Friday, October 12, 2007

Out On Film, 2007 - Day 3

Out On Film, IMAGE Film and Video's annual LGBT film festival continues at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema here in Atlanta. Today, a panel on the state of queer film, a documentary, two short subject programs (eleven shorts) and a feature narrative. But I left before the FINAL documentary/stand-up comic started.

The panel was hosted at Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse and featured a cross section of filmmakers on the panel: narrative feature director Richard LeMay (Whirlwind), documentary feature director Kelly Rouse(The Year of the Paper), short narrative director Lauren Wolkstein (Dandelion Fall) and producer and screenwriter Jason Brown (Whirlwind). The panel was moderated by Cindy Abel from Atlantis Moon Productions. The session would need to be cut a bit short, as Rouse's documentary was scheduled to screen only an hour later. However, within the 45 minutes or so of discussion, it was a pleasant primer into the business of getting a gay themed film financed and made. Nothing really 'new' or any nasty gossip was shared, but it was a pleasant way to start the morning. (Also, a latte and quiche were available!) We all scurried from Outwrite to the Landmark for the first program of the day.

THE YEAR OF THE PAPER (dirs. Kelly Rouse, Nikki Parker, USA, 2007, 91 min.) Though I was initially hesitant to see 'another gay marriage' documentary, this fit so easily into my schedule, and director Kelly Rouse was such an appealing presence on the filmmakers panel, I went ahead and dove in. What sets this one a bit apart from previous pieces is Rouse and Parker's format: three couples (lesbian, gay and straight) are followed during the first year of their marriages. In so doing, the film details the ceremonies, the changes a wedding made to the relationships, and the 'fallout' of their first anniversaries. The three couples do appear to maintain the 'honeymoon stage' through out the project, even though the lesbian and gay couples had been together for many years before the opportunity of being married occurred. There really isn't much drama within the relationships as there is conflict between the couples and the surrounding society, with the exception of the straight couple, whose world is presented fairly idyllically, with the exception of an obsessed mother of the groom! The film also intersperses commentary from different sociological experts and political figures on both sides of the issue of gay marriage, as well as historical background on the institution itself. The directors have cleverly edited these commentaries together to form something of a debate, as well as clearly providing evidence in the argument for gay marriage. I was really pleased to finally see 'another gay marriage' documentary that focused on the civil liberties and legal issues involved and not on seeking societal validation.

THE HOUSEBOY (dir. Spencer Schilly, US, 2007, 80 mins.) Spencer Schilly's film does exactly what it intends to do! It is sexually titillating, but the fleshy parts are completely integral to the plot and the arc of his main character: a lost boy of sorts, who is emotionally adrift and alone in New York City, beautifully played by Nick May. May brings a Dickensian weariness to his portrayal. The cast of men that he hooks up with are all well defined characters, even in the few minutes of screen time they are given, which is a tribute to Schilly's screenplay and direction. The pacing and editing are never slack and there are no wasted or unnecessary moments. The nearly surreal week that May's character spends before Christmas is not unlike any lonely, holiday nightmare any one might have spent. Or perhaps I was just over identifying at one point? Be that as it may, I truly admired and enjoyed this experience, even if I did not stay for the Q&A with Schilly and May after the screening (this was its World Premiere).

Following are capsules of the eleven short subjects that screened in the "Girls Shorts" and "Boys Shorts 1" programs. I can tell that I've been VERY busy the past year or so, as I had already seen nearly half of these at previous festivals! However, having seen these previously allowed me the opportunity to see them WITHOUT the projection problems that occurred this afternoon. Though not as nearly disasterous as the situation was during the Atlanta Film Festival, it still continues to amaze me that an organization named "IMAGE Film and Video" would screen something in the wrong aspect ratios and allow the projection to 'black out' in the midst of a shorts program and not be aware of the technical difficulties that are occurring. Not to mention the continuing sound distortion in theatre 6. Anyway, enough ranting... In alphabetical order:

BACKSTROKE (dir. Amy Bronson, USA, 21 minutes) The storyline has some interesting dramatic possibilities and the performances are exceptional! Director Bronson's editing is well executed. However, I am slightly hesitant about how the short addresses one's sexuality and amnesia.

BAD HAIR DAY [no link available] (dir. Lori Herbison, USA, 14 minutes) Apparently developed from a project presented at the International Centre for Women Playwrights, this does have a certain 'staginess' to it that might have been avoided had the story-within-the-story been more fully realized. However, the twisted anecdote of a lesbian's whacked out tryst is amusing in itself. [The short was screened in the wrong aspect ratio.]

DANDELION FALL (Dir. Lauren Wolkstein, USA, 14 mins.) Beautifully shot and edited! It's sort of an odd little story of "a naive cowgirl from the West falls into an obsessive, destructive sexual relationship with a social Manhattanite." The tone and feeling was not unlike a lesbian "Midnight Cowboy". Wolkstein's production of the love making was beautifully executed!

FAMILY REUNION (dir. Isold Uggadottir, Iceland, 19 mins.) This was my third viewing of a festival favorite (Winner of the Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Short at the 2007 Atlanta Film Festival) over the past couple of years. Though it is well made, once one has seen 'the twist', it doesn't necessarily demand repeated viewings.

GAY ZOMBIE (Dir. Michael Simon, USA, 20 mins.) I LOVE Zombie flicks! And, FINALLY, someone has made a gay zombie movie!! This was a HOOT and a half and I want it! Robert Laughlin, in particular, cracked me up! There is a make-over segment that goes on a bit too long, perhaps, but that's just quibbling.

GROUCHO (Dir. Medardo Amor, Ángel Luis Rodríguez Suárez, Spain, 20 min.) I saw this earlier this year as part of San Francisco's GLBT Film Festival. I still enjoyed it, however there were projection problems. There was a blackout during the last 5 minutes of the film, which denied this audience the 'punchline'. An attempt was made to backup and rescreen "the last 7 or 8 minutes", however the projectionist restarted just before the end credits. Argh.

MURDER… MOST FABULOUS (dir. Kristen McGary, USA, 5 mins.) A locally produced spoof, featuring the all male, all gay cheerleaders of Cheer Atlanta, the 2006 National Cheerleading Champions. Director Kristen McGary has launched this as the first episode of a hoped for soap opera - whether it will continue to be on YouTube or picked up by an internet or cable network is yet to be seen. Regardless, the concept works for what it is and in the current 'small dosage' of five minutes, is just enough! McGary does get some really fun performances out of the troop, as her editing smooths out the rough edges of some performances.

PRENUPTIAL TANGO (dir. Harvey Silberman, USA, 15 mins.) From the program guide: "Two couples dance a dance of marital deceit and indiscretion as love drives them in ever stranger and more mysterious directions. The dancing is both literal and figurative with classic noir overtones and dark comedy." Well. Sorta. The cast is a bit stiff and telegraph the twists. The cinematography could have helped establish a noir-ish atmosphere that might have aided the performances. However, though the cast tries hard at establishing a style, and the script does seem to warrant it, the production values are all too contemporary and the short comes off as being... off.

PRIVATE LIFE (dir. Abbe Robinson, United Kingdom, 16 mins.) Set in Yorkshire, 1952, this is an entertaining little farce involving cross-dressers (of both sexes!) and their little 'adventure' one night. It is designed well, performed nearly flawlessly and the production values are excellent in contrasting their dull days with the exciting nights!

signage (dir. Rick Hammerly, USA, 13 minutes) I LOVED this when I saw it earlier this year as part of SF's LGBT film festival! And it still is quite charming and touching on a second screening. Quoting myself: "This is perhaps the most complex and sincere short of the group. Rick Hammerly wrote, directed and stars himself, and does all three quite effectively! He is facing a mid-life crisis and meets a man, er 'boy' half his age. What makes the meeting more remarkable is that the 'boy' is deaf. Both of their friends express concerns for their differing reasons: age and hearing. And it is this complicated dilemma which brings Hammerly's character to a fascinating introspective climax. It's a remarkable piece of personal work on Hammerly's part!"

WILL YOU (dir. Robert Gaston, USA, 12 mins.) Thankfully, the performances here were not as 'raw' as they were in director Gaston's other entry this year (nor as rough as his previous OPEN CAM, however, I digress...). He has concocted something of a farce between a lesbian couple who are experiencing financial inequities. The lesser of the two wants to propose, but as she can not afford a ring, she plans a fairly complicated scenario in which she will propose without one. It's all a bit contrived, however, the lead is sincere enough to pull it through.

Maxxxxx says
re The Year of the Paper: "I love you...!"
re The Houseboy: "Such a good bird!"

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