I originally intended for this to be a companion piece to my previous post about the 2009 film Adam. Mozart and the Whale is a 2006 romantic "dramedy" about a man and a woman with Asperger syndrome and, in many ways, it makes a very neat thematic companion to the other film. In Adam, the protagonists' relationship ultimately fails because the title character's autism prevents him from fulfulling an appropriate "masculine" role. In Mozart and the Whale, the relationship succeeds because both characters are autistic; neither of them can successfully maintain a relationship with a "normal" person but, as the tagline says, "They don't fit in. Except together." The troubling implication is that if autistic people are going to pursue romantic relationships, it's best if we stick with "our own kind."
There are many movies about a young person awkwardly stumbling into adulthood—but they're not usually about young women. Attenberg (screening this week at the Portland International Film Festival) follows Marina, a 23-year-old woman living in a coastal Greek city who's smart, but still doesn't have all the answers. Click through for more on the film, and other flicks to catch this week at PIFF!
Save a few outlying exceptions, I watched most of these films on Netflix and streamed a number of them. This is how I saw Argentinean writer-director Lucía Puenzo's 2007 feature debut XXY. It's a touching coming-of-age film about Alex Kraken (an excellent Inés Efron), a 15-year-old intersex girl who decides to stop taking medication to suppress her masculine features. She recently relocated to a seaside village in Uruguay with marine biologist father Néstor (Ricardo Darín) and mother Suli (Valeria Bertuccelli) to avoid social stigma. Her mother invites family friends from Argentina to their new home with the intent to discuss a sex change operation, which Alex doesn't want.
Call Me Kuchu is a new film that follows Uganda's "Kill the Gays" bill, openly-gay activist David Kato (who was murdered three weeks after the bill was originally shot down), testaments from queer Ugandans, and the contradiction of religion, state, and identity. Its premiere this month at the Berlin Film Festival couldn't come at a better time.
I found out about the movie from a great post Nigerian writer and media activist Spectra Speaks put up today detailing more about the re-introduction of the "Kill the Gays bill" this week and what Ugandan LGBT activists are doing....
In a recent interview with Samantha Burton for Bitch, Kenyan writer-director Wanuri Kahiu recalled a lovely endorsement she received from a film festival attendant in Zanzibar. Speaking of her 2009 short Pumzi, he said:
"If you ask everybody here, 'What exactly happened in that film?' they wouldn't be able to tell you. But if you ask everybody here, 'What was that film about?' they would be able to tell you."
I'd like to talk to the man quoted above—as well as Kahiu—because I'm not sure if I know what this film is about.
The second annual Athena Film Festival kicks off on February 9 on the Barnard College campus. Founded to honor extraordinary women for their leadership and creative accomplishments, the festival will screen films made by and about women all weekend, as well as hold free (free!) workshops for filmmakers. How fun! If we lived in New York we'd definitely attend, and if you live there you should!