Coming to VOD via MUBI today, Wednesday, February 13:
BROTHERS OF THE NIGHT
RIDM, FIDM, Indielisboa, Transilvania, Diagonal, Bergen
A docudrama exploring the lives of young Bulgarian straight men who work in a Viennese gay hustler bar.
Skewing far more toward fiction than nonfiction, Patric Chiha’s film mixes obviously scripted scenes that pay homage to RW Fassbinder’s QUERELLE with less explicitly staged but still seemingly dramatized moments between his subjects, as well as some more straightforward documentary moments, to capture the world of gay-for-pay Bulgarian hustlers in Vienna. Most of these young men have come to Austria in search of more legitimate work, but for one reason or another – lack of opportunity, lack of language proficiency – have turned to hustling to earn money for their wives and children back in Bulgaria. Most identify as straight, and have set self-imposed limits on the sexual acts they will or won’t perform as a way to maintain their sense of sexual identity. Veteran hustlers share tips with newcomers, friends give advice about how to deal with family commitments back home, and, in general, the men bond through their common background and circumstances – sometimes with suggestions of closer-than-friendship connections between otherwise straight guys. While Chiha provides an intriguing look at the fluidity of male sexuality and the bonds of brotherhood, the artificiality of the storytelling unfortunately serves as a constant distraction. There’s more to be gleaned from the few explicitly nonfiction scenes demonstrating camaraderie and intimacy between his subjects than from the theoretically “real” but obviously staged moments that cast unnecessary questions into the truthfulness of the proceedings.