New documentary Men Like Us is an unassuming but unflinching look at gay life in New Zealand.
Directed by Chris Banks on behalf of the Mental Health Foundation, Men Like Us looks into the lives of nine gay Kiwis and gives us a glimpse of what it’s like to live life as gay in school, in sport, in small towns and even the priesthood.
express introduced you to the men involved in the project last issue, but a couple of short paragraphs do not do justice to what these men have to offer. It takes a brave person to sit in front of a camera for a number of hours and pour their heart out; yet each does so with ease. The men of Men Like Us are a comfortable lot – each has had personal struggles with depression, shame, repression and grief, but each has lived to tell a tale of strength and overcoming adversity.
Gay life is well-worn territory for Chris Banks, whose company Number 8 Films has brought us stories of the heartbroken (Teddy), intergenerational love (Communication) and elderly companionship (The Colonel’s Outing). Chris makes comfortable work of sometimes uncomfortable subjects by drawing the viewer into the lives of these men – whether it’s showing childhood photos of 24-year-old Todd Karehana growing up in Kawerau or conjuring up images of many Grindr users’ “NO ASIANS” rule as Ivan Yeo discusses racism within the gay community, by the end of the film it’s hard not to feel close to the people on screen.
The reliance on interviews with the subjects makes this documentary feel like an Inside: New Zealand piece. TV3’s flagship documentary seasons are always a great way for middle New Zealand to see how the other half – or often, minority groups – live in Godzone; Men Like Us seems like the kind of documentary that could really broaden New Zealanders’ minds about being gay. I hope Men Like Us can make it past the gay community and be seen by a wider audience.
| Hannah JV