@ The 2013 Boston LGBT Film Fest
Though distance has diminished my involvement with the Boston LGBT Film Festival a bit this year, I anticipate its Springtime exuberance from afar and plan to stay attuned to this excellent offering of queer film, put on by a dedicated core crew of volunteers each year and gracing theaters in Brookline, Boston, and Cambridge. While here in Austin we brace ourselves for the abominable heat just around the corner, Boston readies for its most resplendent season; and what better way to thaw out than with a meticulously collected slew of gay, lesbian, bi, and trans films from various points on the globe?
This clever fest opts to have three opening nights: Men’s, Women’s, and Cambridge’s. The Women’s opening night film is French director Virginie Despentes’s long-awaited follow up to her hard-hitting rape revenge film, "Baise Moi" (2000). Bye Bye Blondie is just as engrossing but a different sort of film completely. It’s a touching drama that deals with the difficulties of rekindling a romance from one’s youth. It gets things started at the elegant Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Thursday night (5/1). Over at the Brattle, things get off to a feisty start with Stud Life, a rare film that deals with the friendship between a Black lesbian and a white gay man, both lead characters in this London-set story.
Gay Best Friends
At the MFA on Friday night is G.B.F. (Gay Best Friend), Darren Stein’s highly regarded twist on a high school teen film that concerns a trio of a status-seeking female teens that seek the companionship of a gay man because it is the thing to do. Said to be a combination of a John Hughes film and "Mean Girls," the film received a most positive response at the recent Tribeca Film Festival. MFA, Friday, May 3 at 7:30pm.
On Saturday afternoon, also at the MFA, is one of the Festival’s more anticipated documentaries: The Rugby Player, Scott Gracheff’s documentary about Mark Bingham. Bingham was one of the heroes on 9/11 who led the passenger revolt on one of the hijacked airplanes headed towards crash in Washington DC. Because of their actions, the passengers brought the plane down in a Pennsylvania field, leading to their deaths. Gracheff’s film focuses on Bingham’s life and his mother’s commitment to LGBT causes and airline safety since his death. MFA, Saturday, May 4, 2pm.
All about Divine
I caught the fest’s Documentary Centerpiece, I Am Divine at SXSW and can assure you that it delivers the entertainment value and emotional punch you would expect from a piece detailing the tumultuous life of the famed John Waters friend and collaborator. Divine wasn’t just a witty, shit-eating-for- art performer of camp. He had a big heart and a fair amount of childhood trauma (it’s not easy being gay, obese, and fabulous in small city America) to overcome, and this film handles it all with buoyancy and sincerity to burn. Boston is lucky because Mink Stole, co-iconoclast from the John Waters realm, will be in town to party with festival-goers. MFA, Saturday, May 4, 7:30pm.
Another film focusing on gay teens is Geography Club , Gary Entin’s film that deals with a high school Geography Club that becomes the refuge for a number of LGBT high school students seeking place where they can find privacy. That is, until things get complicated. A special attraction will be the appearance of the Oscar-winning screenwriter of "Milk," Dustin Lance Black, who will receive the Boston LGBT Film Festival Directors Award for his contribution to LGBT cinema. ICA, Sunday, May 5, 5pm.
Xavier Dolan’s return
Fancy a stylish narrative film featuring a trans character? The festival has scored the new one -- Laurence Anyways -- by much-hyped French Canadian Xavier Dolan for your viewing pleasure. This time around the director who grabbed everyone’s attention with "I Killed My Mother" a few years ago, tells the story of a tumultuous love affair in which one of the partners decides he is really a woman trapped in a man’s body. How will they both deal with this revelation, and will it bring them closer together or cause them to grow apart? The lengthy saga (some three hours in length) unspools Sunday at 7 at the MFA.
Four other selections fresh from SXSW, Before You Know It, Continental, Mr. Angel, and Pit Stop are also more than worth stopping for. "Before You Know It" is Austin-based director PJ Raval’s evocative look at the lives of three aging gay men. There are melancholic moments as the men deal with loneliness and loss, but ultimately it’s an uplifting affirmation of gay existence after the wearing off of youthful insouciance (or the security and suppression of heterosexual marriage, in the case of a Floridian widower finding his way). "Before You Know It" screens on 3pm on Sunday, May 5 at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge.
Buck Angel’s story
"Continental" is Malcolm Ingram’s ("Small Town Gay Bar") probing tribute to the Continental Baths of Manhattan, a rarefied meeting point for gays in NYC in the 70’s, where one could cruise for sex among the likes of Rudolf Nureyev, then go watch a show by Bette Midler in towel. Proprietor Steve Ostrow, as well as performers and patrons, reflect on the high points, challenges, and historical significance of this trailblazing institution that dared to accommodate gay sex in a dignified environment before it was even legal. Sunday, May 11 at 7pm at the Revere Theatre at the Revere Hotel.
The Continental crew had their hand in activism that brought rights to gays in those days, and Buck Angel, the trans subject of "Mr. Angel" is doing his own sort of activism now. Born female but always feeling male, Buck endured a tumultuous period in his teens, then fully transitioned and launched into a career of renegade porn, out to prove you don’t need a penis to be a man. Similar to what is done posthumously in "I Am Divine", the film derives emotional potency from its family reunion narrative. LGBT folks know that familial bonds are not always easily maintained in light of our sexuality, and this can especially be true for trans folk. We draw inspiration from brazen fighters like Buck. A Trans Media Panel Discussion will follow the film. "Mr. Angel" will be shown on Saturday, May 4 at 2pm at the Paramount Theatre’s Bright Family Screening Room.
James Franco’s cruising
Another talented Austinite, Yen Tan, is bringing his mellow but affecting small town drama, "Pit Stop" to town, and if you saw his previous festival hit, "Ciao," you know that he has a skill for composing authentic stories about gay men making meaningful emotional connections in unlikely circumstances. Here, two separate Texans confront the aftermath of their dissolved relationships, while seeking some sort of redemption. Will they find it in each other? "Pit Stop" screens on Wednesday, May 8 at 7:30pm at the Paramount Theatre’s Bright Family Screening Room.
World traveler (with his films in tow) Travis Mathews brings his two latest films (and himself), Interior. Leather Bar. and In Their Room London, to the fest, an event that will certainly be even more thrilling than last year’s screening of his "I Want Your Love". Mathews’ trademark is dealing with sexuality in a very honest, tender, and acute manner rarely seen in even the most well-intentioned films. "Interior: Leather Bar" is his collaboration with James Franco in which they organize a shoot with the goal of imagining the missing footage from the controversial 1980 film, "Cruising", in which Al Pacino plays a cop going undercover in NYC’s gay scene. "In Their Room London" is the latest episode of his series of authentically erotic documentaries about the sex and intimacy of ordinary gay men, as played out in their bedrooms. Both films will be shown on Friday, May 10 at 9pm at the Brattle Theatre.
Immigration and marriage
Another celebrated director, Quentin Lee, whose films often feature gay Asian-American protagonists, has a new one at the festival. White Frog is a big-hearted film about a teen with Asperger’s Syndrome struggling to come out of his shell as he copes with the death of his older brother, then the revelation of his sexuality. His brother’s friends take him under their wings, with interesting results. "White Frog" will be shown on Sunday, May 5 at 7pm at the Brattle Theatre.
Also on Sunday is I Do, Glenn Gaylord’s dramedy about a number of pertinent social issues affecting LGBT Americans: immigration and marriage equality. The film stars the hunky David W. Ross as a British ex-pat who, in order to care for his late brother’s fiancée and her daughter, marries his lesbian best friend to stay in the country. Things get further complicated when he falls in love with another man, putting his immigration status in jeopardy. Sunday, May 5, 9pm at the Brattle.
Religion and sexuality
Africa may be the least represented continent at festivals, but it has been getting some attention lately. Two recent documentaries, "Call Me Kuchu" and "God Loves Uganda" have dealt with the homophobia stirred up by fire and brimstone American missionaries spreading their bile in Uganda. At this fest, Born This Way takes viewers to Cameroon, where being out to family is nearly impossible and being arrested for being gay can lead to up to five years in prison. Monday, May 6, 7:15 pm at the Brattle Theatre.
Local politics are also at play in the Israeli feature Out in the Dark, which details how two lovers - one a Palestinian student, the other an Israeli lawyer - confront the conflict and pursue their love for each other. Wednesday, May 8, 9pm at the Brattle Theatre.
Issues involving religion and sexuality are at the center of W imie...(In The Name Of), a powerful film from Polish director Małgorzata Szumowska that follows the travails of a Catholic priest in a small village who must confront issues of faith and sensuality when he discovers himself attracted to a younger man. The film won the Teddy Award at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this winter. It will be screened on Thursday, May 9 at 9pm at the MFA.
There has also been considerable buzz on the film festival circuit for Submerge, freshman director Sophie O’Connor’s drama about the relationships between a number of Australian Gen-Yers - straight, bi and gay. Can these college students have it all? Find out on Friday, May 10 at 8pm at the MFA.
One of the more intriguing titles in the Festival is The Go Doc Project, which concerns Doc, a soon-to-be college graduate, who falls for a go-go boy in contemporary Manhattan. To get to the dancer, Doc convinces the dancer to be a subject of a documentary. The results mix lust and the promise of celebrity as seen in Doc’s video commentary. Catch the drama on Saturday, May 11 at 8pm at the Brattle Theatre.
A gay ’Lethal Weapon’
From Taiwan comes the playful comedy Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? that looks at the life of a brother and sister caught in sexual identity crises. Weichung is an ex-gay with a wife and children, that is until he meets an old boyfriend; while his sister Mandy escapes her dull relationship with her fiancée by inventing a relationship with a soap opera star that comes off the television and sits on her couch. How can they reconcile their dalliances with their stereotypically normal lives? Sunday, May 12 at 4:30 pm at the MFA.
Closing the festival is actor-turned-director Doug Spearman’s gay take on the buddy-action picture, Hot Guys With Guns. An actor, his wealthy ex- and a jaded private eye team up to solve a crime spree involving the gay Mafia in noirish, contemporary Los Angeles. It ends the festival on Sunday, May 12 at 7pm at the MFA.