Movie review: To Faro (Mein freund aus Faro)

The 23rd Annual Vancouver Queer Film Festival got off to a laborious start last night and it wasn’t just from all the usual speeches leading up to the gala opening film, To Faro (Mein freund aus Faro).

To Faro (Mein Freund aus Faro)Mel (Anjorka Strechel) is a 22 year old woman coming to terms with her sexuality.  A tomboy, Mel begins the realization that she is attracted to women by literally running into 14 year old Jenny (Lucie Hollmann).  A romance blossoms between the two as Jenny mistakes Mel for a boy.  In an attempt to keep the relationship a secret, Mel enlists the help of a co-worker Nuno (Manuel Cortez) to play her boyfriend.

Director Nina Neul, who is also screenwriter, lazily takes us through its 90 minutes.  Nuel sees little urgency here and the drama tends to drag along at a snail’s pace at times which seems at odds with the fact she jumps head-long into Mel’s sexual awakening rather than provide any real back story.  But while perhaps designed as a slice-of-life exercise, there are a number of sub-texts that Neul mysteriously fails to explore; the relationship between Mel and her brother Knut and questions about why Jenny is so promiscuous get virtually no explorations here, leaving one to think we are only seeing half a story.

While it appears to have been fully embraced by most of the audience at last night’s screening, I couldn’t help but find the relationship between 14-year old Jenny and 22-year old Mel a bit challenging.  At one point in the film Nuno is accused of being a pedophile, however the relationship between Jenny and Mel seemed to be celebrated.

Perhaps it is in its comparisons to 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry, which garnered Hilary Swank an Academy Award and was universally acclaimed, that set-up To Faro to ultimately fail for me.  Or maybe I was more interested in knowing what happens to Mel once she does leave for Faro.

To Faro (Mein freund Aus Faro)

Written and directed by Nina Neul.  German with English subtitles.  A Wuste Film West production.  Repeats at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival on Friday, August 19 at 5pm (Empire Granville 7 Cinemas).  Visit http://queerfilmfestival.ca for more information.

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