LGBTQ streaming: What to watch in April

Noah J. Ricketts (Kevin), Frankie Grande (Nico), and Troy Iwata (Reggie) in "Summoning Sylvia," available for streaming April 7.
Noah J. Ricketts (Kevin), Frankie Grande (Nico), and Troy Iwata (Reggie) in “Summoning Sylvia.”
The Horror Collective

This month, there are features, documentaries, a standup performance, a couple web series, and more available for streaming. Here’s a guide to what to watch.

“All Our Fears” (VOD)

“All Our Fears” (VOD) is a powerful and inspirational drama based on the life of gay Polish artist Daniel Rycharski (Dawid Ogrodnik). The film unfolds in a small Catholic village where Daniel lives. He fights for rights, protesting against boars that are harming the farm animals, and creates works of art. He is also very involved with the few queer members of the community. While he participates in a queer prayer group, he also has sexual trysts with the closeted Olek (Oskar Rybaczek). After a Jagoda (Agata Labno), a lesbian teenager, dies by suicide, Daniel wants to organize a Way of the Cross to pay honor to her. His actions, however, are met with resistance from the other villagers. Daniel’s efforts to assuage his guilt — and the collective guilt of the village — forms the heart of this impassioned film which culminates with Daniel creating artwork that pays homage to queer youth and the homophobia they face. Ogrodnik is fantastic in the lead role, capturing Daniel’s activism, humanity, guilt, and resilience as the townsfolk ostracize him.

“Mae Martin SAP” (Netflix)

Directed by queer comedian Abbi Jacobson, this latest standup special starring Mae Martin, who is non-binary, opens with them on stage announcing, “I have so much to tell you!” And they do. For the next 70 minutes, they talk about everything from how Martin was conceived, to their experiences dating, and an encounter with a “big ex” — as well as discussions of puberty, rehab, and a visit to the Edinburgh dungeon. While some of the vignettes are funny, such as absurdist tales about the world’s possibly largest moose, or a postman who does something unusual with the mail, many of the anecdotes are more poignant. Martin is ingratiating throughout. They are best near the end of the special, when they make pointed remarks about gender and sexuality, but there is also a touching closing story that gives the show its title. It initially doesn’t land with the live audience, but as Martin explains what it means to them, it wins the crowd over. Viewers will likely appreciate Martin’s cockeyed outlook on life as well. 

“Marriage of Inconvenience” (Dekkoo)

This 6-episode series has two gay men, Owen (writer/director Jason T. Gaffney) and Franklin (David Singletary), pretending to be husbands. In fact, they are each in the Witness Protection Program because of situations from their respective pasts. (Owen was a drug dealer; Franklin, a teacher, had a student stalker). They don’t get along at first, as strained comic scenes of the guys fighting over the TV or hogging the comforter in bed attest. But the series gets up to speed around the midpoint when the guys comically sabotage each other during a visit from their neighbors, or when they bond while drinking after Franklin suffers a personal tragedy.  The scrappy “Marriage of Inconvenience” is amateurishly made, with awkward scenes and contrived situations, but Singletary gives it some dignity. Gaffney, in contrast, tries too hard to be funny, and his performance is hit or miss. 

“El Houb—The Love” (April 4, VOD)

“El Houb—The Love” has Karim (Fahd Larhzaoui) literally locking himself in a closet in his parent’s house to get them to acknowledge his homosexuality after Karim’s father, Abbas (Slimane Dazi) caught his son with Kofi (Emmanuel Ohene Boafo). The film, which can feel stagy, is opened up with flashbacks to Karim’s childhood, scenes depicting his bond with his gay cousin, Soufian (Nasrdin Dchar), as well as his relationship with his girlfriend, Eline (Britte Lagcher), and his lover, Kofi. The approach creates a prismatic view of Karim’s life, which is full of self-hate, and struggles. Moreover, in his exchanges with his mother Fatima (Lubna Azabal) and brother Redouan (Sabri Saddik) things are magnified and reevaluated. “El Houb” is a compelling drama about acceptance and shame, shrewdly conceived and filmed and well-acted by the entire ensemble cast.

“Summoning Sylvia” (April 7 VOD)

“Summoning Sylvia” starts out silly — in a good way — as Nico (Frankie Grande), Reggie (Troy Iwata), and Kevin (Noah J. Ricketts) take their friend Larry (Travis Coles) to a haunted house upstate for his bachelor party. While the gay friends all camp it up, Larry secretly invites his fiancé Jamie’s (Michael Urie) straight brother Harrison (Nicholas Logan) to join them, which leads to many uncomfortable moments. Meanwhile, Nico has conducted a séance that summoned Sylvia (Veanne Cox), who reportedly murdered and buried her gay son Phillip (Camden Garcia) in the house a century ago. “Summoning Sylvia” gets sillier as the lights go out, there are noises in the dark, and misunderstandings abound—such as Nico thinking the pizza delivery guy (Sean Grandillo) is Phillip’s ghost. (They have sex anyway.) The dialogue is bitchy and witty, the guys are cute, but the film is slight, overplaying the awkwardness with Harrison. But “Summoning Sylvia” ends with a fun drag performance because it is, indeed, that gay. 

“Chrissy Judy” (April 11, VOD)

“Chrissy Judy” is writer/director/star Todd Flaherty’s luminous comedy-drama about two New York drag queens, Judy (Flaherty) and his ride or die, Chrissy (Wyatt Fenner). When Chrissy drops a bombshell that he is moving to Philadelphia to live with his boyfriend Shawn (Kiyon Spencer), Judy’s world — along with his sense of security — falls apart. Judy’s solo show is unsuccessful and his hookups with Marcus (Joey Taranto) causes him personal and professional problems. Things come to a head when Judy has an unpleasant visit with Chrissy in Philly. Judy is a handful, and Flaherty plays up his self-destructive nature, which can be off-putting. But the film turns a corner as Judy makes a fresh start, taking a job in Provincetown and experiencing some personal growth. Gorgeously lensed in black and white, and featuring songs and performances that comment on Judy’s emotions, “Chrissy Judy” is an astute examination of codependent queer friendships.

“Venus Boyz” (April 11, Ovid)

“Venus Boyz” is Gabriel Baur’s inspiring 2002 documentary that explores the realm of drag kings. The acts, by Mo B. Dick and Storme Webber, especially, are the film’s highlights. There is a certain amount of camp and parody to this art form that originated in New York’s Club Casanova in 1996. The half dozen women profiled in this film claim that they don masculine apparel simply because there is something (more) empowering about being a man. Each interview subject talks about how they have more “credibility” in society posing as men—e.g., they are not judged by their age or appearance when they walk into a room as a man, but they are when they dress as women. The film provides an interesting examination of how these women negotiate gender, sexuality, and their bodies as well as the butch/femme dichotomy.  

“We Will Never Die” (April 25 VOD)

“We Will Never Die” is a five-part series that makes very little sense as a handful of handsome guys chase each other across Europe. Philipp (Sascha Weingarten) is first seen in Greece as Luca (Jacopo Garfagnoli), pursues him before he ends up in danger. Philipp next holes up in a hotel where he meets Deniz (Talha Akdeniz), who falls in love with him. Meanwhile, Philipp is being pursued by Mo (Gioele Viola) and next escapes to a rural area where he meets Willi (Christoph Hoffmann), a wild boar hunter. Little of this makes sense as the editing cuts from Willi and Philipp frolicking in a pond, to Philipp hiding from Deniz but then having sex with him. Characters appear and disappear almost randomly and there is little to no explanation what is going on. Writer/director Tor Iber’s “We Will Never Die” feels like a jumble of non-sequiturs, and it is not even enjoyable in a Eurotrashy way. Skip it.