By David “Dirk” Smith, M.Sc., SDL (He/Him)

Taking place in Hong Kong from September 17th to October 1st, the 33rd Hong Kong Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (HKGLFF) features 28 feature films and four short films based around LGBTQ+ themes and made by LGBTQ+ filmmakers from all over the world. Three of these films are stories based around LGBTQ+ sports themes, selected as part of the program while Hong Kong is gearing up to host the Gay Games in 2023.

Originally planned for 2022, the quadrennial event, one of the largest multi-sport events in the world and the largest focused on LGBTQ+ athletes, was postponed following the Covid-19 pandemic and uncertainties regarding the political situation in China. It was recently announced that, to alleviate some of these concerns, the Gay Games will be co-hosted between Hong Kong and Guadalajara, Mexico who also bid for the 2022 edition. Despite these setbacks, Gay Games Hong Kong is optimistic about moving forward and helping to build and empower the LGBTQ+ sports community throughout Asia.

The Hong Kong Gay and Lesbian Film Festival is certainly optimistic as well and highlighting LGBTQ+ sports films is an important part of building the support and empowerment for the community. The three films set to be featured at the event include “The Swimmer” by Adam Kalderon, “Lotus Sports Club” by Tommaso Colognese & Vanna Hem, and “In From The Side” by Matt Carter.

The Swimmer

Directed by Adam Kalderon and featuring Omer Perelman, Asaf Jonas and Ofek Cohen, The Swimmer is a film from Israel that won “Best Actor” at the Jerusalem Film Festival and is presented in Hebrew with English subtitles. It is slated as the opening film for the HKGLFF.

“Erez is a gifted swimmer and finds himself pitted against Nevo at an elite summer training camp, where the winner gets a ticket to the Olympics. The beautiful and talented Nevo awakens subconscious desires in Erez, but their coach forbids friendships between competitors. Warned to stay from Nevo, Erez is torn between his desire to win a medal and winning Nevo’s heart.”

Lotus Sports Club

Directed by Tommaso Colognese and Vanna Helm, Lotus Sports Club is a joint Cambodian-Dutch documentary presented in Khmer with English subtitles.

“Shot in Cambodia over 5 years, Lotus Sports Club, is an inspiring coming-of-age story that centres around Leak, a teenage trans man who plays football in the under-21s women’s team of Kampong Chhnang, and Pa Vann, the coach and father-figure to Leak and other LGBTQ+ players on the team. 61-year-old Pa Vann established the football team in 2009 to encourage solidarity among straight, lesbian and gender-diverse players. He also opened his home to the more vulnerable often homeless teenagers, including Leak, thus providing these LGBTQ+ players a safe place to be themselves. After living with Pa Vann for many years, Leak, driven by the pressure to make more money for his family and forced off the football team because of his age, takes the heart-breaking decision to move to Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, leaving behind the one person he loves the most.”

Follow Lotus Sports Club on social media, Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, and at 

In From The Side

Directed by Matt Carter and featuring Alexander Lincoln and Alexander King, In From The Side is an English film that was featured as an “Official Selection” at BFI Flare 2022, San Francisco Frameline 2022, and Outfest Los Angeles 2022.

“After a drunken, passionate encounter in a nightclub, Mark and Warren, who are teammates in the same South London gay rugby club, embark on a tumultuous affair. Their struggle to conceal it from their partners and their teammates threatens the fabric of their closed-knit world, creating divisions and fractures in the thing they care most about – their ‘rugby family’. An exploration of the deep and complex interpersonal relationships that can occur within a group of men who are living their authentic lives.”

Follow In From The Side on social media, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Visit   

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Photo Credit: Robert Timothy