Just before Halloween this year, The Circle, the gay movie that is Switzerland’s official submission for a Best Foreign Picture Oscar Nomination, was being screened in Kiev’s iconic theatre Cinema Zhovten as part of on an LGBT Film Series.
Anti-LGBT protests, and the burning of pride flags took place outside, but during the next screening the theatre was set on fire with over 100 people inside and it burned down to the ground. Remarkably no casualties were reported.
Ernst Ostertag (one of the stars of the film) spoke out in regard to the fire in Kiev:
“Although the fire at the cinema in Kiev has been extinguished, the big hope is that the fire goes on burning in the minds and hearts of ever so many people in Ukraine and outside.”
I was lucky enough to be invited by Kathy Wolfe of Wolfe Video to review the film at the press screening at San Francisco’s Embarcadero Cinema. This film is a fascinating glimpse into gay life in 1950s Zurich. This important film provides a critical history lesson and stuck with me long after the screening. The story includes interviews with the real couple who are portrayed in the film. They are absolutely adorable and this film is so well done, you will likely leave the theater enchanted as I did. Yes, its technically its a ‘Gay Men’s’ love story. But its an important part of our collective history as Gays and Lesbians and its definitely well worth seeing.
“With so many political gains in the past few years, it is essential that we remember our past gay history and struggles. We should take nothing for granted – ever. Wolfe Video is exceedingly proud to be releasing this important dramatization of the most prominent 1950s European secret gay society, The Circle.”
Founder, Wolfe Video
Synopsis: “Founded in the early 1940s, the network around the magazine ‘Der Kreis’ (’The Circle’) was the only gay organisation to survive the Nazi regime. It blossomed during the post-war years into an internationally renowned underground club. Legendary masked balls at the Theater am Neumarkt in Zurich provided 800 visitors from all over Europe with a secret and safe space to act out their ‘otherness’ in a self-determined way. It is there that timid teacher Ernst Ostertag falls in love with drag star Röbi Rapp. Ernst searches for a way to fight for his gayness to be accepted as normal outside the boundaries of ‘The Circle’ network without losing his employment as a teacher. Röbi champions the joint fruition of their love. Following a murder in the gay community, violent repression against gay people also endangers ‘The Circle’ network.” [Berlinale]
Go see this film!