Film Review: QUEER JAPAN (directed by Graham Kolbeins)

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by Nia Liat on December 21, 2020

in Film


We’ve come a long way since the days when being queer — in the eyes of the media — meant being child molesters, victims of violence, or self-hating drag queens. In the 1970s and 80s, gay people became activists, which eventually brought that community into a more positive light in the U.S. In the new documentary Queer Japan, it almost feels like the issues which faced the queer community in the 80s, including AIDS, are just now at the forefront in Japan. It almost makes their fight, shall we say, quaint. And yet, there’s a delirious, delicious pride in this film that eludes so many who have known freedom for decades.

At the same time, director Graham Kolbeins, writing with Anne Ishii, makes this a compelling story by concentrating on individuals representing many different communities: There’s a manga artist, a club owner, a costume creator, and more. This humanizes the plight, often achieving a humorous, tender side from these very different folks. And you’ll love the underground parties. It all feels like a burgeoning Weimar Era for the Pacific Island nation. And it’s refreshing that the title allows “queer” as a representative word, versus the alphabet soup of LGBTQAI+++++. Recommended.

Queer Japan
documentary | 99 minutes | USA, Japan
Japanese with English Subtitles
now showing on VOD

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