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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 14.Jul.19

Are You Proud?
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5
are you proud
dir Ashley Joiner
prd Dan Cleland
with Michael Salter, Michael Cashman, Peter Tatchell, Gethin Roberts, Lisa Power, Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, Jason Jones, Andrew Lumsden, Ryadh Kalaf, Matthew Todd, Isaac Julien, Chris Smith, Sadiq Khan, Ian McKellen
release UK 2.Jul.19
19/UK Peccadillo 1h35

BFI Flare film fest

are you proud
Shown as a work-in-progress at BFI Flare two years ago (titled Pride?), this documentary has been reworked significantly to explore the past, present and future of LGBTQ Pride events in the UK. It's a brisk, urgent look at the topic, perhaps a bit wide in its scope as it covers so many angles on the issue. But it's snappy and riveting, and packed with terrific archival footage.
Throughout recent history, the LGBTQ community has battled for acceptance and equality. Pride marches grew out of protests against police brutality, then the government's wilful inaction on Aids, so today it's about reminding the public that this is a real community with real needs. Pride has also been co-opted by corporations, some of whom only use it for self-promotion. And segments of the community feel like it doesn't represent them. There's also the reality that hideous crimes aren't reported in Britain due to media bias against non-white news.

The film covers key moments in history with rare honesty. Even after UK decriminalisation in 1967, the situation has been toxic, exacerbated by Thatcher's hideous Section 28 in 1988, which made a generation of young people feel rejected until it was rescinded in 2003. That said, there has been a growing unity in the queer community, from the mutual 1980s campaigns to support gay rights and miners' jobs to the moments of solidarity for the Orlando murders in 2016.

People from a wide variety of groups speak to-camera, sharing personal stories as well as their hard-fought opinions. They draw on the support of likeminded people while recognising divisions in the ranks: some people want a party while others want a protest. Yes, society's issues are reflected in the LGBTQ community, including sexism, racism and religious bigotry. The film explores spin-off groups in Britain such as the Queer Picnic, Black Pride and Trans Pride. It also looks at the global situation, including nations where being gay is still a crime, often due to Britain's colonial laws.

The ultimate point is that perhaps Pride needs to rediscover its political roots, taking a defiant stand with fallen brothers and sisters around the world. The West has freedom to celebrate, but also needs to live without fear. Even with huge strides toward equality in some countries, there's still a long way to go until everyone feels safe to be who they are. And even at home, it's far too easy for our rights to be taken from us, and for society to slide into ignorance and bigotry.

cert 15 themes, language 19.Jun.19

Cassandro the Exotico!  
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5  
Cassandro the Exotico!
dir-scr Marie Losier
prd Carole Chassaing, Antoine Barraud
with Saul Armendariz, Hijo Del Santo, Peaches, El Original, Vaquero Love, Skybird, Diva Salvaje
release Fr 5.Dec.18,
UK Mar.19 flare, US 19.Jul.19
18/France 1h13

BFI Flare film fest

See also:
Lucha Vavoom (2018) Cassandro (2023)

Cassandro the Exotico!
One of the most colourful Lucha Libre wrestlers, which is saying a lot, is profiled in this lyrical, entertaining documentary. Texas-born 48-year-old Cassandro (real name: Saul Armendariz) is thoroughly engaging, and filmmaker Marie Losier follows him intimately, creating a gently observant portrait of an outrageous man. While most Lucha Libre wrestlers wager their masks in matches, Cassandro bets his enormously fluffed-up hair. Of course, audiences adore him.
Nicknamed "the Liberace of Lucha Libre", Cassandro is a world champion wrestler not because he's flamboyant and "exotico", but because of his skills in the ring. Watching him fight is riotously funny, as he runs circles around beefy tough guys. But he's also been a victim of violent homophobic attacks. In this documentary, he's chatty and friendly as he takes the film crew across the border to his family's hometown Juarez, remembering how Lucha Libre offered him an escape from the gritty realities of his childhood.
Shot in the square-framed style of a home movie, the film is packed with clips of his acrobatic antics, as he deploys jaw-dropping moves to bring down opponents, including perilous leaps from very high places. Intercut with wrestling clips are conversations with Losier, including a moment when he strips down and shows off his extensive scars and injuries (cue the x-ray montage!). There are also references to more than a decade of sobriety, which means that he no longer takes strong painkillers.

Abused as a very young child, Cassandro is unapologetically gay. He had to overcome homophobia in the ring when he started wrestling, which he says has made him a better fighter. His goal is to prove that gay men aren't merely clowns, but are worthy of respect as real contenders. He celebrates the full range of diversity within Lucha Libre, with its welcome mix of gender, race and physicality. And he also has a deeply spiritual connection to his heritage.

Losier follows him both into his home and on a tour to Europe, where he is continually asked if he's planning to retire. "I don't want to end up in a wheelchair," he laughs before literally diving back into the mayhem. Cassandro is clearly loved by both young and old colleagues, and he puts all of his energy into keeping fit so he is able to compete. It's great fun to watch him teach his signature moves to students. But there's an eerie sense that he doesn't have much life outside of his sport, and his smiling outlook makes him a remarkably sympathetic figure.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 20.Mar.19

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love
dir Nick Broomfield
prd Kyle Gibbon, Shani Hinton, Marc Hoeferlin
with Nick Broomfield, Judy Collins, Ron Cornelius, John Simon, Billy Donovan, Helle Goldman, Richard Vick, Julie Felix, Jan Christian Mollestad, Nancy Bacal, Aviva Layton, John Lissauer
release US 5.Jul.19,
UK 26.Jul.19
19/UK BBC 1h42


Marianne & Leonard
Nick Broomfield once again finds a personal way into a documentary, inserting himself into a look at the lifelong romance between Leonard Cohen and Marianne Ihlen. The film seems do drift around a bit between this, Broomfield's side role in the story and a more standard bio-doc about Cohen, but the result is compelling, digging beneath the surface in intriguing ways to bring out surprising details and deeper themes.
Leonard met Marianne on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960. She was just out of a bad marriage and had a baby son, Axel, whom Leonard helped raise. Originally from Montreal, Leonard was writing novels, and Marianne introduced him to acid, which would become a major part of his life. In New York, Judy Collins convinced Leonard to perform a song he composed from one of his poems, and his career as a singer-songwriter was born.

Compiled from extensive archival material, the film explores how years of touring left Leonard and Marianne with only a few days a year together, as Leonard had a string of other women. Burnt out, he entered a Buddhist monastery for six years. And when he re-emerged, broke due to an embezzling manager, he hit the road again. He also reconnected with Marianne, who was by now living a normal life with her husband back home in Oslo. The fact that they were in contact in their final moments is genuinely touching. They died three months apart in 2016.

Bloomfield of course also places himself into the story, as he met Marianne in 1960s Hydra and kept in touch with her over the years. He continually returns to his contact with her over the course of the film. This is a little distracting from the more emotional artist-muse bond between Marianne and Leonard. He also abandons this central thesis for chunks of time, just as Leonard did, to follow Leonard's career over the intervening years.

All of this adds together to construct a bigger narrative, boosted by a series of terrific first-hand interviews with friends and colleagues. And there are clips of interviews with both Marianne and Leonard woven in along with vintage snapshots and eye-catching film and video footage. The songs are cut a little short, just snippets really. But since they all emerged from Leonard's soul, often through the prism of his connection with Marianne, they have their own deeper meaning to add to the film.

cert 12 themes, language, nudity 26.Jun.19

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