The Women Texas Film Festival opened last night with the lesbian drama And Then There Was Eve, and the festival continues tonight with the gay-themed Ekaj. If that sounds like some Eastern European comfort food, it is anything but. Ekaj is as American as filmmaking gets: Indie, rough (like the trade it profiles) and gritty.
It has been described as “Kids Meets Midnight Cowboy,” but it recalls more currently 2015’s Tangerine, about African-American trans hookers, hustling on the streets of L.A. A handheld camera shows grainy, cinema-verite images of pool halls and dim alleys, dirty bathrooms and pimply-faced rent boys. Ekaj (Jake Mestre) is a boy who likes to dress like a girl, and who hooks up with an abusive Puerto Rican street kid who pimps out Ekaj and steals from him but won’t go away. Ekaj then meets Mecca (Badd Idea), a caring guy with face tattoos and his own issues.
Directed by first-time filmmaker Cati Gonzalez, it has the feeling of improvisation by real people, not actors, showing us truth. Ekaj is a throwback to what indie filmmaking was always meant to be about: Personal stories, uncompromised by studio interference that glimpse an underground world the mainstream.
Screens tonight at Studio Movie Grill on Technology Boulevard at 7 p.m.