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LGBT Film Festival takes on immigration

A scene from “A Moment in the Reeds.”
A scene from “A Moment in the Reeds.”

“Wicked Queer,” Boston’s LGBT Film Festival is, at 34, among the oldest LGBT film festivals in the country. Despite its age, the festival has stayed resolutely relevant by programming features and shorts from around the globe that examine the LGBT experience from a variety of viewpoints that represent many disparate subcultures.

Running March 29 through April 8 at area venues including the Museum of Fine Arts, Emerson’s Paramount Center, and the Brattle Theatre, this year’s edition has many films that deal with the timely topic of refugees and immigrants, a complex issue that’s even thornier for those who are LGBT.

The opening-night film at 7:30 p.m. at the MFA is “A Moment in the Reeds,” a picturesque romance from Finland with director Mikko Makela in attendance. Tareeq (Boodi Kabbani), an architect and Syrian refugee struggling to adapt to life in Finland, is hired to help renovate a remote lake house that belongs to the family of Leevi (Janne Puustinen), who’s briefly returned home from graduate school in Paris. Leevi reluctantly helps his brusque father and Tareeq renovate the house, which is filled with memories of Leevi’s late mother. The two men from different worlds, thrown together by circumstance, develop a deep connection in a short time.

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“En Algún Lugar” (March 30, Paramount) also centers on two young men, Abel and Diego, whose relationship is tested when, after a tragedy, Diego’s immigration status is revealed and the couple is caught in the complexities of the US immigration system. Director Tadeo Garcia will be in attendance.

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“Abu: Father” (March 31, Brattle) is the deeply personal story of director Arshad Khan (who will attend the screening) coming to terms with being gay shortly after emigrating from Pakistan to Canada with his family. Khan narrates his cathartic journey of self-discovery and his troubled relationship with his devout, Muslim father, Abu, in a visual memoir that blends clips from Bollywood films, animation, and home movies.

Japanese actor-director Koichi Imaizumi will be at the screening of his “Berlin Drifters” (March 31, Brattle), in which he stars as Koichi, a Japanese man living alone in Berlin. One night at a bar/sex club, Koichi meets Ryota (Lyota Majima), whose trip to Berlin from Japan to meet the German guy he’d met on a dating app turned out badly. The two men, both seeking connection, come together and drift apart over the course of a few erotically charged weeks.

The provocatively titled “Mr. Gay Syria” (April 2, Brattle) tackles the challenges of being gay in the Middle East and the harsh realities of LGBT refugees with immediacy and humanity. Turkish filmmaker Ayse Toprak focuses on the relationship between Husein, a young Syrian barber living in Istanbul, and Mahmoud, a Syrian LGBT rights advocate who’s been given asylum in Berlin. Mahmoud hopes to use the Mr. Gay World contest in Malta to help a gay Syrian refugee escape political persecution as well as bring international attention to the life-threatening situations faced by LGBT Syrians.

Director Amanda Lundquist will be at the festival with her Boston-shot “Pinsky” (April 6, MFA) starring Newton native Rebecca Karpovsky, who co-wrote the film with Lundquist. Karpovsky plays 26-year-old Sophia Pinsky, whose life begins to unravel when her girlfriend breaks up with her and her grandfather dies on the same day. After moving back to the Boston home of her overbearing Russian-Jewish grandmother, Sophia tries to make it as a stand-up comic while dealing with her meddling grandmother’s attempts to fix her up with eligible men.

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Isidore Bethel, who studied filmmaking at Harvard University from 2007-11, will be on hand for the world premiere of “Liam” (April 7, Brattle). Bethel’s documentary is about his best friend since childhood, Liam, who was killed at 23 in a biking accident. Bethel’s quest to come to terms with the loss includes revisiting some of the videos that he and Liam made together as children.

For a complete schedule go to www.wickedqueer.org.

Loren King can be reached at loren.king@comcast.net.