Saturday, November 11, 2017

LGBT Film Review: How Gay Is Pakistan? (2015)

Synopsis (from Netflix):

This documentary explores the lives of gay people and the challenges they face in Pakistan, a country whose laws explicitly outlaw homosexuality.

My Review:
Oh, this was everything and more. Mawaan Rizwan, born and raised in Pakistan as a kid, takes us back to his homeland where he journeys through what life is like for his fellow Pakistani gay men. Mawaan didn't grow up to know what it is really like to be gay and Pakistani other than having it ingrained in his head by his parents on how wrong it is, so for him, being back home as an adult, he not only is reminded of his roots, but how much has changed, and not changed, since he left. We learn about the gay parties, organized by gay activists, where gay, trans and lesbian people alike are free to be themselves in ways that they can't possibly be outside of the party. We also learn what it's like to be trans in Pakistan, and what it's like when a gay couple wants to get married, but can only dream and hope for it when shopping for bridal gowns and imagining that marriage equality was real. What's most striking is not only us getting to know these wonderful and beautiful people, but how Mawaan navigates through this local and underground world with humor, honesty, respect, and grace even when we're faced with harsh, cold, and deadly realities. There's the hate crimes, the secretive "MSM" (Men who have Sex with Men) sex dens, and Mawaan even dares to go to a clinic where they swear that taking herbal pills will cure the gay away and convert their "patients" to heterosexuality in 2 months. It's as entertaining as it is truly heartbreaking. How Gay Is Pakistan is inspiring. This documentary is only 50 minutes long, but gives us an everlasting impression that will last a lifetime.

* Currently on Netflix *

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Le Concert de Camille

I've gone to a lot of concerts this year, but the highlight of them all had to be Camille.

Camille is hugely popular in France, and has gained some visibility in the USA mostly through her most incredible album, Le Fil, and "Le Festin" from the Ratatouille soundtrack, but more or less she's relatively unknown by most American audiences. I've known and loved her since I first ever started self-teaching French when I was 14. I practically have most of her songs memorized by heart in French, that's how much I have loved her music, her style, her lyrics, and just CAMILLE in general!

She's simply a treasure. She's a pop genius who uses her voice in ways that are as childlike and playful as they're so incredibly smart, witty, brilliant, and something out of this world. With her first time performing in the USA in a LONG time, for her only USA tour date this year and in a venue as intimate and lovely as Le Poisson Rouge, it was an otherworldly experience for me. Unbelievably, Camille was even more amazing in person! I was overwhelmed by how even more incredible her voice is live, how even more fun, playful, and wild she is as a performer, and how an even lovelier person she is. It was an honor to be up so close and personal to one of my most favorite French artists ever.

And after the show...I got to meet her, chat with her a little, and she signed my copies of Le Fil and her new album OUÏ with such a gorgeous, unique and personalized signature to me.

Signed: "Pour Vanessa <3 Camille."

Pour toujours, Camille, xoxo.

Friday, October 6, 2017

LGBT Film Review: The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017)

Synopsis (from IMDB):

This documentary uses never-before-seen footage and rediscovered interviews in a search for the truth behind the mysterious 1992 death of black transgender activist and Stonewall veteran Marsha P. Johnson.

My Review:

This is the documentary that Marsha P. Johnson deserved, and also one that should have happened sooner. But better now than never: here we have her story that is as vibrant, full of life, and colorful like she was as it was also chilling, sad, mysterious, and tragic. Marsha P. Johnson was more than a symbol of a movement. She also represents what is still a sad reality today: trans women of color being murdered, most of their cases being cold, and their memory more or less being forgotten except by those who knew and truly loved and accepted them. Every single person in this documentary knew and truly loved and accepted Marsha in not only trying to still figure out how and why she died, but in keeping her memory alive through their trans voices. It was so touching and moving that it moved me to tears. This documentary isn't only a testament to Marsha P. Johnson. This was a testament to all the trans lives we've lost.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Gate: The Music Video

The wait wasn't too long! The music video for "The Gate" is here, and it's truly breathtaking.

Rightfully so, this video is already getting a lot of praise. It's very sci-fi and video game à la Final Fantasy, but is something special in and of itself, telling a story of a woman's emotional journey to healing. I don't see it as only Björk extending love from herself to her lover through the exchanging of light/prisms, but this song for me is definitely a declaration of self-love, and of hope. I already loved this song from first listen and from reading the lyrics, but it's even better in video form.

Not long now until November....

Friday, September 15, 2017


On NOWNESS with Jefferson Hack for a Facebook live chat, in an interview with her collaborator/director Andrew Huang in promoting the film for "The Gate" that will be open to the public FOR FREE in London, Björk was asked what her new album will be called. She was shy and hesitant to say, but she couldn't contain herself: she announced that her new album will be....


The album cover isn't in print yet, so until it is, she could change her mind, but she seems to have her heart set on this title among the thousands of titles that she considered for this album. As she said, she can't think of a name more perfect, especially for these days when utopia is all we can hope for.


LGBT Film Review: Zenne Dancer (2012)

Synopsis (from Netflix):

In this fact-based tale, gay Ahmet is inspired by a male belly dancer and a naive lover to come out to his conservative family, with tragic consequences.

My Review:

This is one of those movies that will make you pause many times for its brilliance. There's the stunning drag performances and so many hilarious scenes in the beginning that invites you at first sight, and then we have the heart of the movie on what Zenne Dancer is really about: how the Turkish military blatantly degrades gay men. All Turkish men are required to serve in the military. Gay men can be exempt if they prove their homosexuality. In the film, that is depicted by how at the army recruiting center, they demand its main characters to show them photos of them having sex with men, all the while they throw homophobic slurs at them. They can even demand video evidence. I can only imagine how groundbreaking Zenne Dancer was at its frank, honest, and devastating portrayal of what's real life for these people. What's also real in this movie is how one man's life was taken by his own father for being openly gay. It was a death that brought widespread attention in Turkey, putting a spotlight on not only just a hate crime, but on Turkey's patriarchal society and how every LGBT person of Turkey is effected by it. This is the movie that gives attention to their story, their lives, and their struggles. It's as beautiful and triumphant as it is truly heartbreaking. Watch Zenne Dancer when you can: LGBT people of Turkey deserve it.

* Currently on Netflix *


Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Gate

A new Björk era has begun.

"The Gate" is the first single off her still-untitled new album, and it's BEAUTIFUL.

At immediate listen, I could hear two of her songs that jumped right out at me:


"Prayer of the Heart"

I love the "Batabid" and "Prayer of the Heart" vibes. It's nostalgic and yet it's new all its own.

It hasn't yet been announced when the album will be released, but Télérama, somehow, is the first and only source I've seen so far that has it:

C'mon, November!

With how Vulnicura was leaked last year which led Björk to have no choice but to fast-release it, the cryptic-ness of this album makes total sense. No album cover, no album title, no official release date, just one single, and it's "The Gate." It may be "slow," it may even be "boring" to some, but Björk is still healing, and she's still finding nirvana, the one within herself, and the one that's in our world. 

It's the Utopia Now.