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 Pride month coming to an end, this month’s bulletin is dedicated to documentaries from around the world which showcase queer experience. Documentaries remember, immortalise, and give voices to individuals who may not find representation elsewhere. It is a space for showing the shortfalls of society and showcasing communities on the margins. As ever, Pride Month has been a time for both remembering and celebrating. We must remember the real events that led to where our community is now, listen to the voices on the margins of this community in an open discourse, and show that our battle is far from won. Here are some of our recommendations. 

 

Seahorse (2019), dir. Jeanie Finlay 

The documentary follows 30-year-old Freddy, a trans gay man living in England, as he makes the decision to become pregnant and have a child. The film does not treat this subject as a ‘novelty’, taking care to emphasize that Freddy’s experience is shared by many others in his trans community. In Freddy’s own words, his decision is a ‘pragmatic’ one, and the film is to document his journey not through an ideological lens, but through a more detached, fly-on-the-wall perspective. If his experience is to open discourse surrounding trans parenthood or fight back TERF arguments that increasingly permeate British society, it is a positive coincidence. Freddy, however, is not inherently an activist, and yearns first and foremost to become a dad, raise a child, and start a family, regardless of his gender identity. Seahorse is thus a quiet, drawn back film, a sort of memory log documenting this year of the protagonist’s life. Whilst showing us the behind-the-scenes medical and bureaucratic steps he must take, revealing the fascinating state of both gender and maternity healthcare services currently available in the UK, the film equally privileges sequences in Freddy’s family home, or on the streets of his idyllic seaside hometown. We live this everyday life alongside him. Whilst following one important, and seldom documented, part of trans experience, the film becomes a meditation of queer life more broadly. The people who surround Freddy, namely his mother and his close friend and past partner CJ, feature heavily in these daily vignettes, weaving together a web of relationships which have both been formed by Freddy’s queer life and will, in turn, form his life as a dad. 

Watch Seahorse here. 

 

Always My Child (2011), dir. Kit Hung 

This documentary short weaves together three conversations between queer people – Billy, Eunice, and Bryan – and their parents, as they discuss the experience of coming out to a parent, the fear of rejection, and the relief of acceptance, as well as navigating traditional society’s pressures of normativity. Whilst approaching occasionally heavy material (few coming out experiences run completely smoothly), the film remains utterly joyous. Parents reminisce their children’s early years, asking them about the moments when they first realised that they were queer, and chuckling as they remember together funny anecdotes and heart-warming quirks from these queer childhoods. In tear-jerking moments, parents come to the realisation, on screen, that, as good a parent that they were trying to be, they too made mistakes. There is an element of growth following this look back into the past, retrospectively, and the film’s parent-child discussions bring forth a future-oriented look into how homophobia inherent to our parent’s generation can be reinvented now. 

Watch Always My Child here. 

 

The Silent Generation (2020), dir. Ferran Navarro-Beltrán 

Moving on to a different style, this talking-heads documentary is made up of conversations about a range of queer experiences in Spain seen through the perspective of an older generation of the community, who lived during Franco’s regime and saw systemic homophobia continue in the years before the eventual decriminalisation of homosexuality. What is most interesting about the themes approached by the film is not the hardships experienced by this older generation (though there were many), but the community that they created despite it all, a creativity in the face of trauma, how they kept living to, one day, be able to live in a more just world. These are normal people, not queer activists, and ideology is not created out of their lived experience. The film’s broad timeline gives way to an expanse of themes that are unpicked – Catholicism, police brutality, the AIDS epidemic, as well as the rise of LGBT+ rights activism, the legalisation of gay marriage, and the incandescent first Pride marches that united the community in the public sphere. One interviewee remembers the mix of fear and freedom as they discovered underground queer spaces and fell in love for the first time. It is here that the documentary medium becomes a force of immortalisation, helping to remember small stories from individual people which hold immense power, particularly as the time passes and this important generation in queer history may not be here to retell the stories themselves in the future. The film does not, however, close off this chapter of our history. The narrative of ‘we had it worse, young people are so lucky’ is cast to one side. The generation represented in front of the camera instead expresses its worries for our LGBT+ community now. One interviewee speaks of the clash between this political promise of normalcy, of complete integration, and how it clashes with the reality of marginalisation that many young people today still experience. The baton is passed on, from them to us, with the understanding that we will keep fighting for our rights, so that the fruit of their labour is not lost. 

Watch The Silent Generation 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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