From Wuppertal to Lisbon – a Cultural Journey

SchwebebahnIf you are now wondering what Wuppertal is… I totally get you. Few people have ever heard about it… Wuppertal is actually my home town in Germany, and the place I grew up in, until I left for London in the 1990s. Wuppertal is famous a few things though: Aspirin came from Wuppertal, Engels, one of the original authors of the communist manifesto – and it has a railway that hangs upside down (and that is the defacto mode of transport in the city). As far as similarities with Lisbon are concerned, it is hilly, too. And that pretty much sums up the similarities.
So… what is Wuppertal doing in a blog about Lisbon? Well, just as Lisbon has inspired many artists, some artists with a connection to Wuppertal have been inspired in and by Lisbon. And here are two examples … Continue reading “From Wuppertal to Lisbon – a Cultural Journey”

Film: The last time I saw Macau

The last time I saw Macau ( A Última Vez Que Vi Macau ) is a “film essay”, following a man’s  return after thirty years of absence to the ex-Portuguese colony – this time to help a friend in need. Co-Directed by João Rui Guerra da Mata together with João Pedro Rodrigues of O Fantasma and To Die Like a Man fame.

A última vez que vi Macau / The last time I saw #Macau – #portuguesecinema … review coming soon

A photo posted by Urbangay (@urbangayblog) on

I always had a bit of a soft-spot for Macau, this little sibling of Hong Kong, that somehow combines the worst and best of (post-)colonial China, that packs together the lure of far East with the traditions of Europe. A place I experienced as strange yet familiar when visiting from Hong Kong. Needless to say, the title of the movie already intrigued me. Added to this that the movie was made by the Portuguese director who directed To Die Like A Man and O Fantasma (review coming soon), just fueled the anticipation (and expectation) I had to finally watch the movie.

Let’s be clear here: It is not a gay themed movie. The only “LGBT”-reference is a transvestite (Candy) who is the  reason for the protagonist (Guerra da Mata) to return to Macau. as far as the story goes, Candy, who left Europe seeking an easier life in Asia, is in trouble – and Guerra da Mata is the only friend she can can rely on to help her. Thus begins the journey of Guerra da Mata to find and help Candy, and his rediscovery of Macau, where he spent his youth.
It is also not a thriller. In fact, the story is mostly the canvas upon which the film builds a portrait of Macau: Away from the glitzy casinos and swish shopping malls – and dives into the underbelly of this “not quite Chinese”, and “never really quite Portugal” city state. A bit like Candy, Macau is something “in between”. What follows is very much a “city symphony”, images of Macau in bright neon light in the run down back streets of the city.

This “in between” is, what made the movie intriguing and fascinating for me: A bit like my experience of Hong Kong: a different place, where nothing is quite what it seems and a different story lurks behind every corner. Seedy, grotty, beautiful, poor and intriguing. That is the impression of Macau I’m left with after watching the movie (and very much like the real life Macau I experienced). Not the sort of glossy place the Chinese Tourist Board would like to portray, but a place with dark secrets, mystery, promises and bright lights in equal measures.

If you haven’t been to Macau, I can imagine the film being quite strange. For me, it resonates a lot with the city. And yes, the story line is holding the film together, but it isn’t the main actor here: the main act for me is played not by Candy or Guerra da Mata, it is the city itself, and the sights and feelings of Guerra da Mata as he tries to find Candy. Overall, the movie reminded me a lot of “London” and “Robinson in Space” by Patrick Keiller,  with a more “exotic” twist. Not just because of the near invisibility of the main character and narrative, but the way the film explores “the other”, unseen side of this Asian metropolis. Definitely a movie I highly enjoyed watching, and I would recommend it to anyone trying to get a glimpse of this fascinating “special administrative region”, stranded somewhere “in between” China, European theme park, glitzy Las Vegas of the East – and the dark sides of sex, crime and gambling.

Film: Aya Arcos

A middle aged writer falls for a young hustler… Both embark on a shaky, mismatched relationship… A highly sexually charged, Brazilian film, with lots of potential.

#AyaArcos #gaymovie #brazil … review coming soon

A photo posted by Urbangay (@urbangayblog) on

Yesterday I managed to watch Aya Arcos, a Brazilian film about a writer (Edu) who falls for a young hustler he meets on the streets of Rio (Fabio). Against the backdrop of the two very different characters, the relationship develops – unsurprisingly shaky. While Fabio couldn’t care less about what tomorrow may bring, Edu, deeply stuck in an emotional and creative crisis, constantly tries to get Fabio to grow up – and become a stable relationship partner. In addition, Edu is terrified about becoming infected with HIV, although he soon finds out he is positive – something that doesn’t seem to bother Fabio.

There is lots of passion in the relationship between the two, but also lots of things that remain unspoken or unclear. Sadly, the film doesn’t always help in this aspect, as it seems to jump sometimes from one topic to the next. The other issue that somehow distracted from the big story line of the relationship was the HIV issue, which somehow seemed to be different and unconnected, though maybe symbolic of what was going on (at least to a point). Overall, I feel more focus could have been given to the emotional turmoil of the relationship, and a clearer development of the characters would have helped the film tremendously.

That said, the film was enjoyable –  not only because it contains some handsome actors/scenes. In some ways the topic of the film is difficult, and given the limited budget and considering it is a first film for the director, I think it is definitely a worthwhile film to watch.