MGFF review: Irrawaddy Mon Amour

An incredible insight into the lives and loves of Myanmar’s criminalised queer community. Truly beautiful.

My clear favourite from what I’ve sneakily watched of this year’s Mardi Gras Film Festival line-up so far, there’s an incandescent glow to documentary makers’ Nicola Grignani, Valeria Testagrossa and Andrea Zambelli’s Irrawaddy Mon Amour that’s about far more than their shimmering cinematography.

Stepping far outside of the usual Western LGBTIQ+ gaze, the three filmmakers travelled to the still-cloistered Myanmar, where homosexuality is still punishable by up to ten years in jail. There they follow the hopes and reams of young gay couple Soe Ko, a watermelon salesman with a deft gift for balance, living in a tiny village by the banks of the Irrawaddy River, and his city-based lover Saing Ko as they plan to marry.

With violence both physical and emotional still a very real risk in a country only just haltingly emerging from a totalitarian regime, this seemingly impossible task is guided by an older queer activist Myo Nyunt who helps arrange such unions with the blessing of Buddhist monks. He also convenes a community support group to the obviously heartfelt joy of those finally able to share their stories with likeminded people.

A truly beautiful film that makes every fleeting minute of its one-hour runtime sing, it explores faith, family, friendship and love in a magnificently immersive style, with the three director’s light touch allowing their subjects’ voices to tell us all we need to know. Irrawaddy Mon Amour is both the unknown and the universal, leaving privileged viewers all the richer for having shared this union.

Irrawaddy Mon Amour screens with The Priestess Walks Alone. Grab tickets here.

Stephen A Russell @SARussellwords