Film review: The Circle (Der Kreis) reminds us there is a world beyond Stonewall

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The Circle blends recreations with real-life interviews with the actual participants in this story about the first gay rights organization in Switzerland.

We have become so overwhelmed with tales of the North American fight for same-sex rights that we sometimes forget there is a world beyond Stonewall or our own Canadian quest for marriage equality.  The Swedish documentary The Circle (Der Kreis) puts a lens on a world outside our borders with an effective blend of drama and real-life interviews in telling its story of the first gay rights organization in Switzerland.

Originally founded in the 1940s, Der Kreis was the only only gay organisation to survive the Nazi regime.  Continuing through the post-war era, the organisation became a beacon for gays across Eastern Europe and especially those in Germany where homosexuality laws still existed and were strengthened under the Nazi regime.

In director Stefan Haupt’s film we meet real-life ex-teacher Ernst Ostertag and his partner Röbi Rapp who began a life together in the 1950s through Der Kreis. Through dramatic recreations and real-life interviews, Haupt not only tells the story of the two men, but the Der Kreis organization as well.  Haupt’s blend of drama and documentary is a rare delight with both styles equally as compelling and complimentary.

A reminder that the fight for gay rights can be just as emotional and hard-fought as any close to home, The Circle is a relatable and fascinating look beyond our own borders.

The Circle (Der Kreis) plays as part of the DOXA Documentary Film festival on Friday, May 9 at The Cinematheque. Visit http://doxafestival.ca for tickets and information.

Mark Robins on Google+

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