Disclaimer: In the following review – one of three movies that I watched at the recently concluded Chicago International Film Festival 2010 in the OUTrageous category – I shall try to to avoid spoilers as much as possible for two reasons. First, Some of you may hate me if I told you everything about the movie. Second, Many of these movies are still doing their rounds and first screenings at film festivals around the world and have not yet been released in domestic markets for public viewing. So to adhere to common custom/courtesy and avoid studio lawsuits – I review and you shall read between the lines!
Director: Dennis Todorovic
Runtime: 101 mins
I loved this movie. Absolutely looooved it. Take a holiday to wherever this is screening and see it. Else wait till 2011 when it will be released for general screening in Germany. First thoughts – Great pacing, comic elements that don’t jarr, Europe is shown as Europe is, “My! What a fabulous soundtrack!”, “Haha, I’ve been where Sasha is!” , “Balkan pop is so my new thing”.
Sasha (Saša) is a coming-of-queer story. Sasha (Saša Kekez) – the main protagonist – is a gay teenager of Montenegrin-German origin (Mommy: German, Daddy: Montenegrin) who returns from holiday in Montenegro back to Germany only to find that his Piano teacher, Gebhard Weber is moving to Vienna to take a teaching position. Sasha has a massive crush on Gebhard and at the start of the movie, no one knows he is gay. And thus, hilarity ensues!
In the mix, we have a Chinese lady friend who mistakenly assumes Sasha’s affections for her, a younger brother who truly has affection for the Chinese lady friend, a rodeo swaggering gun toting Dad, a Mom who is the calm in the maelstrom and an uncle – brought back from Montenegro – to fix the new bathroom and also as comic relief. Amidst the shenanigans that each of these characters bring to the table, Sasha is preparing for a piano audition that will determine his future musical proclivities. And voila! The audition is where everything culminates with one big bang!
Very often, we hear “Being a teenager is hard enough” … and what is left unsaid is being queer probably makes it harder. But this is where the movie differs from known wisdom – Yes, it does show the turmoil Sasha is in and the small white lies he tells those around him – but all of this is depicted in the same manner as it actually happens in the life of every teenager! Or even adult for that matter! Sasha is no different. But this is not to say that Queerness is dealt with casually or discarded to the side. On the contrary, the director Dennis Todorovic (below at the Q&A session following the movie) has peppered the movies with enough scenes of sufficient queer gravitas such as when Sasha’s mom finds out he is gay (I referred to this scene in an earlier post), a gay love scene, the morning after and the climactic penultimate sequence. But in the end, all is ok with the world. Queer or otherwise. And this is the feel-good sentiment that this film delivers.
Every actor, lead or otherwise delivers a fantastic performance. The movie has a twitter and facebook page that may be of interest. And just a plug here for the awesome soundtrack – classical piano pieces taper off into youthful bop-to-the-balkan-pop tracks and the music massively enhances the feel of the movie to the viewer. A final note: The track that plays at the club where Sasha ventures to entrap Gebhard is Miss Platnum’s – Cumpletely Happy (Yes! The track’s record scratch parts may sound familiar).