“I don’t know how to love… If I could start all over, would I do the same thing?”
Ekaj (Jake Mestre) arrives in New York City after fleeing his emotionally abusive father. He’s a young beautiful gay teen looking for his place in the world. Unfortunately the cycle of abuse continues. He gravitates towards men who take advantage of his vulnerable state including his new boyfriend Johnny (Scooter LaForge), a narcissistic painter who exploits Ekaj for his own twisted pleasure. One day in the park, Ekaj meets Mecca (Badd Idea), a fellow hustler. In Mecca Ekaj finds a kindred spirit and the two quickly bond. Their friendship is the only truly good situation in their lives. Mecca suffers from AIDS and drug addiction. Ekaj escorts to make money which has the unfortunate affect of exposing him to more physical abuse. Can Ekaj find some semblance of stability and contentment?
“Men are very insecure. I hate men. I even hate myself.”
Ekaj is a modern day Midnight Cowboy. It’s raw, gritty, sensitive, organic and real. The camera gets right up into the faces of its subjects and we can’t help but be emotionally invested in Ekaj. The film was written, directed and produced by Cati Gonzalez and features an all-male cast. This makes for an interesting gender dynamic having a female POV on the lives of men. The two leads are of Puerto Rican descent and I love that this is an indie film by a female filmmaker with queer Latino characters. The scenes between Jake Mestre and Badd Idea are really the heart of the film. Their tender friendship is beautiful to see even in the midst of their harrowing struggles. Ekaj serves a window into the world of a marginalized community and encourages the viewer to find some empathy within themselves.