VENICE?A love triangle involving a teenager, his mother and a gay teacher was tipped Thursday to clinch this year's Queer Lion award at the Venice film festival for the best movie with a homosexual theme.
In "A Country Teacher" by Czech director Bohdan Slama, the teacher is oblivious to the affections of a middle-aged woman while falling head over heels for her 17-year-old son.
Slama's "Something Like Happiness" won top honors at the San Sebastian Film Festival in 2005.
Another leading candidate for the second annual Queer Lion here is "Un Altro Pianeta" by Stefano Tummolini, in which the gay and straight worlds overlap on a beach.
"Sexuality defines us, but is more complex than we think," Tummolini told the Venice daily Il Gazzetino. "Only by overcoming prejudices can we really know others.
"I have tried to play with shared spaces linked to sex; in the end what counts in my story is not so much sex as the special encounter that happens on this beach," he said.
The Queer Lion award is awarded to "the best movie with gay or lesbian, transsexual or queer elements in it," Marco Busato, one of the organizers, told Agence France-Presse.
"It doesn't have to be a specifically 'gay' movie," he said, "but a film depicting gays either in a positive way or at least in an interesting way."
Last year's prize went to "The Speed of Life" by Ed Radke about a trio of 13-year-old urban misfits who steal video cameras from tourists for quick cash and are then drawn into watching the strangers? recorded lives.
Nobel literature laureate Harold Pinter won special mention for the screenplay of Kenneth Branagh's "Sleuth" remake with gay overtones starring Michael Caine and Jude Law.
An Iranian "surprise" entry in the Venice festival's Horizons section, Bahman Motamedian's "Khastegi" (Tedium), is the story of seven Iranian transsexuals dealing with their isolation in a homophobic society.
The film, considered an outsider for the Queer Lion, is banned in Iran, whose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad famously told an audience in New York a year ago that "we don't have homosexuals."
In "Khastegi," six men and one woman want to undergo sex change operations lead "hidden lives because they have to live that way," Busato said, adding that the men would prefer to dress like women, but "often they have to dress like men even when they are home with their families."
In one scene, a soldier asking bus passengers for their ID cards comes across a transvestite. On realising that one passenger in women's clothing is actually a man, he has him pose with his buddies "like a freak," Busato said.
Some of the transsexuals fret over their future as women in Iran's male-dominated society. "They're not sure of going through with the operation and losing the rights they have as men," Busato said.
Paradoxically, sex change operations are legal in Iran, although there is less tolerance for women becoming men, he said.
"Il Primo Giorno d'Iverno" by Italian director Mirko Locatelli dramatizes homophobic bullying involving an adolescent and is reportedly on the short list for the Queer Lion.
Another is "Jay," a film by Filipino director Francis Xavier Pasion in which a sex crime sparks a media feeding frenzy because it involves a gay schoolteacher.
"In television, the truth is never enough," Pasion says in program notes.