Saturday, March 17, 2012

Poland's "Sala samobojcow" presents a tragedy for a gay teen after Internet humiliation

The Polish film “Sama Samobojcow” (I’ll translate the title below; it’s disturbing) opens with a recital, where a young man is singing Schubert, and another young man Dominil (Jakub Gierszal) watches.  Soon we learn that the tall, lean, and affable Dominik has it all. He’s graduating from high school, and prepares for the senior prom.

At the prom, someone plays some jokes.  A couple of women kiss, and then Dominik kisses another mail friend while others film and upload to the web.  That doesn’t necessarily phase him, but then soon he’s in a judo wrestling class, when a partner comes on to him.  Dominik “loses it”, and has an “accident”, and that gets caught on video too, and winds up in public.  Now, he’s humiliated.

The possibility of that sort of incident is not trivial. I suppose it could have happened to me, in gym or even once in the Army. 

The movie’s credits are framed as YouTube-like videos, and now there is a scene showing tweets, with the Tyler Clementi tragedy mentioned.  Dominik, to deal with his humiliation, retreats into an Internet world of Second Life.  The film doesn't leave the impression that the videotaping and viewing online was intended as malicious or mean-spirited; rather other teens just seemed "curious".

About 40% of the film takes place in this alternate reality, with very professional animation. Dominik’s avatar looks realistic, as do the other characters.  But the case that he is really living in an alternate world with its own geography and own timeline is not so convincing as, say, “Inception”.

Domink has told his well-off parents that he is gay, and they’ve reacted with denial.  It appears that they now know they will not have grandchildren, and this turn is putting a strain on their marriage.  (The father, though, just wants him not to tell people.)   Eventually, they hire psychiatrists to try to get him out of his own world. When dad disconnects him from the Internet, he goes bonkers. (That measure reminded me of my own father's, back in 1962, threatening not to let me listen to records when I "complained" that we needed more modern, light-tracking equipment to protect my collection.)

This is a story you want to come out well.  At one point, a therapist asks Dominik if he wants to die, and he says, no, people who do these kinds of things are narcissistic, think that the world revolves around then.  But the spiral downward continues.  I wish the film had a happier outcome.

The film (hashtag “@SuicideRoom”) is directed by Jan Komasa, and distributed by  ITI and Wolfe. It was nominated for best picture at the Berlin Film Festival.  We're still not finding the big corporate distributors (like Sony)picking up major foreign LGBT films, when they are so obviously important.  This film is professionally made and had plenty of resources.   

It's interesting that gay rights has not always done so well in Catholic Poland.   There is an element there that points out that Muslim immigrants "take care of their own" (by sending money back) and that considers gays part of the European depopulation problem.  I saw this when I visited the Andy Warhol museum in Pittsburgh a few years ago. 

Here’s the official site. Wolfe is providing a link to the Trevor Project, here

The film can be rented from YouTube for $3.99. 

Update: March 18.  I have reviewed Lambda Rising's short film "Overruled: The Case that Brought down Sodomy Laws" (Lawrence v. Texas, 2003) on my LGBT blog.

The Cartoon Network's 30-minute show "Stop Bullying: Speak Up" was reviewed on the TV blog March 19.

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