In 1990, the Soviet Communist bloc fell and, with it, the Berlin Wall, and there were fireworks and rejoicing in the streets. A reunited Berlin enjoyed a colorful LGBT Pride Parade. In Robert Glinski's film "Piggies" ("Swinki," Poland, Germany 2009, 93 minutes, in Polish and German, with English subtitles), these celebrations are the backdrop that thrusts the extreme poverty, leading to acts of desperation, on the border of Poland and the former East Germany, into high relief. Young boys sell themselves to johns, however violent they may be, and young girls go with boys that can buy them the best presents. These driven, streetwise Polish boys and girls are the "piggies" of the title.
"Piggies" principally focuses on 16-year-old, angelic-looking Tomek, played by Filip Garbacz. In the spirit of Copernicus, Tomek wants to become an astronomer and would enlist the aid of his priest (Marek Kalita) and German teacher, Mr. Weber (Rolf Hoppe), in raising funds for the school to buy a powerful telescope. This good boy is soon on the road to premature sophistication, with a simultaneous loss of innocence-and principle-as his experiences turn him increasingly ruthless.
Tomek's family is one of several dysfunctional families that we meet. While his almost saintly mother (Dorota Wierzbicka) is a dedicated a nurse in a clinic, his father (Bogdan Koca), a soccer coach, can find no paying job, calls his son a wimp, and is addicted to the medications his wife prepares for her patients. Tomek's sister, Agata (Katarzyna Pyszynska), has inherited their father's lack of ambition. Far worse, though, is the home life, including a strung-out mother (Dorota Ignatiew), from which Tomek's soccer buddy, Ciemny (Daniel Furmaniak), finds escape as a "piggy." Marta (Anna Rulej) claims Tomek as her boyfriend-du-jour-until the next one can bring fancier gifts.
Glinski and Joanna Didik, who collaborated with him on the screenplay, dramatically contrast the impoverished Poles with the well-to-do Germans, who can pay for what, and whom, they want, and whom the Poles do not trust under any circumstances. It takes just one beating from a German john to turn Tomek into a pimp himself, with unforeseen consequences for him, for his mother, and for his erstwhile friend, Ciemny.
So, as these little piggies work the black market, or market themselves, don't be the little piggy who stays home and misses this absorbing film, when it receives its Philadelphia premiere showings, thanks to QFest, the LGBT film festival, on July 10 at 12:30 p.m. and 13 at 5:15 p.m. at the Ritz at the Bourse, at 400 Ranstead Street. Visit http://www.qfest.com for further information.