Monthly Film Bulletin: GagaOOLala

GagaOOLala is a Taiwan-based streaming service which aims to bring together queer stories of all genres from around the world. As the first LGBT-focused media platform in Asia, GagaOOLala curates feature films, shorts, documentaries, and series from the past few years, as well as producing its own original content. With the much-awaited opening of Cannes Film Festival this week, this month’s bulletin is dedicated to the queer presence at Cannes in recent years. Whether these films were selected for the prestigious Queer Palm, or played in sections that were not at all LGBT-focused, they all break new ground in terms of filmmaking, queer storytelling, and showcasing queer experiences that have been seen before.  


King Max (2021) dir. Adèle Vincenti-Crasson 

King Max begins with an extreme close-up: the protagonist’s reflection in the mirror, plunged into the darkness of their bedroom. The camera meticulously follows Max’s every step as they get ready – they bind, carefully arrange a white shirt over their shoulders, then trousers, then a tie which is tied with the help of a YouTube tutorial. When it finally seems that this process is complete, we are interrupted by a knock on the door summoning Max to a family dinner. From one second to the next, Max changes back into their ‘real’ feminine clothing and take a dejected seat at the table. The film’s beginning, drenched in discovery of gender identity, is not forgotten, however. Unable to pretend, Max gets up and runs away into the night. They reach a gay club and float inside, mystified. Vincenti-Crasson’s debut short, nominated for the Queer Palm at Cannes 2021, delves into the ‘penny-drop’ moment when you first lay eyes on a real, living embodiment of all the inexpressible thoughts about gender and sexuality swimming in your brain. It is in this club that Max becomes, or rather begins to become, King Max. Oscillating between the overwhelming euphoria, tinged with fear, of finally discovering a community which shares these experiences, and the intoxicating, unapologetic expression of drag performance, the film draws the viewer in as much as it does Max. In the depths of the night, lit by delicious blue and purple hues and showered by an elating soundtrack, we join Max and their new band of kings in their pure expression of queer joy. 

Watch King Max here. 


Days Apart (2014) dir. Lin Ting-yun 

After three months apart from her long-distance girlfriend, Wildee mysteriously begins to float. She resorts to wearing a massive backpack everywhere, hoping it will ground her. Selected for the ‘Short Film Corner’ at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, this Taiwanese short explores the trials of long-distance queer relationships. Taking up a job offer overseas, and with it, the promise of future financial stability for the couple, Rochee must leave her girlfriend Wildee behind and move to Europe. The couple, at first, tackles this challenge head-on, organising daily video calls and even adapting their sleeping schedules to be able to spend long-distance quality time together. Their coping mechanisms, however, soon come to cause more harm than good. Merging iPhone footage with elements of magical realism, always delivered with a comic glint in the eye by the film’s protagonist, Days Apart follows Wildee as she learns that loving someone does not mean you must intertwine yourself with them completely. Floating (quite literally) in the absence of her lover, Wildee takes control of her independence, relying on herself as well as her friends and girlfriend to create a life of her own, both feet on the ground. It is a film that explores questions of memory, of fragments of love remembered through rose-tinted glasses, and of loving the ‘image’ of a partner over their real self, all whilst engaging its audience with hilarious quirks and a charismatic cast of characters. 

Watch Days Apart here. 


Rubber Dolphin (2018) dir. Ori Aharon 

Set across one night in Tel Aviv, from dusk to dawn, the film’s story is simple: two men meet, go back home together, have sex, dance, and have long, winding discussions throughout. It is this simplicity that gives Aharon’s film its depth. Elongating what is often depicted as a quick, relatively emotionless act – the one-night stand – Rubber Dolphin opens up a cinematic space in which to explore, with voracious realism, how queer people get to know each other. It doesn’t shy away from the awkward moments, such as interrupting sex to crack a joke or ask a practical question, nor does it overly-romanticise a ‘whirlwind romance’ narrative. A heart-warming dance sequence featuring both protagonists as they ironically lip-sync to a popular Israeli romantic power ballad perfectly exposes the middle ground that Aharon aims towards. We are always reminded that the clock is ticking, that despite growing close throughout the night, the protagonists have different views on love, making them incompatible. A tale of strangers-turned-lovers for a night, only to become strangers again as the sun rises, Rubber Dolphin is a thought-provoking exploration of modern love, attraction, emotional connection, and boundaries.  

Watch Rubber Dolphin here. 


If you liked the sound of these, check out more of what is on offer on GagaOOLala 


 Article by Miruna Tiberiu.

Miruna Tiberiu is the managing editor of GAY45. She is a student at Cambridge University. Tiberiu has written for numerous publications, including The Cambridge Review of Books, and the Cambridge Language Collective. She is the co-founder and co-editor of Cambridge’s first all-queer magazine, Screeve. Tiberiu is currently in Paris carrying out her dissertation research on Franco-Romanian cinema and intends to continue this work as a postgraduate at Cambridge. 


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