Powerfully moving and quietly humane, Eyes Wide Open, Haim Tabakman’s, debut feature is an extraordinary portrait of forbidden love in an ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem community.
Aaron (Zohar Strauss) leads a quiet life. Each day he heads from his tidy apartment where he lives with his four children and his wife Rivka (played by an actress with the unlikely name of Tinkerbell) to his butcher-shop to his synagogue to pray.
Aaron is a tzaddik, a righteous man, and when Ezri (Ran Danker), a beautiful twenty-something man arrives at his shop in a rainstorm looking for shelter, he gives it. But something more happens as sexual desire develops between the two men. Ezri wants to kiss Aaron, but Aaron tells Ezri that it’s a challenge for them to pray about. Ezri takes Aaron to a spring outside the city, and desire bubbles to the surface between the two men.
As their gay love is consummated, the love between Aaron and Rivka becomes troubled. And a self-appointed “God-squad” of Jewish thugs warns Aaron that Ezri is a they don’t want in their neighborhood.
Beautifully insightful and almost delicate in its storytelling, Eyes Wide Open, is a stunningly essential film in the cannon of queer filmmaking. With not an extra word, frame or movement, director Haim Tabakman and screenwriter Merav Doster craft a truly gorgeous and unforgettable film.
Eyes Wide Open is available now on Dekkoo.
Part documentary, part narrative feature film, The Circle is a moving tribute to a life-long relationship that overcame intense obstacles and an insightful look at an important chapter in gay history.
Winner of the prestigious Teddy Award at the Berlin Film Festival, The Circle tells the true story of Ernst Ostertag and Röbi Rapp, a schoolteacher and a drag entertainer, who met through their participation in a social network of gay men that developed in Zurich in the 1940s and 1950s. The two began romantic relationship. Interviews with them and other survivors and experts on the era are interspersed with documentary film and photographs as well as a scripted dramatic enactment of the story.
Founded in the early ’40s, the network around the magazine ‘Der Kreis’ (‘The Circle’) was the only gay organisation to survive the Nazi regime. It blossomed during the post-war years into an internationally renowned underground club.
Legendary masked balls at the Theater am Neumarkt in Zurich provided visitors from all over Europe with a secret and safe space to act out their ‘otherness’ in a self-determined way. It is there that timid teacher Ostertag falls in love with drag star Rapp. Ernst searches for a way to fight for his gayness to be accepted as normal outside the boundaries of ‘The Circle’ network without losing his employment as a teacher. Röbi champions the joint fruition of their love.
Following a murder in the gay community, violent repression against gay people also endangers ‘The Circle’ network. Stefan Haupt’s riveting film uncovers the fascinating universe of one of the first gay liberation communities. Enriched by impressive conversational records with Ernst Ostertag and Röbi Rapp, the film depicts a decades-long love story – made taboo by society – and reveals the couple’s inspiring self-knowledge and courage.
Watch the trailer for The Circle below. It’s now available on Dekkoo.
Adapted by playwright Martin Sherman from his groundbreaking play of the same name, Bent employs an impressive cast of familiar faces to tell a painful personal story about the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany.
In 1930s Berlin, Max (Clive Owen) sleeps with German SA officer Wolf (future “Game of Thrones” star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), only to see him killed by his fellow Nazis the next morning as part of the “Night of the Long Knives.”
Refusing an offer of new papers from his Uncle Freddie (Ian McKellen) for fear of leaving his boyfriend Rudy (Brian Webber) behind, Max and Rudy are found by the Gestapo, to whom Max lies about his homosexuality and his relationship. He is soon sent to Dachau, where he meets and falls in love with Horst (Lothaire Bluteau), who shows him the dignity that lies in acknowledging one’s beliefs, even in the face of incomprehensible persecution.
Originally staged as a Royal Court production in 1979, starring Ian McKellen and Tom Bell, which later transferred to the West End, Bent earned major acclaim right out of the gate. Richard Gere played Max in the original 1980 Broadway production. In 1989, Sean Mathias, the film’s director, helmed a revival of the play, performed as a one-night benefit for Stonewall, featuring Ian McKellen, Richard E Grant, Ian Charleson and Ralph Fiennes. After receiving critical acclaim, Mathias directed a full, award-winning run in 1990 – priming him to head up the film adaptation to come.
Also co-starring Mick Jagger, Jude Law, Rupert Graves, Paul Bettany, Sadie Frost and Rachel Weisz, Bent is an unparalleled gay classic that deserves to be seen. Released in 1997, the film has long been unavailable… until now. Bent is currently streaming on Dekkoo.
The indie drama Tiger Orange follows Chet (Mark Strano) and Todd (Frankie Valenti, better known to some fans as gay adult film superstar Johnny Hazzard), two estranged gay brothers who grew up in a small town in Central California to a homophobic, working class single father.
Now adults, the two could not have turned out more differently. Chet, the older brother, runs the family hardware store and still lives in their childhood home where he’s cared for their ailing father until his recent death. Todd ran off to Los Angeles at eighteen and never looked back. He’s burned the candle at both ends his entire life and now homeless, with no cash, he heads back up the coast to the home and the brother he left behind.
The surprise visit shakes up Chet’s safe and guarded life and the two of them living under one roof becomes a recipe for disaster. Soon Todd is stirring up trouble in town with his sexual misadventures and in-your-face bravado and Chet struggles to keep him in check while slowly unraveling himself.
As their long-simmering resentments boil to the surface, the brothers are forced to not only hash out their differences but begin to examine the common bond they never truly acknowledged.
Director, Wade Gasque, produced and co-wrote the film with Strano, his longtime partner. Strano won the Outfest 2014 Grand Jury Award for Best Actor for his performance in the film. Speaking about his motivation for making Tiger Orange, Gasque said “I have a handful of gay sibling friends and I’ve always been fascinated by their stories but I’ve never seen a movie about them. What was it like growing up together? Does it make the experience less isolating?”
Taking about casting beloved porn star Johnny Hazzard, credited here as Frankie Valenti, Gasque said ““This wasn’t some flashy, no-brainer kind of role. These brothers are broken and volatile. Frankie stretched himself. He put himself out there as an actor and showed real vulnerability. He took risks and I think his fans are going to be blown away by his performance.”
You can watch the trailer for Tiger Orange below. The film is now available on Dekkoo.
Gorgeous bronzed bodies on the beaches of southern France and a passionate romance between two French teens are reason enough to see Come Undone, but this bittersweet, turn-of-the-millennium gay classic also has some profound things to say about the heartbreak of gay first love.
Eighteen-year-old Mathieu (Jérémie Elkaïm) is vacationing at the beach with his family when he meets local teen Cedric (Stéphane Rideau). After an extremely erotic kiss, the boys begin a hot and heavy affair, complete with skinny-dipping at night, nude dancing on the beach and intense lovemaking in the dunes. Yet as Mathieu grapples with his sexuality – and copes with his sick mother, absent father and a characteristically annoying little kid sister – his bond with Cedric grows stronger… until, like so many first loves before and since, it bursts.
Released to critical acclaim in 2000, Come Undone, directed and co-written by Sebastien Lifshitz, beautifully conveys Mathieu’s coming-of-age (a scene in which he comes out to his mother is still quite moving almost 20 years later). Both lead actors, Stéphane Rideau and Jérémie Elkaïm, are incredibly charismatic and give remarkable performances as the affectionate teens.
If you’ve never seen it before – or are just looking to dip your toes back in – Dekkoo has you covered. Come Undone is available now.
The new 25-minute short film 1992 follows Martin (Louis Duneton), a seventeen-year-old student who and spends the majority of his time behind a video camera, recording everything everything that catches his eye. One day, he meets an older man named Dominique (Matthieu Dessertine), who works as a watchman at his school. After their first encounter, Martin seems to only have eyes for his new crush.
Examining infatuations, the frustrations of adolescence, father-son conflict, first-time sexual experiences and the way being a gay teen has changed from the early ’90s to now, director Anthony Doncque’s period piece 1992 is provocative and brutally honesty. The film depicts a warts-and-all sex scene between a teen and a twenty-something that should ring familiar to any or us who came of age pre-internet.
Louis Duneton and Matthieu Dessertine give committed, completely fearless performances and Doncque stands out as a talented director worth keeping an eye on.
You can watch 1992 now on Dekkoo. Just be warned: the film features scenes of graphic sexuality. Viewer discretion is advised.
An award-winning documentary originally released in 2007, Red Without Blue is a groundbreaking artistic examination of gender, identity, and the unswerving bond of twinship, despite transformation.
An honest portrayal of a family in turmoil, the film follows a pair of identical twins as one transitions from male to female. Captured over a period of three years, directors Brooke Sebold, Benita Sills and Todd Sills document the twins and their parents, examining the Farley family’s struggle to redefine themselves as a unit.
The twins’ early lives were quintessentially all-American: picture-perfect holidays, supportive parents who cheered them on every step of the way. By the time they were 14, their parents had divorced, they had both come out as gay, and a joint suicide attempt precipitated a forced separation of Mark and Alex for two and half years.
Through extensive, deeply candid interviews with the twins and their family, Red Without Blue recounts these troubled times, interweaving the twins’ difficult past with their efforts to find themselves in the present.
The film follows the painful steps of Clair’s transition, including electrolysis and the difficult decision to proceed with bottom surgery. Through its portrayal of these articulate and independent twins, each haunted by the painful experiences of their adolescence, the film questions normative standards of gender and identity – as Mark and Clair reassert their indescribable bond as identical twins. Through the power of the their voices, we hear the story of a family’s redemption from a dark past, and ultimately, its revival to the present.
Check out the trailer for Red Without Blue below and watch the full film on Dekkoo.