Back in July 2012, I wrote a blog post about an LGBT film, “Prince and Ekaj,” which was being made by Mike and Cati Gonzalez. (Read the original post here.) The trailer was very promising and I was excited to see the film giving voice to LGBT youth who often remain invisible, voiceless.
So, I was delighted when I got an email from Cati telling me they had completed the film, now titled, “Ekaj,” and asking if I wanted to preview it. My answer, in a heartbeat, was, “heck yeah.” And I am so glad I said yes. The movie covers topics not often seem or spoken of—homeless youth, finding a way to survive and love in a harsh world. Happily the film doesn’t dwell on any one thing but it covers a range of very real issues that are seldom spoken of anymore, and when they are they are it is in whispers, or spoken of as if they existed in the distance past: AIDS, drug abuse, domestic violence, rape. This is a socially responsible film that is never pathetic or preachy.
Filmed in the Bronx and Harlem and Washington Heights, L.E.S., the film is at once claustrophobic and lonely. The two main characters—the eponymous Ekaj, and the vividly tattooed Mecca—effectively homeless LGBT youth, drift through life. Their story plays out against the stark, unforgiving and unwelcoming landscape of a barren, loveless New York. Flashbacks with Ekaj’s father illuminate why Ekaj is in the situation he is in, and reminds us that he is not alone or unique; each day thousands of our children experience the same rejection and shaming.
Alienation and disconnection are also major themes. Ekaj’s ever-present cellphone embodies his attempt to connect, to join the world around him, yet his calls often go unanswered; he remains tethered to…nothing. Except, perhaps, his dreams, his romantic hope, and in his own way, Mecca.
“Ekaj,” is an incredible film in its own quiet— and at times not so quiet— way. As wordsmith, as a writer in love with words, I find it amazing how much Cati conveys with so little dialogue, so few words. This is Ekaj's movie, and it is very much his story, and he is so beautiful it’s disconcerting, but it is Mecca who is the film's heart. He's like a one man Greek chorus, lending wry observances, dispensing hard won wisdom, and humor.
Watching the film is a moving experience, one that changes you. At least I feel it changed me and in Ekaj’s words, “I would never, ever, ever, ever, want to go back to the person I was.”
Don’t miss this movie, it is way better than a lot of what is on LOGO and HERE.
I’ll be catching up with Cati and Mike Gonzalez in next week’s post so be sure to check back. Meanwhile, you can learn more about them and their remarkable movie here: