plowshares movement.

The Plowshares movement takes literally the Biblical imperative to turn swords into plowshares. They spend most of their lives and their energy working to bring an end to the nuclear arms race. Sometimes they enter "secure" nuclear facilities and spray-paint messages of peace on or near the nuclear weapons. Many of them spend years in jail for their peaceful, nonviolent protests.

It's true that some Plowshares people are nuns and priests, but Plowshares welcomes dedicated lay people as well. They concentrate on nuclear weapons facilities, because they realize the enormous, terrible, destruction that a nuclear war would bring about.

Many peace activists--like myself--are worried about nuclear weapons. However, there are so many bad things happening--both within and outside the U.S.--that opposition to nuclear weapons moves down the list of priorities.

That's why we need to see a documentary like this to remind us that nuclear weapons threaten human existence on our planet.

We saw this movie courtesy of Geneseo Peace Action, the student peace group on the SUNY Geneseo campus. I congratulate Geneseo Peace Action for making the film available. My suggestion--watch the film and then find a way to encourage other people to see it. It's a matter of life and death.

The Queen's Gambit

Fascinating series about a woman chess master
The Queen's Gambit (TV Mini-Series 2020) was co-written and directed by Scott Frank.

Anya Taylor-Joy portrays Beth Harmon, who becomes an orphan at age nine, and grows up in an orphanage. She learns to play chess from the janitor, and it is immediately apparent that she has an amazing ability at the game.

The plot is convoluted and involves frequent flashbacks. You have to pay attention. The good news is that you don't have to understand chess to enjoy this series.

I saw the film as a coming-of-age movie. However, a friend pointed out that chess was and is considered a man's game, so a woman chess master was inherently interesting to the public. Also, the story is set in the mid-1960's, when the U.S. was at the height of the Cold War. It was important to "beat the Russians at their own game." We agreed that the coming-of-age aspect was matched by the time and place in which the series is set.

In a recent review, I said that Anya Taylor-Joy was badly miscast as Emma in a film adaptation of Austen's novel. In this review, I say that Anya Taylor-Joy is perfectly cast as the actor to play Beth Harmon. Taylor-Joy is known for her wide-set eyes, and when she icily stares at her opponent across the chess table, you know that he is doomed to lose.

This movie was made for Netflix, so it works well on the small screen. It has an amazing IMDb rating of 8.8. I thought it was even better than that, and rated it 10.

P.S. Another reviewer has written, "Don't start this series late at night." She is correct. You will want to binge on more than one episode. Armed with that knowledge, start early!

My Brilliant Career

Excellent Australian adaptation of an interesting novel
My Brilliant Career (1979) was directed by Gillian Armstrong. It's based on a semi-biographical novel by Miles Franklin.

Miles Franklin did indeed write a novel with that title in 1901. The plot of the movie goes up to the point where she sends off her novel to a publisher in Edinburgh. Some film versions of Little Women end with Jo's book being published, so there's a precedent for turning a novel into a movie about writing a novel.

Judy Davis plays Miles Franklin--called Sybylla Melvyn in the novel and movie. Sam Neill portrays Harry Beecham, the young man who loves her.

In the film Sybylla starts out in a home where her family can barely find enough money to support everyone. She moves to a better situation, then to a worse one. Then . . .

Harry Beecham loves her, and wants to marry her, and that's the basic plot. Beecham is a great guy, but what will Sybylla have to give up if she marries him?

Judy Davis and Sam Neill are great actors, and it's a pleasure to watch them at work. For a city person like myself, the Australian outback looks about as familiar as Mars would. That makes the movie more interesting.

This isn't a must-see movie, but it's a good one, and worth watching. My Brilliant Career has a so-so IMDb rating of 7.1. I thought it was better than that, and rated it 8.


A 21st century film pretending to be a 19th century film
Emma. (2020) was directed by Autumn de Wilde. Jane Austen's novel was published in 1815. Two hundred years later, the novel still is wonderful. (OK--not Jane Austen's best novel, but still wonderful.)

Emma can be successfully transformed into a movie, but this isn't that movie. Director de Wilde is experienced, but primarily in TV. Anya Taylor-Joy, who portrays Emma Woodhouse, is red hot right now, as the star of The Queen's Gambit. Playing Emma will prove to Hollywood that she has a broad range of talents. Well, that was the game plan, but it didn't work. She's definitely a 21st Century woman, dressed up in 19th Century costumes.

In the novel Mr. Knightley is much older than Emma. Johnny Flynn who portrays Mr. Knightley in the movie is, indeed, much older than Emma, but he looks like her contemporary. I'm sure that he's glad that he's so youthful looking, but it doesn't work in this movie.

Bill Nighy, who plays Mr. Woodhouse is an outstanding actor, but he too is miscast. In the novel, Mr. Woodhouse worries about everything, not just drafts as portrayed in the movie. Nighy is calm and steady--he doesn't adapt to the role of the dithering Mr. Woodhouse.

An actor who deserves praise is Amber Anderson, who portrays Jane Fairfax In the film. Anderson performs the third movement from Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 12 on the fortepiano and she's not dubbed! This is even more of an astounding accomplishment, because Anderson normally plays the piano. She had to relearn the piece on the pianoforte, which is a similar--but not identical--instrument.

The soundtrack of the movie is unusual. Director de Wilde has chosen some wonderful folk music performed by outstanding folk artists. However, the songs on the soundtrack were played with no apparent relationship to what we were seeing on the screen. It's almost as if de Wilde reached into a bag of songs and threw whatever she happened to find into the soundtrack in a random fashion. Very strange.

If you are a Jane Austen superfan, you may want to see this version of Emma for the sake of completeness. Otherwise, I would avoid it. Emma. has a weak IMDb rating of 6.7, but I didn't think it was that good, and rated it 5.

Cronaca di un amore

Antonioni's first full-length movie
The Italian film Cronaca di un amore (1950) was shown in the U.S. with the translated title Story of a Love Affair. It was co-written and directed by Michelangelo Antonioni.

Even in 1950, Antonioni was an amazing director. Of course, 70 years later, the movie looks old-fashioned. However, the direction is so deft and surehanded that the film doesn't look like a director's first effort. It looks like the work of a seasoned professional.

Antonioni worked during the era of Italian Neorealism, but this movie looks more like film noir. It's not about poor people. In fact, it's about the life of the ultra-rich.

One bonus about filming the ultra-rich is that you have the opportunity to display the extremes of high fashion that people of that class would wear. 1950 high fashion was fabulous. The costumes were designed by Ferdinando Sarmi, and Sarmi knew what he was doing. This may be my first mention of a costume designer in any of my reviews, but Sarmi needs to be recognized.

This was only the second film of the star, Lucia Bosé. Bosé became a noted Italian actress during the 1950's. She is very believable in her role of a spoiled trophy wife. (Actually, in real life, she was a trophy wife. I don't know if she was spoiled.)

Bosé had an enigmatic, unique beauty that is hard to describe but is immediately apparent when she's on screen. She also knew how to act. Excellent combination.

Massimo Girotti plays Guido, who is supposed to be every woman's dream lover. I didn't see it. He was handsome enough, but nothing special. His acting was wooden, and I thought that he brought the movie down every time he was on screen. I guess no director can accomplish perfect casting.

We saw this movie on NoShame DVD. On this DVD you can watch the film in dubbed English, or in the original Italian with U.S. subtitles. I recommend the Italian version. (NoShame also provides many specials on a second DVD.)

Cronaca de un Amore has a modest IMDb rating of 7.1. I think it's much better than that, and rated it 9.

Little Women

Excellent version of Little Women
Little Women (TV Mini-Series 2017) was a BBC/Masterpiece Theater production directed by Vanessa Caswill. This novel lends itself to the world of cinema, and many good versions are available. However, I liked this one best.

Maya Hawke does very well as Jo, which couldn't have been easy, because she's very beautiful and Jo is supposed to be the plain one. Kathryn Newton plays Amy March, who is beautiful but "willful." Willa Fitzgerald portrays Meg March, the most beautiful and most conventional sister. Annes Elwy plays Beth, who is extremely shy. Elwy is Welsh, and speaks Welsh, but I didn't hear any accent when she played the role.

Angela Lansbury plays Aunt March perfectly. Believe it or not, I thought she was even better than Maggie Smith(!).

Mark Stanley plays Professor Bhaer, which is a difficult role. Directors have protrayed Professor Bhaer as old and stodgy, in which case you wonder what Jo had in mind. Other directors have made the character young and handsome, and so Jo's choice is a no-brainer. I think director Caswill got this casting exactly right. Somewhat older, but not stodgy, and just handsome enough to attract a young woman like Jo.

My favorite actor in the movie was Emily Watson who played Marmee. She is a highly experienced English actor. (Again, no trace of an accent.) She looks like the character she portrays--saddened and toughened by a life of genteel poverty. Raising four very different daughters on her own could not have been easy, but Watson allows us to believe she could do it. Just her work alone would be enough to make me recommend the movie.

This version of Little Women was made for TV as a three-part miniseries. Three hours of screen time gave director Caswill the opportunity to address most of the many plot lines in the novel. We saw the movie on DVD, and we could have watched it as a single long movie. However, we watched it in three one-hour episodes, as intended by the producers. Either way will work.

Little Women has a pretty good IMDb rating of 7.2. I thought that it was much better than that, and rated it 9.

Conte de printemps

Rohmer makes the same movie every time--they're great
The French movie Conte de printemps (1990) was shown in the U.S. with the translated title, A Tale of Springtime. It was written and directed by Éric Rohmer. (It was the first of Rohmer's Tales of Four Seasons. Appropriately, the movie bursts with color--grass, flowers, trees.)

Anne Teyssèdre portrays Jeanne, who teaches philosophy at a lycée in Paris. (I learned that philosophy is a required course in the senior year in a lycée.) Florence Darel plays Natacha, an 18-year-old student of piano at the conservatory.

For complicated reasons, Jeanne can't stay in her own apartment or in her boyfriend's apartment. That means she stays with Natacha, and then visits Natacha's vacation estate. Natacha tries to make her father and Anne lovers, and that's the basic plot of the film.

One of my cinema buff friends pointed out to me that John Sayles never makes the same movie twice. I have to agree--I just reviewed Matewan and The Secret of Roan Inish. Worlds apart--literally and figuratively.

Not so with Rohmer. He has a style, and he sticks to it. His characters don't take dramatic action. In fact, the most active thing they do is to open a book and settle down to read it. What Rohmer's characters do is talk. When they're done talking, they talk some more. It's not gossip. In one long scene there's a discussion about the finer points of Existentialism. The reason I respect Rohmer as a director is that when his characters talk, it's interesting to hear what they have to say.

Anne Teyssèdre and Florence Darel are both well known actors in France, but neither made the decision to work outside France. (However, Florence Darel got close enough to Hollywood to be propositioned by Harvey Weinstein.) Both women are fine actors.

It's a pleasure to see a film with women in both lead roles. (Not common in 1990, and still not common 30 years later.)

I enjoyed this movie and recommend it. It has a strong IMDb rating of 7.3. I thought it was even better than that, and rated it 9.

Une fille facile

"What have we learned?"
The French movie Une fille facile (2019) was shown in the U.S. with the translated title An Easy Girl. The film was co-written and directed by Rebecca Zlotowski.

Mina Farid stars as the 16-year old Naïma, who lives in Cannes. Her cousin Sofia (Zahia Dehar), aged 22 comes to visit her. Sofia is not a good cousin.

The scenery in and around Cannes is beautiful, but that's the only good thing I can say about this film. I kept waiting for it to start, but I was still waiting when the movie ended.

I saw this movie (on Netflix) because the New Yorker magazine had given it a rave review. It was only after I saw the movie that I checked the IMDb rating. Big mistake. As my wife says, "What have we learned." We've learned that some reviewer somewhere will like even a bad film. Check out IMDb before you spend the time watching a movie. I don't always agree with IMDb ratings, but when they are really, really low, I stay away.

With a horrific IMDb rating of 5.5, An Easy Girl may be the lowest-rated film I've ever watched. Even so, I didn't think it was that good, and rated it 4.

The Secret of Roan Inish

A fairy tale starring an amazing child actor
The Secret of Roan Inish (1994) was written and directed by John Sayles.

As one of my friends pointed out, Sayles was a great director who never repeated the same style twice. I've just reviewed another film by Sayles--Matewan--about the gritty West Virginia coal mine wars. Here, he and his cinematographer--Haskell Wexler--give us a fairy tale in an intensely beautiful setting--the west coast of Ireland.

You have to accept the magical qualities of the movie. If you say, "Show me the data," it won't work. However, if you free yourself from stringent factual requirements, the film works very well.

The west coast of Ireland is one of the most scenic areas in the world. Director Sayles uses the scenery to best advantage. (The film would work even better in a theater, but we watched it on the small screen.)

Jeni Courtney as the protagonist Fiona was a phenomenally gifted child actor. At eight years old she played the role like an experienced professional. She's on screen almost all the time. Sayles loves her, the camera loves her, and the audience loves her. It's worth seeing the movie just to watch Courtney act.

The Secret of Roan Inish has a strong IMDb rating of 7.5. I thought it was even better than that, and rated it 9.


In 1920, Southern West Virginia was a war zone
Matewan (1987) is a movie based on the West Virginia Mine Wars, specifically the action around Matewan in 1920. It was written and directed by John Sayles.

John Sayles is a brilliant director. He and cinematographer Haskell Wexler combine to make this movie feel correct in time and place.

The acting in this film is outstanding. Chris Cooper portrays Joe Kenehan, a union organizer who recognizes that the company wins when black fights white and when both fight Italian immigrants. The only way the union can win is if everyone stands shoulder-to-shoulder.

One outstanding supporting actor is James Earl Jones. He dominates the screen in every scene in which he appears. Hazel Dickens provides most of the music. She is a powerful singer who is from mining country. She knows how to sing the songs that the miners would have known at the time.

This is a powerful film that deserves to be seen by people--like me--who know about UAW struggles, but didn't know the details. Matewan has an extremely high IMDb rating of 7.9. I thought that it was even better than that, and rated it 10.

The Trial of the Chicago 7

It really happened, and it could happen again
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) was written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. It's a recreation (with some actual footage) of the events at the DNC in August 1968, and the trial that resulted. (The trial lasted from September 1969 to February 1970.)

Sorkin has chosen a strong ensemble cast: Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden, Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman, Jeremy Strong as Jerry Rubin, John Carroll Lynch as David Dellinger, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale, and Mark Rylance as attorney William Kunstler.

The historical fact is that Judge Hoffman at the trial was so prejudiced against the Chicago 7 that this aspect of the film almost could be turned into a comedy. However, these men were being tried in federal court for serious offenses. It wasn't funny then, and it isn't funny now.

I'm old enough to remember that ghastly Democratic National Convention of 1968, and the horrible (mis)trial that followed. It's really important for younger people to watch this film and learn from it. History repeats itself unless we do something to stop the repetition.

Trial has a very strong IMDb rating of 7.9. I thought that it was even better than that, and rated it 10.

Breaking Fast

Breaking the fast each evening
Breaking Fast (2020) was written and directed by Mike Mosallam. The title is a pun, because it's not the action that's breaking fast. It's the fast that Muslims are breaking each evening during Ramadan.

Haaz Sleiman plays Mo, a sincere gay Muslim who breaks up with his long-term Muslim partner. He then meets Kal, portrayed by Michael Cassidy .

The plot of the movie is not whether Mo's family knows that he's gay. They know and accept this. The plot is whether Mo's family will accept a non-Muslim as Mo's partner.

We saw this movie as part of Rochester's outstanding ImageOut LGBTQ Film Festival. It has a solid IMDb rating of 7.6. I agreed, and rated it 8.

Steelers: the World's First Gay Rugby Club

Rugby is not a gentle sport
Steelers: the World's First Gay Rugby Club (2020) is an English documentary written and directed by Eammon Ashton-Atkinson.

Rugby is a very physical game, and the players don't wear protective gear. If you have the stereotype that gay men can't play rugby, think again.

The Steelers are an all-gay team, and they are tough. Director Ashton-Atkinson is a member of the team, but an injury kept him from playing for the Bingham Cup, which is the most important tournament in gay rugby.

We follow, two players--Simon Jones and Andrew McDowell. Most interesting to me was the coach, Nic Evans. She is a former rugby player and a lesbian. However, she encounters misogyny even from the gay men.

The question to be answered is whether the Steelers can win the Bingham Cup. They were the first gay rugby club, and they're an excellent club, but they've never won the Bingham Cup.

We learn at the start of the movie that the Steelers reached out to straight rugby clubs at the beginning. However, they were rebuffed. Now they apparently play only other gay teams.

I learned from Wikipedia (not the movie) that gay clubs do play straight clubs, and that some clubs are "inclusive." Rugby is definitely not my sport, but movies help you learn about matters outside your comfort zone.

We saw this film as part of Rochester's great ImageOut LGBTQ Film Festival. It doesn't yet have enough ratings to be meaningful. I liked it, and rated it 8.

Ahead of the Curve

A glossy lesbian magazine!
Ahead of the Curve (2020) was directed by Jen Rainin and Rivkah Beth Medow.

Franco Stevens is a lesbian woman who had the courage to begin publishing an openly lesbian magazine in 1990.

Previously, lesbian publications were small and more-or-less under the radar. Stevens and her team put the word "lesbian" on the cover of the magazine. Either it would work, or it wouldn't. It worked.

The movie is full of detail about the struggles, the highs, and the lows of Curve magazine. It also shows us Franco's physical problems, which she meets with courage but also realism.

We saw this movie at Rochester's excellent ImageOut LGBTQ Film Festival. The film has a solid IMDb rating of 7.4. I thought it was even better than that, and rated it 9.


Poor imitation of Sex and the City
Sex (2020- ), directed by Amalie Næsby Fick, is a seven-episode Scandinavian soap opera. The female lead works at a (serious) sex hotline. People call with sexual problems, and she tries to help them with real answers. OK--so far not bad.

The only problem is that her boyfriend has lost sexual interest in her. No one knows why. A sex therapist doesn't help. No one every even considers the fact that he could be gay!

The whole series has a patched together low-budget look and feel. It was shown in the otherwise excellent Rochester ImageOut LGBTQ Film Festival. The movie has an anemic 6.7 rating. I didn't think it was that good. I rated it 5.


Excellent film from Brazil about a transgender young woman
Valentina (II) (2020) is a Brazilian movie written and directed by Cássio Pereira dos Santos. It stars Thiessa Woinbackk in the title role.

Valentina is a transgendered woman. Her parents are separated. Her mother and she move to a smaller city in order to avoid the transgender bias they encountered before. Not that there's less prejudice in the small city, but the plan is to keep Valentina's transgender status a secret. The plot continues from there.

The movie is made great by the amazing acting of Thiessa Woinbackk as Valentina. Woinbackk is, in fact, a transgender woman, so she knows the territory. She's a terrific actor, and carries the film along with her.

We saw this movie as part of the extraordinary ImageOut Rochester LGBTQ Film Festival. Valentina doesn't have enough ratings to be meaningful yet. My guess is that more people will see it and enjoy it. I rated it 9.


Ten men are needed for a minyan
Minyan (2020) was co-written and directed by Eric Steel. It stars Samuel H. Levine as David, a young yeshiva student, who has to come to grips with the fact that he is gay, and the fact that he is not certain that he believes in God.

Sadly, coming out as gay in a traditional family is a problem for many people. The centrality of this problem is reflected in the number of movies about gays coming out. What makes this movie different is the superb acting, and the uncanny rendering of Orthodox Jewish life in Brooklyn in the 1980's.

A minyan is ten men (or ten people) that are required for a full Jewish prayer service. As do people in other religions, Jews pray all the time. But it requires a minyan to bring out the Torah. Part of the plot depends upon the fact that David and his father can make a minyan where they live.

We saw this film as part of Image Out, the excellent Rochester LGBT Film Festival. This isn't a great movie, but I think it's worth seeing. The film has an anemic IMDb rating of 6.7. I thought it was better than that and rated it 8.

En helt almindelig familie

Being transgender doesn't give you a bye
The Danish film En helt almindelig familie (2020) was shown in the U.S. with the translated title A Perfectly Normal Family. The movie was co-written and directed by Malou Reymann.

The film stars Mikkel Boe Følsgaard as Thomas, a married man with two children. Thomas changes his gender, and becomes Agnete. Obviously, this puts tremendous stress on his children and his wife. However, the children are managing.

The real protagonist of the film is Agnete's younger daughter Emma, portrayed by Kaya Toft Loholt. Emma bears up reasonably well, considering the situation.

However, Agnete then decides to move to England for a new job. This is called abandonment. Changing gender is one thing. Leaving your teenage daughters behind is another. The film was well acted and very professional. However, director Reymann ends on a happy note, with the girls enjoying their visit to London. Everyone is smiling and happy, and it's supposed to be a feel-good picture. I didn't feel good about this picture, and the tacked-on happy ending didn't impress me.

We saw this film at Rochester's great ImageOut LGBTQ Film Festival. (This year it's virtual.) This movie has an IMDb rating of 7.0. I didn't like it, and rated it 4.


Love in a German refugee center
The German film Futur Drei was shown in the U.S. with the title No Hard Feelings (2020). (For some reason, IMDb lists the title as Wir. No explanation.) The movie was co-written and directed by Faraz Shariat.

Benny Radjaipour plays Parvis Joon, a young man of Iranian descent, who was born in Germany. For a relatively trivial offense he is sentenced to 120 hours of community service, which he completes at a refugee center.

Banafshe Hourmazdi as Banafshe and Eidin Jalali as Amon are brother and sister refugees, who live in the center and are seeking asylum in Germany. Amon and Parvis are gay, and they fall in love.

The plot of the movie tries to answer the difficult question of whether love is possible in the context of a pending forcible return to a country where gays are under attack.

I thought the movie was excellent and the entire film was clearly the work of a talented director and talented actors.

We saw this movie as part of Rochester's wonderful ImageOut LGBTQ Film Festival. (Shown virtually.) The movie has a borderline IMDb rating of 6.9. I thought it was much better than that, and rated it 9.

Thua Me Con Di

Grandmother knows more than people think she does
The Vietnamese film Thua Me Con Di (2019) was shown in the U.S. with the title Goodbye Mother. It was directed by Trinh Dinh Le Minh.

It's a coming-out film about two Vietnamese men. One of them, Van, is the oldest grandson. He has returned from the U.S. for an important memorial service for his grandfather. (Van is portrayed by Lanh Thanh.) His partner, also Vietnamese-American, is Ian (Vo Dien Gia Huy Vo).

Van is slow in coming out to his family, but his grandmother (Nsut Le Thien) understands that the two men are gay. The men look enough alike to confuse grandmother, and she bonds to Ian, not Van. But, she knows what's going on.

This movie would have worked well as I've reviewed it above. However, director Trinh Dinh Le Minh has added a subplot full of family melodrama. I haven't seen enough films from Vietnam to know if this drama is expected of any movie, even a relatively light comedy. However, the subplot skews the story away from its basic plot--coming out in a traditional family.

We saw this film as part of Rochester's important ImageOut LGBTQ Film Festival. (Virtual this year.) It has a strong IMDb rating of 7.5. I thought it was even better than that, and rated it 8.


Millions of people were cured overnight
The documentary Cured (2020) was co-written and co-directed by Patrick Sammon and Bennett Singer. The title is a clever one. In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. So, overnight all those sick people weren't sick--they were cured.

This event is old business in 2020, almost 50 years after it happened. However, this was an immense forward step for LGBTQ liberation. The movie captures the agonizing opposition to the APA's decision. The drama of the moment and the immense work it took to achieve that victory are well documented.

We saw this movie as part of Rochester's great ImageOut LGBTQ Film Festival. (Virtually shown this year.) The film doesn't have a meaningful number of raters yet. I was glad I watched it, and rated it 9.


The best film we saw at the ImageOut Festival
The Cuban-French film Insumisa (2019) was co-written and co-directed by directed by Laura Cazador and Fernando Pérez. The literal translation of Insumisa is unsubmissive. The movie was shown in the U.S. with the title Defiant Souls.

Sylvie Testud stars as Enriqueta Faber. (Faber's life is fairly well documented, so the movie is, indeed, based on fact.) Faber portrays herself as a man, which she had to do in order to attend medical school in France. When she arrives in Cuba, she is on a search for her son. She can't find him, but she stays on as a skilled physician.

The plot continues from there, and is horrified by the horrible institution of slavery, which was legal then in Cuba. (Slavery continued to be legal there until 1886.)

The story is not a happy one, but the movie itself is fascinating. Sylvie Testud is a popular French actor, but I had not seen her work before. She is outstanding in this role.

This film was presented by ImageOut, Rochester's great LGBTQ Film Festival. (Virtual this year.) I can't believe that this movie has an anemic IMDb rating of 6.5. I rated it 10. It's one of those cases where I say, "Did other people see the same film that I saw?"

Todos tenemos un muerto en el placard o un hijo en el closet

The son is out of he closet, but life isn't easy for him
Todos tenemos un muerto en el placard o un hijo en el closet (2020) is an Argentinian film shown in the U.S. with the title A Skeleton in the Closet. Literally, the title is translated as We All Have a Skeleton in the Closet or a Son in the Closet. The movie was written and directed by Nicolás Teté.

Coming out of he closet is never easy, but the gay son has already come out to his parents. They weren't happy, but they still love him. The son arrives home, only to learn that his partner has dumped him.

The plot of the movie is what happens after this unpleasant event. It's not easy being gay in a macho family where your brother is a star tennis player and you're not. How the protagonist deals with the situation makes for an interesting movie. The acting and production values are solid.

We saw this film at Rochester's fabulous ImageOut LGBTQ Film Festival. It doesn't have an IMDb rating yet. I rated it 9.


Rough around the edges
Tahara (2020) was directed by Olivia Peace. According to a website, "Olivia Peace (she/they) is a queer black interdisciplinary artist from Detroit, Michigan living in Los Angeles." This film was completed during their fellowship year at the Sundance Institute.

The movie stars Madeline Grey DeFreece as Carrie Lowstein, Rachel Sennott as Hannah Rosen, and Daniel Taveras as Tristan Leibotwitz. There's an unusual triangular plot line that's obviously important to director Peace.

However, the core of the story--for me--is that the three young people are in a synagogue at a memorial service for one of their classmates. It turns out that the young woman committed suicide, presumably because she was shunned by her peers.

However, director Peace skews away from this important plot to concentrate on Carrie, Hannah, and Tristan. The plot involving these three didn't really work for me, so I didn't enjoy the film.

It's interesting that Tahara was filmed inside Temple Beth-El of Rochester, NY. Temple Beth-El should be commended for allowing a movie involving lesbian attraction to be completed inside the synagogue.

Some day director Peace may be a famous cinematic celebrity, and people will search out this film to see their early work. However, for me, the movie has "student production" in every frame. It's rough around the edges, and the acting isn't great. Everyone has to start somewhere.

We saw Tahara as part of Rochester's wonderful ImageOut LGBT Film Festival. (Virtual this year.) This movie has only a handful of IMDb ratings, but so far it's rated at 7.4. I didn't think it was that good, and rated it 6.

Surviving the Silence

The US Army is hierarchical and patriarchal
Surviving the Silence (2020) was co-written and directed by Cindy L. Abel. It's a documentary about Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer and Colonel Patsy Thompson.

Both women were colonels in the US Army Nursing Corps. Both women were closeted lesbians. The challenge came when Col. Thompson had to preside over the military hearing that would determine if Col. Cammermeyer would be forced out of the military.

Although the case was well known at the time, the personalities of the women and their partners wasn't known until this film was released.

It's obvious to me that the Army has always made life difficult for gays. lesbians, and transgender people. The system is terrible. However, both these women chose the military, and both of them knew the consequences of their sexual lives being discovered.

That being said, this was a powerful documentary, and definitely worth seeing. It was screened by ImageOut, the excellent Rochester LGBTQ Film Festival. (Shown virtually.) This movie doesn't have an IMDb rating, which means that less than five people have rated it. I gave it a 9.

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