For the past six years every September The Monarch a European Cruise ship leaves Lisbon with some 2300 passengers for a week’s voyage to Gran Canaria. All of them are gay men with just one thing on their mind : to party. And of course to fall in love with Mr Right, and on the way have as much sex wth Mr Right Now too. The organizers set out to ensure that these seven days are sheer escapism from a world that is often hostile, especially for some of the passengers who live in countries where homophobia is still rife.
This intriguing documentary from first time German filmmaker Tristan Ferland Milewsk makes for compelling viewing as he trails 5 of the passengers as they start out on the voyage. Polish born, UK resident Marek who makes his living as a personal trainer, as evident with his own fit body, has the looks that you think would guarantee him a Prince Charming on his very first night. He however lacks the confidence that he needs to find the relationship that he so wants.
Accounts Manager Dipankar, an Indian who has re-located to Dubai, cuts an odd figure in this mainly Westernized white crowd of perfect muscles. He’s 32 years old and quite a loner and has never had a boyfriend, and throughout the week’s cruise goes hot and cold on the idea that he will ever be lucky enough to live what he keeps referring to as a ‘normal life’ with another man.
Phillipe in his 50’s is an accountant from France and has been wheelchair bound since he had meningitis when he was a young man. He plows his chair into the middle of the dance floor gyrating wildly and grinning broadly as his eyes are the same level as the big bulges in many of the men’s skimpy outfits. He wistfully wonders how many of them would have had sex with him if he hadn’t been confined to his chair.
Martin is a partnered Austrian photographer who is HIV+ and still learning that this is far from the death sentence he had assumed it was when he was first diagnosed. Then there is Ramzi who had to flee his native Palestine where being gay can still get you killed, and is now settled in Belgian with a boyfriend who has just recovered from a bout of cancer. Ramzi is without doubt the most positive and upbeat one of them all.
Each day on the ship is packed with activities that always seem to include a themed costume party. The amount of effort that everyone puts into their outfits is very impressive and obviously involves a great deal of planning and very large luggage. Although the latter would be mainly for the accessories and extravagent headwear as the bulk of ‘clothing’ consists of skimpy jockstraps of various hues.
Milewsk keeps his cameras on all the non-stop merriment where both testosterone and cocktails are overflowing, and sex too as evidenced by the deckhands who have to sweep away a sea of used condoms and their wrappers each single morning. But then occasional he will capture a down moment or two like when Dipanker confesses midweek to being depressed amongst all the perfect bodies, and on another occasion when a frustrated Marek is in tears because men never see beyond his outer body. Both however have a positive and happy ending by the time the ship docks for the last time.
Interestingly Milewsk has commented that the Company the owned the Ship were very much against the documentary being made. It is after all one thing to take money ….. and a great deal of it …. from the LGBT community as long as no-one else knows about it. Nevertheless the finished film shows the whole cruise in such a very positive light and would be enough to tempt any gay man who had been thinking of taking to the seas. To those of us adverse to the very idea of cruise ships, no amount of Mareks or Ramzis will ever change our minds.
Dream Boat is currently still doing the LGBT Film Festival (check here for screenings) and will be in US movie theaters this Fall.