Mardi Gras Film Festival 2023 Review: Lotus Sports Club ★★★★

At its core, Lotus Sports Club is the story of found family, and one relationship in particular. Filmed over five years in Cambodia, the documentary is both inspiring and poignant as it explores the strength and limitations of the bonds we create.

The Lotus Sports Club itself is the creation of Pa Vann, a trans man with a passion for soccer. The women’s team is almost 50% LGBTQIA+, providing a safe space for queer and trans folks who often face discrimination or homelessness. Lorn Srey Leak, a trans masculine teen and gifted athlete, isn’t fully accepted by his family at home and moves into Pa Vann’s house. There, he lives, works, and plays soccer with a motley crew of children Pa Vann has brought into his home. 

Directors Tommaso Colognese and Vanna Hem’s film allows us to see relationships expand over time and the audience gets to watch Leak grow up on screen as his optimism slowly begins to be tempered by practical realities. Pa Vann starts out as a strict coach and leader, but his heart is revealed when the team face mockery and discrimination; then the fierce protector in him comes out. When the proud and protective father/son dynamic of his relationship with Lorn Srey hits difficult times, it’s heartbreaking to watch unfold. It’s a demonstration of grace in pain that tests the bonds of our adopted queer households. 

It’s this emotional core that elevates Lotus Sports Club above any technical or budgetary shortcomings. This isn’t a sports documentary, and those looking for thrilling matches or tense commentary will be left wanting. Colognese and Hem first and foremost craft this human story with finesse, telling the tale of a chosen family willing to make great sacrifices to rise above.

Beautiful and uplifting—you’ll really go on a journey—Lotus Sports Club is filled with charm and humanity. The whole cast shows that positivity can bloom in the face of adversity.

By Chad Armstrong

Lotus Sports Club receives its Australian Premiere at Queer Screen’s 30th Mardi Gras Film Festival in cinemas in Sydney and on demand Australia-wide from February 15th to March 2nd, 2023. Click here for tickets and more information.

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