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Liuben (Bulgarian)

In a Bulgarian mountain village, where prejudice simmers, a summer romance begins between two boys from different worlds. I just read this line and of course it sounded interesting to spend time on this film. This is apparently first openly gay film from Bulgaria and I must say, what a beautiful film it was ! I had minimal expectations but thanks to the gorgeous landscapes and some great acting, the film kept my attention throughout.

Victor, who now lives with his older partner Jose in Madrid, returns to his mountain village in Bulgaria after 11 years to attend his grandfather's funeral. He missed home so he decides to stay for the summer and rekindle his relationship with is old village and his father. Things take unexpected turn, when an unlikely friendship with a local gypsy named Liuben, an 18 year old drifter, things change. Liuben wants to do something with his life. He is outgoing and he literally forces himself for Victor's friendship. Victor finds him attractive for sure, but also something about the boy makes him want to spend more time with him. They connect over many things in the village while finding refuge and love within each other. We find that Victor is not really happy with his partner and has been continuously cheating on him with other boys. Meanwhile, Liuben has gotten a girl pregnant but he wants to make money to give his child education and respect like Victor has. Their unlikely friendship slowly turns into love, but circumstances are not in their favor. The local gypsy Roma boys never have it easy and just like for many folks, things also do not end very well for Liuben, breaking Victor's heart completely. The film has a sad, more poignant ending but very realistic and I am happy and sad at the same time for the way it ended.

The film is not just about two men eventually falling in love, but so much more than that. It is an excellent contribution to the topics of queer migration, as well as hybrid identities, corruption, representations of gypsies in cinema, and contemporary Bulgaria. There is so much happening here showing us clear discriminations within the community and how people treat one another and how everyone is just trying to survive. Right from Liuben to Victor to Victor's father to the cops to the other gypsy boys, they al are dealing with their own stories. Racism and poverty are at the forefront in this serene love story. I liked the way the chemistry between two boys is shown. The actors playing the two leads and too good and they look good. I somehow connected with both their situations and was able to empathize with them. They are both dealing with their demons although very different from one another. But right form the first anticipation of a possible physical connection (which doesn't actually happen), to that very first kiss in the fields and eventual sex a few days later; the film really shows their growth for one another. There is one long scene of both of them attending a fair, which is the only time they actually get to enjoy time with one another without prejudice. I enjoyed the village setting, the film did not have too much drama and with utmost sensitivity it tries to deal with a lot of issues , but never forgetting the core of the film. The way Liuben meets his end is extremely sad and what it does to the core of Victor. I hope this film is seen by a lot more folks. (7.5/10)


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