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Editor @DavidOpie / [email protected] Still waiting for a Marvel Zombies Ghibli movie directed by Xavier Dolan...

To outsiders, gay cruises are often seen as the pinnacle of hedonism within the community. After all, is there anything more gratifying than the idea of spending a week partying with hundreds of other gay men, all horny and ready to get down?

In his new feature length documentary Dream Boat, director Tristan Ferland Milewski breaks down this stereotype through a frank yet surprisingly moving exploration of cruise life, telling unique stories that fly in the face of what one may expect. Of course, sex and alcohol play a role, but that's not the only reason why hordes of men fork out hard-earned money to take cruises.

"Let's Take The Boys To Sea"

Dream Boat [Credit: Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion]
Dream Boat [Credit: Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion]

The protagonists who feature in Dream Boat represent a true array of different cultures and identities, including;

  • Marek, a musclebound Polish man looking for a deeper kind of love.
  • Dipankar, an Indian man who's recently moved to Dubai after finally coming out.
  • Ramzi, a Palestinian who's enjoying his newfound cultural freedom, following his move to Belgium.
  • Martin, a HIV positive photographer who revels in hedonism.
  • Philippe, a French man bound to his wheelchair.

Each of these men cite different reasons for joining the 'Dream Boat', but ultimately, they're all striving to find their own identity, whether they define themselves through love with another or love for themselves.

"All Of My Friends Were Trying To Kill Themselves."

Dream Boat [Credit: Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion]
Dream Boat [Credit: Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion]

Amidst the numerous and admittedly impressive bulge and ass shots that Milewski hones in on, Dream Boat takes time to introduce us to each of the main 'characters' in full, allowing them to feel comfortable enough to share their own personal struggles derived from living as gay men.

"My family didn't tolerate me."

Whether it's through specific cultural pressures or rejection from their families, each of the men who star in Dream Boat have a painful story to tell, humanizing them far beyond the hedonist stereotypes surrounding men who frequent gay cruises.

One particularly poignant conversation reveals a cruise attendee's fear of coming out to his mother, arguing that no pain would be greater than knowing that his mother was out there somewhere, but refusing to speak to him ever again.

"I Don't Want To Only Be A Product."

Dream Boat [Credit: Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion]
Dream Boat [Credit: Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion]

Over the course of seven nights, the 'Dream Boat' holds increasingly more extravagant parties that become the focal point of Milewski's film. Tight close-ups of faces touching and bodies grinding reveal the euphoric allure of these trips in sumptuous detail, but there's more going on here than just an explosion of chiseled abs.

On the surface, casual sex is rife — as made evident by the sea of used condoms left in the aftermath of one particularly raucous party. However, talk in the cabins focuses far more on the pursuit of love and the difficulties that gay men in particular face in this search.

"I think nobody wants to be lonely."

At one point, Dipankar explains how members of the gay community can be shallow and judgemental towards one another, claiming that only those with attractive bodies can succeed in love. Conversely though, and rather depressingly, Marek reveals that despite sculpting his muscles in a bid for attention, he finds it almost impossible to meet men who like him for who he is. Instead, the majority of would be partners would rather spend time counting his abs than getting to know him better as a person.

"We Should Be Proud Of Ourselves."

Dream Boat [Credit: Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion]
Dream Boat [Credit: Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion]

However, that doesn't mean audiences will drown in Dream Boat's tale of woe. If anything, Milewski's documentary is actually a rather uplifting affair, soaring on waves of joy and ecstasy. Judge the men who attend these cruises all you want, because they don't care. Instead, Dream Boat takes great delight in exploring how each of these protagonists rise above their loneliness or insecurities, living their lives to the full.

Whether you're watching the men take part in a high heel race or dress up in drag as Sia, there are more than enough moments of levity here to remind us that people can only be truly happy once they embrace their own identities, regardless of how difficult that can be at times.

See also:

Like any community, the gay men who party on the Dream Boat have their fair share of positive and negative experiences, but Milewski's camera commendably takes the time to portray each of the protagonists with a frank honesty, one that is refreshingly free of judgement or pretence.

If you're excited to see Dream Boat, then you may also enjoy the work of Canadian director Xavier Dolan:

Ultimately, love is love. Anyone who wishes to be reminded of this beautiful fact in all its glory need look no further than Milewski's stunning documentary. Climb aboard for a film that openly explores issues of identity and love through a wonderfully colorful and exultant microcosm of the gay community.

Check out the world premiere of Dream Boat as part of the official selection for Section Panorama Dokumente at the Berlinale — And if you can't make it, watch out for the film's theatrical release this summer instead!

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