Sunday, June 26, 2005

Suggest Queer Film Links

Please use the comment space on this thread to suggest any other queer film links you think I ought to have in the sidebar.

Off to bed now; I'm due in the theatre in 9 hours!

Top 10 Signs You're a Compulsive Festivalgoer

With all due credit to David Letterman for popularizing "top ten" lists, here are my

Top 10 Signs You're a Compulsive Frameline Film Festivalgoer

10. You keep a blog just about the Frameline Film Festival (Well, duh!)

9. You come home from 4 programs of film today on top of 5 yesterday — a total of 15 so far in the festival — and turn on KQED Channel 9 so you can watch a short film. In German. With subtitles. (Ich spreche kein deutsch, remember?)

8. You have to force yourself to have a dinner break because even you can't do six straight programs.

7. You feel that you need to give yourself permission to walk out on the wreally wretched first { queer • lesbian • transgender • queer youth • queer deaf badminton } film ever to come out of Upper Lower Eastwestia.

6. You feel that your soul has been uplifted more times than you can count by the films about segments of the community that you don't belong to.

5. You feel that your soul has been uplifted more times than you can count by the films about segments of the community that you do belong to.

4. After sitting through one particularly bad film, you comment on the audience ballot, "Having never actually gouged out my own eyes with a spoon, I can only speculate that it might be more painful than watching your film." That film goes on to win an audience award. You still remember it years later.

3. You still feel emotionally scarred from sitting through almost an hour of the worst film you've ever seen in your entire life before walking out.

2. After finally walking out, you loiter in the lobby for almost an hour for the sole purpose of returning to the auditorium to boo the end of the film, since about half the people who worked on it are in the audience along with their distributor (no link there, because I've finally forgiven them, due to several #5's and #6's since then) and you corrall about a dozen other people storming out of the film, urging them to join you.

and, finally,

1. You feel even more guilty about missing a tranny slasher flick — even though you can't stand slasher flicks — than about going to bed without blogging today's selection of films.


Bree, played with astonishing realism by Felicity Huffman, is getting ready for her sex reassignment surgery (only days away) when she gets an unexpected phone call from Toby, a son she didn't know she had (former teen heartthrob Kevin Zegers, staking a strong claim as a serious grown-up actor) who needs to be bailed out of juvie 3000 miles [5000 km] away. It turns out that Toby is a drug-using rent boy in New York City, but he wants to go back to Los Ángeles with Bree — who hasn't told him that she's his father. Their cross-country road trip tests them both and the bond they struggle to form. That the film has already been picked up for mainstream national distribution, and that it won the Frameline audience award for Best Feature, demonstrate that this film has the power to take a story about transsexuals and sell it in suburban shopping malls. Variety calls it "laugh-out-loud funny." It's truly a remarkable achievement.

, dir. Duncan Tucker, 2005 USA, 103 min. 35mm, distribution: The Weinstein Co. (theatrical release: winter 2005-06)

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Garçon Stupide

Loïc is a strikingly beautiful but not terribly bright young man in Switzerland, near the lakeside city of Lausanne. By day he works in a chocolate factory; by night, he flits from trick to trick, desperately feigning interest in various sophisticated topics. Unfortunately, the eye candy (and glorious eye candy it is) isn't enough to redeem the film. I never found any real insight into Loïc's character, nor into any of the other people in his life. Loïc seems to be a garçon stupide (stupid boy) despite his best efforts to be something more than a very, very, very pretty face. I also have to wonder if it is coïncidence that the older man who seems to see Loïc's inner beauty, shares the name Lionel with the filmmaker.

GARÇON STUPIDE, dir. Lionel Baier, 2004 Switzerland, 96 min. video, in French with English subtitles, distribution: Picture This! Entertainment

Life in a Box

Queer country music duo Y'all star in this documentary about their life on the road — literally. They live in a 20-foot [6-metre] travel trailer as they tour the country. The group, James Dean Jay Byrd and filmmaker Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, sing such wonderful songs as "Fancy Pants," "Okey Dokey Christmas," and "We're Still Poor and We're Still Happy." Sadly, the film includes the end of the band.

If you enjoy Garrison Keillor, you'll love Y'all and Life in a Box.

LIFE IN A BOX, dir. Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, 2005 USA, 92 min. video, distribution: Lucky Green Dress

I'm sending the soundtrack to my parents!

The D Word

I'm a big fan of The L Word, Showtime's original series about L-esbians in L-osangeles. The D Word provides a somewhat different view of D-ykes in D-newyorkcity. (Don't worry — their spoof is much funnier than this review.) Marga Gomez is enchanting as always (Babaloo!), and the whole thing comes together beautifully. I hope that the D Word folks and the L Word folks can work out the legalities of giving this wonderful parody a wide release, 'cause I want the DVD for my collection.

THE D WORD, dir's Cherien Dabis, Noelle Brower & Maggie Burkle, 2005 USA, 56 min. video, web site: The D Word — watch for Season 2, hoping to hit the web soon!

Straight Hike for the Butch Dyke

Never mind the Fab Five, how about the Femme Four? Four fabulously femme gals go to give a much-needed makeover to a butch dyke — and help her get a date — but she manages to give them a twist they hadn't expected. It's a wonderful treat.

STRAIGHT HIKE FOR THE BUTCH DYKE, dir's Cherien Dabis, Noelle Brower & Maggie Burkle, 2004 New Zealand, 24 min. video, distribution: Walking on Air Productions

Friday, June 24, 2005

Gay Republicans

Gay Republicans is exactly what its title suggests: a documentary about gay Republicans. Four individual members of the Log Cabin Republicans speak about their political views and their agonizing over how to balance their support for a sitting Republican President against that President's avowed support of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Mark Harris, an "outspoken grass-roots organizer" in Los Ángeles, doesn't find a problem in continuing to support Bush in spite of the marriage amendment, since he's quite comfortable around other Republicans — as long as he remains completely closeted. Of course, it doesn't seem to occur to him that he could just as easily remain closeted as a Republican when he's among other gay people.

I would feel much more at home in a room full of Republicans than a room full of gay people. Reason being: Gays judge other gays. Republicans don't know unless you're wearing a name-tag that says, Hi I'm Mark I'm gay. That's why to me, being gay is not even an issue. — Mark Harris

Carol Newman, a lawyer who switched from Libertarian to Republican because she was tired of voting for an "also-ran" party, ends up travelling to Massachusetts to legally marry her partner. She comes to realize that, while the Republicans were once a fairly small-L libertarian party, the Bush faction has moved sharply from that heritage. She comes to the conclusion that she cannot support Bush in the wake of his endorsement of the Federal Marriage Amendment, holding out hope all the way through the Republican National Convention that Bush would distance himself from the homophobes.

For the president to propose institutionalized discrimination against gay people, when he had gay people standing up in support of his re-election, it just cut the knees out right from under us — and we don't know what we're going to do. — Carol Newman

Steve May, a lifelong Republican and former Arizona state legislator, was once the poster boy for young gay Republicans. However, he came to the conclusion that the Republican Party had been hijacked by the radical right, and so he made the only principled decision possible: he endorsed John Kerry and worked to defeat George W. Bush.

He made a cold calculated political decision, this is all about core politics, it's all about satisfying the people in the far right. And that day George Bush decided who his friends are and who his friends aren't. And he did not pick me to be his friend. — Steve May

Maurice Bonamigo is a fuh-LAY-ming-ly flamboyant hairdresser in West Palm Beach, Florida, where he and his wealthy friends remain completely committed to Bush, even going so far as to endorse the marriage amendment. In fact, the Palm Beach chapter of Log Cabin Republicans was expelled from the national organization because it insisted on endorsing Bush despite the national decision to withhold any endorsement. Bonamigo dreams of running for Congress in 2006, hoping to be the East Coast's answer to Representative Sonny Bono, or the South's answer to Senator Rick Santorum. To put it bluntly, Bonamigo is so vapid, so inanely oblivious, he doesn't even realize that he's a joke. He's either incredibly stupid or entirely lacking a sense of humor — or both. Indeed, his objection to Jimmy Carter centers on the fact that, unlike Reagan or Bush Sr., Carter wore sweaters instead of a proper suit in the White House.

I get very offended by this organization [Log Cabin Republicans] when they're saying, well I'm not going to support Bush, I'm not giving any more money, he betrayed us. Oh, for crying out loud! Get over yourselves. Be a Republican. Be a man. Get your balls out of your purse and start wearing them like a man. — Maurice Bonamigo

I recommend the film, not only for the thoughtful portrayals of Carol Newman and Steve May, but also for the mind-warping experience of watching the delusions of Mark Harris and especially Maurice Bonamigo unfold on screen. Just be sure to wear a paper bag over your head — not for anonymity, but to protect the upholstery if your brain explodes.

GAY REPUBLICANS, dir. Wash Westmoreland, 2004 USA, 63 min. video, distribution: World of Wonder

Healing Sex

Staci Haines, herself a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, has studied somatic (mind/body) therapy and other therapeutic frameworks, creating a practice in which she offers one-on-one sessions and workshops to help participants heal from past sexual abuse and move towards the pleasurable and healthy sex life we all deserve. In the film Healing Sex, Haines combines recreated workshops (using actors to protect the privacy of actual participants), educational segments, and testimonials from abuse survivors, to create a powerful guide for healing from sexual abuse, although the techniques can also be applied to a wide range of traumatic experiences.

The film is not easy to watch, because most people find it immensely powerful emotionally, but it is worth the effort. Watching the film on DVD offers the advantage of taking individual segments of the program separately, skipping or repeating segments or taking a break according to your individual needs. Additionally, purchase of the DVD benefits Generation Five, a non-profit devoted to ending child sex abuse within five generations.

HEALING SEX, dir. Shar Rednour, 2004 USA, 120 min. video, distribution: Jackie Strano at S.I.R. Productions

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Left Lane

Left Lane is a documentary about one of "the ten most dangerous women in America" (according to Concerned Women for America), Alix Olson. Alix is a performance artist, slam poet, progressive queer activist, and "the patriarchy's worst nightmare — a loudmouthed spitfire with a wicked wit and an elegant way with zinging the powers that be."

I find the standard staccato breathless cadence of poetry performance rather grating, but in spite of that limitation, this is a wonderful film about a wonderful artist.

LEFT LANE, dir. Samantha Farinella, 2004 USA, 93 min. video.


Transgeneration is a miniseries about four transsexual college students who deal with issues of transition, family, discrimination, and socializing. The crucial element in a documentary is the editing, trimming a mountain of footage down to a manageable size, and this film hits a home run. The footage neither glosses over important issues nor lingers on trivialities, and it maintains the coherence and interest of the four individual story lines. Highly recommended.

TRANSGENERATION, dir. Jeremy Simmons, 2005 USA, 80 min. video, will be broadcast on the Sundance Channel in September 2005.

When I'm 64

When I'm 64 tells the story of two sixty-something men, one a Latin teacher from a boys' boarding school, the other a taxi driver, who meet and form a surprising (certainly surprising to them) relationship. I enjoyed it, but the pacing was a bit slow to my taste.

WHEN I'M 64, dir. Jon Jones, 2004 UK, 90 min. video. distribution: BBC

Heroes and Gay Nazis / Männer, Helden, schwule Nazis

Heroes and Gay Nazis (Männer, Helden, schwule Nazis) profiles four gay men in present-day Germany who adhere to extreme right-wing political parties, including openly neo-Nazi parties. The depth of their denial, including one who went to prison for denying the extermination by poison gas of Jews at Auschwitz, defies belief. Oh, yes, well, Hitler and his minions did kill and torture hundreds of thousands of homosexuals, but we can't let that interfere with our belief in the racial purity of the German people. Eat your popcorn quickly, just in case you need a barf bag before the end of the film.

HEROES AND GAY NAZIS (MÄNNER, HELDEN, SCHWULE NAZIS), dir. Rosa von Praunheim, 2004 Germany, 90 min. video, in German with English subtitles.

Note: I missed the accompanying short film A Life in Vain — Walter Schwarze, also by Rosa von Praunheim, documenting the story of a German man who was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp for the crime of loving men.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Wilby Wonderful

Wilby Wonderful tells the story of a small island community, location unspecified, where the response to "Live and let live" is "We don't do that around here, thank God!" Some sort of scandal (and a backwards banner) threaten to disrupt the "Wonderful Wilby" festivities, but the plot gets deeper and darker. As far as I know, this is the first ever gay slapstick suicide comedy. Worth seeing.

WILBY WONDERFUL, dir. Daniel McIvor, 2004 Canada, 99 min. 35mm, distribution: Film Movement

Formula 17 / Shi Qi Sui De Tian Kong

If you're looking for a serious, heart-warming drama, this is not your film. However, if you're in the mood for a thoroughly silly bit of cinematic cotton candy (candy floss), Formula 17 (Shi qi sui de tian kong) is a good pick. Tien (a young man from a small town) goes to the big city (Taipei) and seeks out his hometown acquaitance Yu, who now works at a gay bar. Tien gets a job in a fitness club, giving him ample opportunity to ogle healthy male bodies exercising. Yu and his friends encourage Tien to dive into the heady excesses of the local cruising scene, but Tien is waiting for true love. Of course, Tien winds up falling for Bai, a thoroughly jaded local playboy. To everyone's surprise (not least his own), Bai is intrigued.

The comedic effect of this particular screening was enhanced by the loss of subtitles on one reel of the film. Just as someone in the audience started shouting translations of the dialogue, the subtitles returned.

FORMULA 17, dir. D.J. Chen, 2004 Taiwan, 93 min. 35mm, in Cantonese, English & Mandarin with English subtitles, distribution: Strand Releasing

Gay Sex in the 70's

In the 1970's, gay political liberation and gay sexual liberation seemed to be marching hand in hand, or at least hand in crotch. From being a completely clandestine shadowy netherworld, gay life suddenly blossomed forth into the light of day. What had only a decade earlier been viewed as shameful was joyously celebrated. Unfortunately, sexual obsession, bad drugs, STDs, and ultimately HIV also came to the party.

I've long had a mælstrom of mixed feelings about having missed out on the 1970's scene. On the one hand, I missed out on not only a smorgasbord of sex, but, as this documentary points out, the birth of an open sense of brotherhood and community. My friends who did partake of the excesses are mostly dead, while those of us who lagged behind in our closets survived. I have nothing against sex for its own sake, provided that all involved are freely consenting adults taking appropriate care and precautions, but I also seek a longer-lasting emotional connection.

The documentary Gay Sex in the 70s, directed by Joseph Lovett (producer of the first in-depth AIDS coverage on national television for ABC's 20/20 program), delves into the complexities of its subject matter, with many still photos and a few film clips from the period backed up by extensive interviews with the people who were there, including well-known names like Tom Bianchi and Larry Kramer. Lovett even presents the idea that the liberation of the 1970's made possible the vigorous community response to AIDS beginning in the 1980's.

GAY SEX IN THE 70s, dir. Joseph Lovett, 2005 USA, 68 min. video, distribution: Lovett Productions

or read Frameline's blurb

Same Sex America

Showtime presents a documentary about same-sex marriage and the battles over its legal status. On November 18, 2003 (2003-11-18), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the state law establishing marriage as a union of one man and one woman was in violation of the state constitution. Therefore, effective May 17, 2004 (2004-05-17), the state began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. However, there are efforts underway to amend the state constitution to outlaw gay marriage, or possibly even outlaw civil unions.

, dir's Henry Corra & Charlene Rule, 2005 USA, 89 min. video, distribution: Showtime. This program is scheduled for broadcast on the Showtime cable channel this summer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Guys and Balls / Männer Wie Wir

Another German sports movie! I'm usually more into "Le Coq" and less into "Sportif," but, despite a slow beginning (almost walked out about half an hour in), I found the ending quite worth having stayed. Ecki is the goalie for his hometown local-league soccer team. His teammates and neighbors blame him for losing a crucial match; in his drunken haze after the game, he kisses one of his teammates. The combination of the two transgressions gets him booted off the team, so he decides to form a gay team to take on his old team in a grudge match. I won't give away the specifics, but I loved many things about the final match, including the cheerleaders and the way that the gay team counterbalances the straight boys' efforts to "queer the pitch."

GUYS AND BALLS (MÄNNER WIE WIR), dir. Sherry Horman, 2004 Germany, 106 min. 35mm, in German with English subtitles, distribution: Regent Releasing

Zona Rosa

Documentary about the male strip-club scene in Mexico City around the turn of the millennium. (The police have since shut down all of the clubs portrayed.) Interesting, but suffering from an emotional distance reminiscent of the dancers themselves. Definitely proof that "eye candy" alone isn't enough to hold my interest. In fact, if I hadn't been staying for the next show, I would've walked out.

ZONA ROSA, dir. Dan Castle, 2005 USA/Mexico, 75 min. video, in Spanish with English subtitles, distribution: Tres Hermanas Producciónes

Two Moms: a Family Portrait

A lesbian couple adopts two children, but with a few unusual twists to the story. First, one of the moms is a judge in the High Court of Pretoria, South Africa, Anna-Marié Vos. (The other mom is an artist, Suzanne du Toit, who during the week manages their rural farm and takes care of the kids while Vos is in town presiding at court.) In 2001, the family challenged the South African adoption law, which only allowed for married couples or single individuals to adopt, and won the right for same-sex couples to adopt jointly.

TWO MOMS: A FAMILY PORTRAIT, dir's Luiz DeBarros & Andile Genge, 2004 South Africa, 48 min. video, distribution: Underdog Productions

Masha Mom

In Masha Mom, a lesbian in Moscow wants to have a family. She explores a variety of options, navigating the Russian social and legal landscape. For example, in Russia, an unmarried woman who has a child has sole custody and sole financial responsibility for the child — the biological father, even if known, has neither custody rights nor child support obligations. It's a remarkable documentary.

MASHA MOM, dir. Michal Bukojemski, 2003 Poland, 35 min. video, in Russian & English with English subtitles, distribution: Casque d'Or Films

In My Shoes

In My Shoes — Stories of Youth with LGBT Parents is a series of interviews with kids expressing their consternation at the strange notion that there is something weird about their families, or that there is something wrong with same-sex marriage. The unanswered question posed by the kids: why all the fuss about something that should be a non-issue?

IN MY SHOES, dir. Jen Gilomen, 2005 USA, 30 min. video, distribution: COLAGE (Children Of Lesbians And Gays Everywhere)

Do It Yourself — New Youth Films

Films about youth by youth. Unfortunately, sleep and lunch caused me to miss three of the five shorts in this program.

Gender Pains • No Matter What • Quid Pro Quo • In My Shoes — Stories of Youth with LGBT Families • Frameline Youth Filmmaker Workshop Film

Gender Pains muses on gender identity and placement. No Matter What explores the hidden world of woman-on-woman domestic violence. Quid Pro Quo is described as "an experimental conversation between two characters revealing betrayal and misunderstanding.

Monday, June 20, 2005

A Different War / Milhama A'Heret

A Different War is one of the best short films I've seen in over a decade and a half of queer film festivals. Nuni, a 9yo boy in a Jewish settlement in a Palestinian area, is chosen to play King David in the class play, but he's more interested in the role of the princess. His older brother and his friends try to force Nuni to join in their games of adolescent bravado along the wall separating the settlers from the Arabs. His response is as touching as it is beautiful.

If anyone knows how to spell Milhama A'Heret (the Hebrew title) in Hebrew characters, please leave a comment on this item. (Nil laobhrim Hebrew.)

A DIFFERENT WAR, dir. Nadav Gal, 2003 Israel, 15 min. 16mm, distributed by the Spiegel school

Whatever It Takes

Frameline description: Maya is unwilling to accept the fact that her relationship with Tamar is over and will do Whatever It Takes to prevent her from leaving the country. [paraphrased slightly]

If you see any hint of either of these characters in your romantic partner, run away while you still can! I have a real problem with films in which none of the characters engages my sympathy or empathy, most especially when the characters are engaged in a co-dependent relationship of manipulation and learned helplessness. It's a well-made film, but not a fun movie to watch.

WHATEVER IT TAKES, dir. Adi Halfin, 2004 Israel, 17 min. 16mm

Operation YY

Operation YY is an interesting film about a young man who sets up blind dates on his computer for something he calls "Operation YY," but I didn't really understand what he was trying to do. It has something to do with his vision of a futuristic utopia, or something like that.

OPERATION YY, dir. Oded Lotan, 2000 Israel, 18 min. 16mm

My Uncle Mario

My Uncle Mario explores the relationship between 17yo Sefi and his gay uncle who drops in unexpectedly. Sefi wants to go visit Mario instead of staying at home, doing deliveries for his mother's home-based restaurant. All three principal actors do an exquisite job of capturing the emotional subtleties of the story. Highly recommended.

MY UNCLE MARIO, dir. Na'ama Zalzman, 2003 Israel, 18 min 16mm, distributor: Sam Spiegel Film & Television School (where I hope you have better luck than I did in finding the English pages!)

The Joy of Jewish Film

A program of films from Israel, connected with the Sam Spiegel Film & Television School, and a good opportunity for me to talk up my comprehensive peace plan for Israel and Palestine.

My Uncle Mario • Mono • Operation YY • Whatever It Takes • A Different War

All 5 programs in Hebrew with English subtitles, and all distributed by the Spiegel school.


Frameline description: When Betty feels there's something missing in her married life, Mother Nature lends a hand in Moustache. Cute and well done.

MOUSTACHE, dir. Vicki Sugars, 2004 Australia, 13 min. 35mm

Teen Christian Beach Party

Teen Christian Beach Party shows how religious faith can keep you perfectly safe from everything, really, I pinkie-swear.

TEEN CHRISTIAN BEACH PARTY, dir. Richard Vette, 2004 Australia, 4 min. 16mm

Shining the Ball

The new member of a cricket team in Melbourne discovers unsubtle homophobia. This was a beautiful film, only partly because the main actor was gorgeous. Don't worry — you don't need to know a thing about cricket except that there are two teams.

SHINING THE BALL, dir. Tom Conyers, 2005 Australia, 17 min. video, Dork Film

Not yet in IMDB.

Work It Out

You work as a mechanic in a garage. A customer comes in at two minutes till closing time, wanting a tune-up today. Friction develops between the workers. How will they Work It Out?

WORK IT OUT, dir. Kym Vaitiekus, 2004 Australia, 3 min. video

Return of the Antipodeans — New Gay Shorts from Australia

Short films from "down under." Work It Out • Hitch Cock • Transient • Shining the Ball • Teen Christian Beach Party • Crash • What Grown-Ups Know • Moustache

I was quite impressed with this great collection of films.

Last Full Show

Last Full Show is a beautiful, poignant exploration of the forbidden love between a wealthy teen and a workaday older man in Manila.

LAST FULL SHOW, dir. Mark V. Reyes, 2004 Philippines, 18 min. 35mm


Frameline's description: In dare, high school senior Ben secretly lusts after bad-boy classmate Johnny. After Ben gives Johnny a ride home one night, the boys end up in Johnny's swimming pool and have an encounter that breaks the rules and blows Ben's mind.

Well done film. I liked it.

DARE, dir. Adam Salky, 2004 USA, 17 min. video

Ryan's Life

Ryan's Life is the pilot for a series about a boy in high school coming to grips with his sexual identity. The writing, directing, acting, and production are all top-notch. Watch for this on TV or at least on webcast.

RYAN'S LIFE, dir. Nick Wauters, 2004 USA, 24 min. video, distribution: Ryan's Life TV

Shakespeare's Sonnets

A Harvard dandy, played by former teen heartthrob Vincent Kartheiser (The Indian in the Cupboard), lures a friend to his dorm room to read Shakespeare's Sonnets. A good film.

SHAKESPEARE'S SONNETS, dir. Samuel Park, 2005 USA, 7 min. video

Boys School

Short films about school-age gay boys. Shakespeare's Sonnets • On the Low • Ryan's Life • Dare • Katydid • Last Full Show.

This was a wonderful collection of short films, a highlight of the festival.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

What Remains Human

Their estranged, abusive father has died. Four siblings have to figure out what to do with his ashes. Misadventures ("slapstick mishaps," according to Frameline's summary) ensue. Both the comedy and the more serious underlying themes come through well.

WHAT REMAINS HUMAN, dir. Maureen Bradley, 2005 Canada, 25 min. video

Those Were the Gays

Those Were the Gays is a mockumentary done as a segment of TV news magazine 16 Minutes about the tremendous suckcess of the ex-gay movement. A good idea, but a little rough in the execution.

THOSE WERE THE GAYS, dir. Nancy Kissam, 2004 USA, 17 min. video

Beyond Lovely

Beyond Lovely is a cute comedy about a struggling psychic who gets a visit from an actual spirit from the beyond, a recently deceased queer television diva. A bit rough around the edges, but still a fun film.

BEYOND LOVELY, dir. Hilary Goldberg, 2005 USA, 11 min. video

Kansas City Here I Come

Two adult children, one with her son, come to their mother's bedside as she lies dying after a stroke. The mother is unable to respond, so we are left to imagine her response as her children and others stop by to say their last good-byes and reveal long-kept secrets and feelings. The director took pains to tell the audience beforehand that Kansas City Here I Come is a drama, not a comedy, but it remains a powerful personal statement.

KANSAS CITY HERE I COME, dir. J.T. O'Neal, 2004 Canada, 15 min. video, distribution: Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre

Not yet listed in IMDB, although the director is listed.

Fun for Boys and Girls

Short films about gay men and lesbians intermingling. Pants? Skirt? Lipstick? • Kansas City Here I Come • Beyond Lovely • Those Were the Gays • What Remains Human

Poster Boy

A conservative Republican Senator from North Carolina makes a public appearance (during his re-election campaign) at his son's college campus. The Senator wants his son to be the Poster Boy for his campaign, a symbol to get younger voters energized to vote for evil, money-grubbing, insensitive old white men. Then leftist political activists seek to use the son's sexuality to make him a poster boy against his father. It's a great film, not just for the eye candy.

POSTER BOY, dir. Zak Tucker, 2004 USA, 98 min. 35mm, distributor: here! Films/Regent Releasing

Prom Night

For the last 11 years, queer youth have organized a prom in Hayward, California. The story has a particularly personal resonance for me: way back in 1987, I organized a queer youth dance (we didn't use the word "prom," because we weren't nearly that fancy) in San José, California.

The obvious question is, who on earth is harmed by a bunch of youth dressing up and wearing corsages and getting photos and dancing to whatever those wacky kids call "music" nowadays?

The obvious answer, eloquently expressed in this film, is NO ONE! Congratulations to the LYRIC Prom on its 10th anniversary (in the film) and its 11th anniversary (a few days ago).

PROM NIGHT, dir's Ilsa Bertolini & Stephanie Miller, 2005 USA, 33 min. video.

Not yet listed in IMDB.


Triskaidekaphobia (Τρισκαιδεκαφοβία) is the fear of the number 13. When you're 12, at least in an English-speaking country, turning 13 is a magical portal into a world free of childhood restrictions: you're going to be a teenager! Unfortunately, the reality isn't quite so wondrous.

TRISKAIDEKAPHOBIA, dir. B. H. Yael, 2003 Canada, 6 min. video, distribution: V Tape

Also not yet listed in IMDB.

Calling Nate

Wow. Your dad has a sex change, but now has a problem because you identify as genderqueer, transgressing the gender binary even more fundamentally than she does. Your girlfriend isn't sure about your taking a more masculine nickname, and your other mother (the one who started out as Mom) just wants to watch The Osbournes.

Sounds like you should make a film about it!

CALLING NATE, dir. Pamela Gawn, 2003 Canada, 25 min. video

Yet another great short film not yet listed in IMDB!

What is Gay?

In What is Gay?, children of LGBT parents speak for themselves. In a nutshell, what's the big deal about having gay parents? They're still parents. They still take your temperature when you're sick, nag you to clean your room and do your homework, go out to watch your after-school activities, and all those other parenty things.

WHAT IS GAY?, dir. Jacqueline Frost, 2005 USA, 25 min. video.

This film is also not yet in the IMDB.

Young, Loud & Proud

Shorts program: What is Gay? • Calling Nate • Triskaidekaphobia • Prom Night

Transfamily & Transparent

Frameline put together two wonderful videos for a program about transgender family issues. Transfamily is a German film about two transmen (female-to-male transsexuals) who live together, one with his wife and the other with his gay biomale partner. It's funny and touching and well worth seeing.

Transparent tells the stories of several transmen and their children. What is it like for a child when "Mom" has a full beard and looks like a lumberjack on a motorcycle? Well, pretty good, actually, if "Mom" still loves you. These men are able to integrate their identity as men with their identity as mothers. It's a stirring story.

Unfortunately, neither of these films is yet listed in the Internet Movie Database, hint hint.

TRANSFAMILY, dir. Sabine Bernardi, 2005 Germany, 30 min. video, in German with English subtitles, distribution International Film School Cologne.

TRANSPARENT, dir. Jules Rosskam, 2005 USA, 60 min. video, distribution MamSir Productions.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

A Year Without Love / Un Año sin Amor

First a caveat about this film. It deals directly and honestly with the leather/sadomasochistic subculture, including scenes of SM and bondage play. However, a gentle reminder: those scenes are a small part of the total running time, and you don't have to watch every frame of the film. For instance, there's a scene of the main character's having blood drawn for medical tests. Apparently, something about the image is funny, because most of the audience laughed; I don't know the details, because I close my eyes whenever a needle breaks skin. Even when I go to my HMO, I tell the phlebotomist that the deal is, "You don't make me watch, I don't scream and faint." Go ahead, call me a sissy, I dare you, because that is also the only scene in this film that made me flinch.

Pablo is an HIV-positive writer in Buenos Aires in 1996. He is lonely, so he places a personal ad looking for someone "to take me as slave or master." The film chronicles a year of his life, including doctor visits, dealing with his relatives, dealing with his sexual partners, and looking for true love. It's worth seeing, even if you look away from the "dungeon" scenes.

UN AÑO SIN AMOR (A YEAR WITHOUT LOVE), dir. Anahí Berneri, 2004 Argentina, 95 min. 35mm, in Spanish with English subtitles, distribution by Strand Releasing.

Summer Storm / Sommersturm

Sommersturm (Summer Storm) is the story of a high-school-level championship rowing team from Bavaria going to compete for the national trophy. To their surprise, their competition includes Queerstroke, a gay team from Berlin. Meanwhile, one of the Bavarian boys has dreams of something more than friendship with one of his teammates.

Sommersturm captures the confusion and the flood of hormones that are adolescence. It will resonate strongly with gay audience members, but also speaks to a much broader audience — even straight male high school students. For example, what makes you think that you can tell if someone else is gay or not? Some of the Queerstroke team are stereotypically nelly, but some of them aren't. Also, a girl who is interested in a boy that the audience knows to be gay, assumes that something is wrong with her, that she is somehow not attractive enough, while the straight boy's girlfriend shares similar insecurities.

Warner Bros. picked up this film for international distribution in over a dozen countries. However, I can probably count on the fingers of one elbow all the subtitled films that have been major U.S. box-office successes. Still, Regent Releasing has picked up Summer Storm for U.S. distribution, so look for it at an "art-house" cinema near you in September or October. I wouldn't be surprised to see it also on cable channels such as the Sundance Channel, Showtime, or IFC; keep an eye out just in case.

The Reception

Description from the Frameline program: The Reception takes place at the snowy rural estate where Jeannette, a moody French writer, lives with Martin, her gay, black best friend, in a comfortable marriage of sorts. Their serenity is upended when Jeannette's estranged daughter unexpectedly arrives with her new husband, Andrew, a black law student....

This one sounded really good, but even a film queen has to take a dinner break. Maybe this one will find its way to cable TV.

THE RECEPTION, dir. John G. Young, 2005 USA, 76 min. video

SCREAMING QUEENS: The Riot at Compton's Cafeteria

In August 1966, almost three years before Stonewall, a group of transgender prostitutes in San Francisco's Tenderloin district fought back against police harassment. SCREAMING QUEENS: The Riot at Compton's Cafeteria tells their story, and also the story of a few pioneering straight allies — including a police officer who took up the fight because he felt it was his duty as a Christian — who joined the struggle for the simple human right to go about your everyday life without interference from the police. The "crimes" that these women were charged with included such dangerous acts as "obstructing the sidewalk" and "female impersonation." Yes, within my lifetime, right here in San Francisco, a biological male could be arrested for wearing a dress in public.

This film is being broadcast on KQED, the PBS station in San Francisco, but has not been picked up for national broadcast. If you live elsewhere in America, call or write your PBS station and ask them to show Screaming Queens.

SCREAMING QUEENS: THE RIOT AT COMPTON'S CAFETERIA, dir's Victor Silverman & Susan Stryker, 2005 USA, 57 min. video

Hoi Maya

Two older women rekindle a youthful romance in a beauty parlor. Sexy lesbo grannies.

HOI MAYA, dir. Claudia Lorenz, 2004 Switzerland, 12 min. 35mm, in German with English subtitles


Umm, okay, like, suppose your, like, boyfriend couldn't go with you to the prom, but he's, like, the super-jealous type who would beat the shit out of any guy who took you, and so you, like, know this total dyke who has been crushed out on you totally forever, so, I mean, like, what would you do? You're not going to be Prom Queen staying at home, girlfriend!

Another POWER UP success story.

PROM-troversy, dir. Leanna Creel, 2004 USA, 12 min. video


One of the writers from The L Word made a short film exploring the question, what would you do if you had a magic potion that would give you a penis for one day?

HUNG, dir. Guinevere Turner, 2005 USA, 13 min. video

Fun in Girls' Shorts

Another solid program of lesbian short films.

Inclinations • Sushi • Puszta Cowboy • A Girl Named Kai • Day One • Hung • PROM-troversy • Hoi Maya

The Sadness of Johnson Joe Jangles

Two men try to start a family in a frontier town in the Wild West in this Canadian short.

THE SADNESS OF JOHNSON JOE JANGLES, dir. Jeffrey St. Jules, 2004 Canada, 19 min. 35mm

The Homolulu Show

A married couple in Homolulu are discussing the proposal to legalize heterosexual marriage; scandalous! But dear, what if our son were to grow up to be heterosexual?

THE HOMOLULU SHOW, dir. Frank Mosvold, 2004 Norway, 1 min., 35 mm

Taco Chick and Salsa Girl

Okay, let's start with some obvious faults. The film was done on zero budget. The actors aren't trained in stunt fighting or fight choreography.

Given those limitations, this was a wonderful film. They did just enough fight choreography that you could tell they knew what the scene would look like with professional stunt doubles, and the special effects were better than in many films with six-figure budgets. The story is pure camp, but the actors hammed it up only to just the right level.

Taco Chick and Salsa Girl are urban superheroes, fighting against injustice and intolerance, including their arch-nemesis Neato Nazi Barbie and her sidekick White Supremacist Ken.

I've seen a number of DVD collections of gay short films about coming out and coming of age; how about a gay short comedy collection? I think it's about time. That or maybe slap this short on as a DVD extra with a feature film like D.E.B.S.

TACO CHICK AND SALSA GIRL, dir. Kurt Koehler, 2005 USA, 15 min. video

Deliriously Jen

Deliriously Jen is a cute homage to fag hags (I prefer the term "Queen's Counsellor" myself) everywhere. However, it had one of the best lines I've ever heard in the Frameline festival:
Are you Canadian? And if not, why are you pretending to be gay?
DELIRIOUSLY JEN, dir. Angus Oblong, 2004 USA, 4 min. video

Billy's Dad is a Fudge-Packer

Billy's Dad is a Fudge-Packer is a fantastic spoof of the 1950's and 1960's educational films. Young Billy is getting ready for career day at school, which naturally leads to a discussion of his father's job at the candy factory. This film is about as close to perfect as 10 minutes can be.

Billy's Dad is another home run from the folks at POWER UP in Los Àngeles.

BILLY'S DAD IS A FUDGE-PACKER, dir. Jamie Donahue, 2004 USA, 10 min. video

Fun in Boys' Shorts

The "Fun in Boys' Shorts" (FIBS) program is always a highlight of the Frameline festival. All the shorts were very good (both Boys and Girls), so I'm saving the separate entries for the most exceptional of the lot.

The Devil's Day • Billy's Dad is a Fudge-Packer • Between the Boys • Deliriously Jen • Ping Pong Love • Taco Chick and Salsa Girl • Feltch Sanders • The Homolulu Show • The Sadness of Johnson Joe Jangles

Check the Frameline web site for the details.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Three Dancing Slaves / Le Clan

Well, the Frameline festival was purring along beautifully. I had thoroughly enjoyed all the films. Then I went to see Three Dancing Slaves (Le Clan). I liked director Gaël Morel's work in Full Speed (À Toute Vitesse), and I'm a great fan of actor Stéphane Rideau (Christophe, the older brother), but this film provides an unfortunate example of the maxim that a film with no point is likely to be quite dull. The story is disjointed, wallowing in the despair and bleakness of the characters' lives while failing to give us any insight into them. Don't waste the hour and a half of your life on this film; hopefully it will be quickly forgotten as all involved move on to better things.

THREE DANCING SLAVES (LE CLAN), dir. Gaël Morel, 2004 France, 90 min., 35mm, in French with English subtitles, distribution: TLA Releasing

100% Human / 100% menneske

100% Human (100% menneske) is a portrait of a transwoman as she transitions surgically. Documentary footage is interwoven with re-enactments and musical numbers. The film is as unique — and as personally engaging — as its subject.

100% HUMAN, dir's Trond Winterkjær & Jan Dalchow, 2005 Norway, 73 min., 35 mm, in Norwegian with English subtitles. Distribution: Norwegian Film Institute

The Aggressives

The Aggressives is a documentary about a group of women in New York City who push gender boundaries and share an avowedly aggressive outlook. Their gender identities, like their lives, unfold in a complex tapestry.

THE AGGRESSIVES, dir. Daniel Peddle, 2004 USA, 75 min., video, unrated. Seventh Art Releasing

Did I Just Look at Her

Filmmaker Coquie Hughes created a short film interweaving dinner conversation with the unspoken thoughts of the characters, as a "straight" girl entertains fantasies about a lesbian experience.

Coquie is working on a feature-length expansion of the story.

DID I JUST LOOK AT HER, dir. Coquie Hughes, 2004 USA, 14 min., video, unrated.

The Lady in Question is Charles Busch

Charles Busch has done damned nearly everything, from creating such theatrical masterpieces as Vampire Lesbians of Sodom and Psycho Beach Party to the silver screen with Die Mommy Die! and then on to Broadway with The Tale of the Allergist's Wife. This documentary, filled with a treasure trove of video recordings of many of Busch's early works, is a must-see for anyone who loves drag queens, movie divas from the 1950's and 1960's, or campy comedy in general.

Besides that, if you look carefully near the very end of the documentary, when Die Mommy Die! premiered at the Castro Theatre in 2003, you can see your faithful reviewer in the audience.

THE LADY IN QUESTION IS CHARLES BUSCH, dir's John Catania & Charles Ignacio, USA 2005, 93 min., video, unrated.

The Joy of Life

The Joy of Life is an intensely personal, intensely moving film by long-time Frameline fixture Jenni Olson. It combines two seemingly unrelated themes: "butch" identity and suicide (especially from the Golden Gate Bridge). [I sincerely hope that no one reading this blog is contemplating suicide. If you need someone to talk to, please go to the suicide hotlines page or call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433, 24x7). You are not alone.]

Jenni muses on her relationships and her butch-ness, as well as bits of film history, in voiceover on various scenes of San Francisco, eventually lingering at the Golden Gate Bridge. Even though the GGB is the #1 most popular landmark for suicides in the entire world, the Bridge District has stalled for 68 years on installing some sort of barrier. Thanks in part to this film, a study is currently underway, with a barrier to be installed by 2007.

THE JOY OF LIFE, dir. Jenni Olson, 2005 USA, 65 min., 16mm, unrated, Frameline distribution.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Côte d'Azur / Crustacés et Coquillages

The French film Crustacés et Coquillages (literally Shellfish and Shells) has been given the title Côte d'Azur for its American release.

A family with two teenagers goes to the beach for their summer vacation. The parents eat raw oysters right from the shell, to the disgust of their kids. Add in visits from a couple of friends, various characters sneaking off for a surreptitious snog, and all manner of misunderstandings, and you get a wonderful romantic comedy, and an excellent choice for opening night feature in the festival. It's laugh-out-loud funny, even if you don't speak a word of French.

CÔTE D'AZUR, dir's Olivier Ducastel & Jacques Martineau, 2004 France, 90 min., 35 mm, in French with English subtitles. US distributor: Strand Releasing


Director Lasse Persson presented a delightful short animated film before tonight's feature presentation. In Bikini, an adolescent boy sneaks the "teeny-weeny yellow polka-dot bikini" out of his mother's dresser and goes off for an adventure at the beach. The over-the-top animation style suits the silly story, which will have you bouncing to the music in spite of yourself.

BIKINI, dir. Lasse Persson, 2004 Sweden, 7 minutes, 35mm, unrated. Distributed by Frameline.

Mysterious Skin

(not part of the Frameline festival, but a movie I saw recently)

Director Gregg Araki (Totally F∗∗∗ed Up and The Living End) has produced a powerful, thought-provoking, visually stunning, occasionally funny, often disturbing film. Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Third Rock from the Sun, Ten Things I Hate about You) turns in a remarkable performance in the central role; Joey Mr. Gordon-Levitt is clearly not content to be "just another child star"; he imbues Neil with a haunted hollowness as the teenaged street hustler comes to grips with the sexual abuse he experienced a decade earlier and his path crosses with another boy who is convinced he was abducted by space aliens.

Mysterious Skin, dir. Gregg Araki, 2004 U.S.A., 99 min., rated NC-17

Welcome to my new blog

Welcome, bienvenue, wilkommen. I have another blog here on which I discuss politics, but I'm also a pretty serious connoisseur of the Cinema. In particular, I tend to go full-immersion into the annual Frameline international lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/etc. film festival (this year renamed just Frameline 29 to evade all those difficult decisions about which "et ceteras" to list and in which order). This blog will carry my reviews of movies I've recently seen, especially during the festival.