Media Partners Slovak Queer Film Festival

Documentary Review: Queer Japan (2019) by Graham Kolbeins

A look at Japanese colorful variety in sexual identities and orientations.

is a fascinating documentary about the diversity of Japan's sexual identities and orientations. And by fascinating I mean a trip that would make Neo and Alice jealous. So, put your red shoes on, click the heels and let's take the not-straight way. These folks might've never been to Georgia and California but they are pretty much to themselves.

“Queer Japan” is screening at Slovak Queer Film Festival

The voices of the LGBTQIA+ community members are more and more audible. They ask for nothing more (and nothing less) than respect, tolerance, and acceptance granted to human beings. And still, there are people who oppose whatever requests or even deny the existence of non-binary, non-heterosexual people. Be the origins of the cultural values of a respective country rooted in different religious dogmas or philosophies, somehow they find ridiculously common ways how to keep the enemy alive. Theories of the malevolence of the s.c. gender ideology, threats to the “traditional” family or cultural values of a nation spread wildly, especially at the times of whatever elections. They are as dangerous as they are absurd.

That is why culture and art are important platforms in providing education, breaking the glass ceilings and walls. They can also provide important support to the members of the community. LGBTQIA+ films can provide stories with characters to identify with, to share problems or laughs. It is then fantastic to see a documentary that is beyond lighthearted, glorious, bold, terrific, queer, intriguing and amazing.

They are here and they are queer and not at all ashamed. The opposite is the truth. Not only they do not hide but also they do more than little to make their community members feel that they matter. They also build the places and create art thanks to which LBGTQIA+ people can enjoy being whoever they are. They raise their voices so the LGBTQIA+ people could feel included within the human society.

Choosing the protagonist wisely, “Queer Japan” gives space to a good sample of voices to be listened to. Butoh dancers, drag queens, club founders and owners, author of gay manga featuring bear gays, erotic drawing artist, politician. Gay, lesbian, bi, trans men, trans women, non-binary people, pansexuals, all kinds of various fetishes lovers and many many others. All of them as walking and talking proves of human sexuality going beyond gender.

“Queer Japan” covers a plethora of issues the community faces. These include the legal issues of registred partnership/marriage, legal change of sex, parenthood to mention the most common. Moreover, the film speaks of everyday life problems. Be it the general acceptance, the “traditional” expectations from cisgender people, especially women, AIDS prevention, but also details like the non-existence of sign language expressions. Moreover, it does not shy away from semantic issues of “gay” or “queer” becoming “LGBTQIA+”.

Kolbeins keeps the narrative smart, with an effortlessly steady pace. “Queer Japan” moves among the subject matters seamlessly and links the protagonists by the topics. All that while going not only into the wides but also looking deeper into the impacts they (might) basically everyone. The protagonists themselves have many insights to offer and are open to sharing them.

“Queer Japan” is one of those films that keeps its tacit promise in the title. It offers all kinds of queer or if you prefer, hentai. At the same time, no matter if wearing a loose t-shirt or full drag, its protagonists speak of very regular and normal issues and requests.

About the author


Hello everyone! Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be an actress. I absolutely adored Greta Garbo. Far from her looks and even further from her talents, I ditched acting as a professional career option and went for film studies.
It must have been sometimes in my early teens, which is still too late if you look at the origin stories of my colleagues, I fell for action cinema and cinemas of the Far East. Depending on who asks, the answer to "why" question is either: 1/ The lighting style just hit me in the guts, or 2/ Have you really seen those men? (Up until now, I would welcome Han Suk-kyu to read me anything.)
I program the Asian sidebars "Eastern Promises" at Art Film Fest Košice and "Queer Asia" for Slovak Queer Film Festival. Both in Slovakia. I come from there.
Oh, and I talk quite a lot.
So long, and thanks for all the fish.

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