Founded in 1982 in San Francisco as the Gay Olympics, here French director Françoise Romand of Appelez-moi Madame / Call Me Madame fame vividly captures the magic of the Gay Games as staged in Cologne, Germany in 2010.
Shot fly on the wall fashion, Romand wisely allows her cameras to do the talking, as candid comments from the participants mix with footage from the games itself. For be it football, swimming, table tennis, wall climbing to the celebrated track and field events; you name it, these men and women are doing it, making the Gay Games the world's largest sporting and cultural event organized by and specifically targeted for LGBT athletes.
Sure, serious contenders with zero body fat vie with each other for the prized bronze, silver and gold medal positions. Yet what comes across strongly is the sheer joy that both the competitors and the spectators are having. For here, it is the "taking part" that is more important than winning, as the loudest applause is always reserved for those who put in the greatest effort, regardless of their place on or off the podium.
And yet if there is fault to be found here, it is simply that this engrossing work is too short, given there is so much going on. From footage of the events themselves, including all the glitz 'n' glam of the ballroom dancing, to a series of intimate life stories that perfectly reflect what the Gay Games is truly about. For behind the competition lies the fact that people of all ages, abilities, sexualities and countries are brought together, in the name of sport.
All of which makes the Gay Games that special event. For with over 10,000 gay men and women present, many find here the sexual freedom missing from their everyday lives and not just from countries where homosexuality remains illegal, but from those who and as Romand poignantly illustrates, in the land of the free still live in fear of homophobia and career suicide, if found to be taking pride in their sexuality. At ease to exchange experiences, swap email addresses and catch up with friends last seen four years ago, the Gay Games is open to participants of every sexual orientation and skill level, as this insightful documentary wonderfully demonstrates. Roll on Cleveland, Ohio, 2014.
Gay Visibility - overt.
Nudity - strictly from the waist up.
Overall - file under ... 4 stars.