aGLIFF 2010 (Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival)
By Don Simpson | September 14, 2010
Director: Dennis Todorovic
Writer(s): Dennis Todorovic
Starring: Sascha Kekez, Tim Bergmann, Zeljka Preksavec, Yvonne Yung Hee, Ljubisa Gruicic
Having just returned to Cologne, Germany from a Petrovic family vacation in their ancestral homeland of Montenegro, Sasha (Sascha Kekez) must return to practicing for his upcoming piano audition for entrance to a prestigious music conservatory at the constant urging of his mother, Stanka (Zeljka Preksavec). Sasha’s piano teacher Mr. Weber (Tim Bergmann) — on whom Sasha has an insatiable crush — informs Sasha that he is relocating to Vienna. Sasha is heartbroken — make that devastated.
Jiao (Yvonne Yung Hee), Sasha’s best friend is also being pushed (by her father, a Chinese immigrant) to enter the conservatory to study violin. Jiao and Sasha do their best to please their parents, but life (more specifically heartache) gets in the way. Sasha is able to use Jiao as his beard around his homophobic family, but he does not realize that Jiao has an insatiable crush of her own — on him. Therefore, when Sasha comes out to Jiao (during an amazingly beautiful scene in which Jiao is expecting a confession of love) Jiao’s heart is shattered.
Sasha’s mother and Jiao’s father want their children to pursue the careers that they themselves were not able to (probably because life happened to them), partially to fulfill their personal fantasies but also to break their children away from their lower-middle class immigrant lifestyle. Jiao’s father owns a restaurant and Sasha’s mother operates a small pub with Sasha’s father, Vlado (Predrag Bjelac) — it is also worth noting that Vlado did not fulfill his childhood dream of playing professional basketball. All of the parents are unhappy with their current career positions; now their hope is focused entirely toward the next generation.
For some reason writer-director Dennis Todorovic thought this tender coming-of-age drama needed a comedic/slapstick element thrown into the mix, a role which Sasha’s lazy uncle (Ljubisa Gruicic) — who successfully channels Roberto Benigni — gladly fills; other than that minor misstep, Sasha is filled with tenderly rendered scenes dusted with carefully nuanced humor. Sasha is a wonderful interpretation of cultural and generational clashes, finely reflecting the multi-ethnic backgrounds of Cologne. Most importantly, Sasha stresses the importance of communication, openness and honesty amongst friends and family.