One way to get ready for Pride is a week of total immersion in LGBT cinema. Fortunately, Out on Film offers that opportunity from Oct. 1-7 at two venues, the Landmark Midtown Art Cinemas (LMAC) and the Ansley Park Playhouse (APP).
With 31 features, four programs of shorts and other events, you’ll be able to visit exotic locations (Rio, Buenos Aires, Peru, Nassau, 19th–century England) or spend endless hours in New York bars. Nine of the features are documentaries — and the doc is “in” these days — but fictional films offer a dose of the reality of homophobia in the Bahamas, the Marines and other places.
Festival Director Jim Farmer, who also covers theater for GA Voice, isn’t worried about Out on Film becoming obsolete anytime soon.
“The festival is as relevant as ever,” he says. “The LGBT community is more mainstream now, but we are definitely not in the mainstream yet. Festivals for, by and about us are very important. And for 95 percent of these films, festivals are the only way they will get a theatrical showing.”
Farmer cites “Undertow,” “I Killed My Mother” and “The Four-Faced Liar” as three of his favorite films in this year’s festival.
“I am also happy that we are able to show two other fine films, ‘Howl’ and ‘Making the Boys,’ before their expected theatrical releases,” he adds. “I am also ecstatic that Out on Film agreed to program ‘Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives,’ which, for all its controversy, is a film that we find empowering, and a film a lot of folks like.”
Here are our capsule reviews of the festival’s features. Check www.outonfilm.org for other details and ticket info.
(All reviews are by Steve Warren unless otherwise noted.)
Friday, Oct. 1:
‘You Should Meet My Son’ (Publicity photo)
YOU SHOULD MEET MY SON (LMAC, 7:30 p.m.)
A terrific second half redeems the first half in this comedy about a Birmingham widow (JoAnne McGee) who tries to find a bride for her son (Stewart Carrico) until she finds out he’s gay. Can she adapt her matchmaking efforts or will he change to please her? The answer’s worth waiting for. Writer-director Keith Hartman, a former Atlantan, will attend. Preceded by the shorts “Tech Support” by Erik Gernard and “Don’t Tell Me You’re Gay” by Austin Young.
Saturday, Oct. 2:
MISSISSIPPI QUEEN (LMAC, 11 a.m.)
Lesbian director Paige Williams returns home to Mississippi, where her parents run an active ex-gay ministry. Interviews with her mother and father, clergy, self-proclaimed ex-gays and openly gay Christians find little resolve between Williams’ sexuality and her parents’ faith-based opposition, but the documentary delivers on its explanation of the process and personal challenges behind becoming ex-gay. — Bo Shell
BABY JANE? (LMAC, 12:15 p.m.)
Robert Aldrich’s campfest “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” gets even campier with men in drag in the leading roles in a satirical virtual remake. Matthew Martin plays what amounts to an amalgam of Bette Davis and her character, Baby Jane, with J. Conrad Frank as Joan Crawford and Jane’s sister Blanche. Written and directed by Billy Clift, “Baby Jane?” mostly soars when either or both stars are on screen. No self-respecting fan of camp drag can go to their grave without hearing “But’cha are, Blanche!” spoken by a man in a dress.
WOMEN’S SHORTS (LMAC, 2 p.m.)
THE FOUR-FACED LIAR (LMAC, 3:30 p.m.)
The fluidity of female sexuality resembles a ping-pong ball in play in this dramedy about New York twentysomethings that’s been adapted from her play by Marja-Lewis Ryan. She plays Bridget, a lesbian with a straight male roommate, Trip (Todd Kubrak). They befriend newbies Greg (Daniel Carlise) and Molly (Emily Peck), but Bridget and Molly get too friendly and Molly has to make up her mind. The acting and direction are good but the writing sometimes made my teeth itch. Followed by a Q&A with writer/actress Marja-Lewis Ryan.
MEN’S SHORTS (LMAC, 5 p.m.)
LEADING LADIES (LMAC, 6:30 p.m.)
This sudsy flick features some ballroom dancing, most of it not well photographed, and a lesbian love story. When Tasi (Shannon Lea Smith) gets pregnant, her sister Toni (Laurel Vail) takes her place in a competition but insists on dancing with her new girlfriend, Mona (Nicole Dionne), instead of Tasi’s gay partner, Cedric (Benji Schwimmer). A political confrontation is thrown in but left unresolved.
VIOLET TENDENCIES (LMAC, 8:15 p.m.)
Mindy Cohn (“The Facts of Life”) plays Violet, New York’s “oldest living fag hag,” while Jesse Archer completes a trilogy (with “Slutty Summer” and “A Four Letter Word”) as slutty Luke, one of Violet’s many gay friends. (And she wonders why she can’t find a husband!)
‘Ticked-off Trannies with Knives’ (Publicity Photo)
TICKED-OFF TRANNIES WITH KNIVES (LMAC, 10:10 p.m.)
You can get away with murder by spoofing bad movies, especially the kind made for drive-ins in the ‘70s, as writer-director-editor Israel Luna does in this “Death Wish”-type vigilante revenge fantasy. The five heroines work in a drag show. Bubbles Cliquot (Krystal Summers) hooked up with the wrong straight guy, Boner (Thomas Zembrod), a redneck who freaked when he discovered her genitalia. Two of the girls get killed and the others get even as Luna emphasizes thrills over fun and lets several scenes run far too long. If you’ll be bothered by the trannies both giving and receiving violence, this isn’t for you. Q&A with Assistant Director Lacy Brutschy follows.
Sunday, Oct. 3:
IS IT JUST ME? (LMAC, 12:15 p.m.)
Here’s a repeat of the “mistaken identity caused by fake online profile picture” plot from last year’s “Eating Out: All You Can Eat.” This one has a good setup and two appealing leads (Nicholas Downs and David Loren), but it goes to absurd lengths to keep them apart after establishing them as soulmates. The comic complications that come between them aren’t funny and the Big Lie that causes such drama over a breach of trust is no big deal.Still, it’s a potentially wonderful gay date movie.
OY VEY! MY SON IS GAY! (LMAC, 2:10 p.m.)
The title should tell you everything you need to know about this old school comedy, including whether you’ll like it or not. Lainie Kazan overworks her Jewish mother shtick, smothering John Lloyd Young (a Tony winner for “Jersey Boys” who’s surprisingly bland on screen), who’s partnered with Jai Rodriguez. A lot of the same material was covered similarly in “Norman, Is that You?” in 1970 (stage) and 1976 (screen). Followed by Q&A with director Evgeny Afineevsky.
THE ADONIS FACTOR (LMAC, 4 p.m.)
Following his last documentary, “The Butch Factor,” director Chris Hines explores gay male body image. Followed by Q&A with director Chris Hines.
RIOT ACTS: FLAUNTING GENDER DEVIANCE IN MUSIC PERFORMANCE (LMAC, 5:45 p.m.)
Trans musicians discuss inspiration and gender identity. While “Riot Acts” successfully explores unconsidered viewpoints at the intersection of gender expression and musical performance, the documentary is detrimentally light on actual performance. — Bo Shell
UNDERTOW / CONTRACORRIENTE (LMAC, 7 p.m.)
“Brokeback Mountain” meets “Ghost” in “Undertow,” a romantic fantasy from Peru that’s an accomplished first feature for writer-director Javier Fuentes-León. The macho fishermen of a poor village dislike visiting artist Santiago (Manolo Cardona), except for Miguel (Cristian Mercado), who loves Santiago but is married to Mariela (Tatiana Astengo), who is soon to give birth to their son. A tragedy changes things for the better, for a time, as Fuentes-León manages a difficult balancing act by taking potential sitcom material seriously in a realistic setting.
STRAPPED (LMAC, 8:55 p.m.)
Ben Bonenfant stars as a hustler with no names/many names who spends a dark and stormy night in an apartment building. He can’t find a way out but he finds one trick after another and gets to demonstrate his versatility, only getting performance anxiety when a client wants to kiss him. He’ll also find more than he bargained for before the night is over. Written and directed by Joseph Graham, “Strapped” sounds like a sleazefest but it’s really an art film, and artfully made.
Monday, Oct. 4:
MAKING THE BOYS (LMAC, 5:30 p.m.)
In a surprising must-see, Crayton Robery’s “Making the Boys” traces the history of Mart Crowley’s culturally significant stage play and subsequent film “Boys in the Band” from inception to legacy.
Even audiences unfamiliar with Crowley’s story of eight gay friends at a birthday party gone-bad are in for a treat, as the documentary effortlessly weave’s Crowley’s autobiographical narrative with the play’s development and the energy of pre-Stonewall New York.
The play’s run from small experimental theater to off-Broadway to film is perfectly juxtaposed with the birth of the gay rights movement, as its reception was intrinsic to the revolution that resulted from it.
Peppered with commentary from many of the show’s key players as well as Tony Kushner, Larry Kramer, Michael Musto and even former New York mayor Ed Koch, “Making the Boys” gives context to a controversial and complicated work that paved the way for gay themes in today’s theater, television and film. — Bo Shell
ELENA UNDONE (LMAC, 7 p.m.)
Nicole Conn revisits the classic lesbian plot (“Desert Hearts,” “Lianna,” “Personal Best” and Conn’s own “Claire of the Moon”) about a heretofore straight woman discovering her inner lesbian when she falls in love with a delectable dyke. Elena (Necar Zadegan) is married to the pastor (Gary Weeks) of a conservative congregation. Peyton (Traci Dinwiddie) writes self-help books but can’t help herself. They meet and form “the ultimate love connection,” but Conn throws all manner of obstacles in their path. If you want to see two hot women get together in beautifully photographed surroundings and share “the world’s longest movie kiss,” here’s your chance.
QUENTIN CRISP: FINAL ENCORE (APP, 7:15 p.m.)
Atlanta filmmakers Diana Cardéa and Cheryl Whitestone interview 90-year-old Quentin Crisp, the quirky author of “The Naked Civil Servant,” one of the earliest personal accounts of open gay life. Though little more than a recorded conversation, Crisp’s studied humor is both witty and inspirational. — Bo Shell
FISHNET (APP, 8:30 p.m.)
This story of lesbian lovers (Rebekah Kochan and Jillian Easton) against the mob is no “Bound,” but not bad. Pelletier couldn’t round up enough extras to populate a slow night at a bar, let alone a “packed house” with a crowd of protestors outside. Yet for a low-budget quickie it’s got nice acting, good photography and several enjoyable dance numbers. World premiere, Q&A with Director Brian Pelletier and actor Meg McLeod after the screening.
‘Children of God’ (Publicity Photo)
CHILDREN OF GOD (LMAC, 8:55 p.m.)
A gay couple comes together and an ostensibly straight couple comes apart in the Bahamas, while preachers and politicians spout anti-gay rhetoric that empowers bashers. Writer-producer-director Kareem J. Mortimer errs on the side of tastefulness where sex is concerned but we know Romeo (Stephen Tyrone Williams) and Jonny (Johnny Ferro) fall in love and Lena (Margaret Laurena Kemp) gets gonorrhea from her DL minister husband (Mark R. Ford). A strong storyline and good performances help us over the rough spots in Mortimer’s direction, leaving “Children of God” well on the side of the angels. Producer Trevite Willis will attend the screening.
GA VOICE NIGHT: Tuesday, Oct. 5:
SEX IN AN EPIDEMIC (LMAC, 5:30 p.m.)
This no-nonsense documentary follows the sociopolitical impact of HIV/AIDS from its outbreak in the early 80s to current prevention strategies and activism. The film’s most interesting moments follow New York’s earliest prevention campaigns, which included pornographic comic books and porn-like instructional videos aimed at eroticizing sex in a fearful time. Preceded by the short film “Tell,” directed by David Ditmore. — Bo Shell
A MARINE STORY (LMAC, 7 p.m.)
No match for “Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story,” this Lifetime-style drama based on true stories spreads itself too thin, but a good performance from an appealing lead carries it over a lot of bumps. Alexandra Everett (Dreya Weber), discharged from the Marines under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” even though she’s married to a man, returns to her hometown, beats up some dudes, takes out a meth lab or two and mentors a troubled young woman (out actress Paris Pickard). Writer-director Ned Farr, Weber’s husband, also directed her in “The Gymnast.” Followed by panel discussion on “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”
FLIGHT OF THE CARDINAL (APP, 7:10 p.m.)
Until the script goes off the rails near the end, Robert Gaston’s thriller has a lot going for it. The acting and direction are good enough to make most of its flaws forgivable. David J. Bonner plays the conniving serpent in the Eden-like North Carolina lodge run by Ross Beschler. Once the innocent victim starts fighting back things get interesting. The filmmaker and his leads, including Claire Bowerman, should have even better movies ahead of them.
HOWL (LMAC, 8:55 p.m.)
From Oscar winners Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, their first narrative film is an experimental docudrama about gay poet Allen Ginsberg and the obscenity trial sparked by his 1955 poem “Howl.” If you don’t appreciate the poem you won’t appreciate the movie, despite a stellar cast. As Ginsberg, James Franco narrates and recites but doesn’t get to create a character. Courtroom scenes feature David Strathairn, Jon Hamm, Bob Balaban, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeff Daniels, Treat Williams and Alessandro Nivola. They’re all good, but if you don’t like Ginsberg’s poetry “Howl” couldn’t be verse.
PLAN B (APP, 8:55 p.m.)
I hate to spoil the will they? – won’t they? suspense in this Argentine film about two straight men falling in love with each other, but if they won’t it will be a feature-length tease like the American “Humpday,” which I didn’t recommend. And I recommend “Plan B,” even though it’s paced more slowly than I can usually tolerate and the plot doesn’t make much sense. Ultimately it doesn’t matter why Bruno (Manuel Vignau) and Pablo (Lucas Ferraro) become friends, and not rushing things makes the evolution of their relationship believable. Preceded by “Chico’s Angels, Episode 1.”
Wednesday, Oct. 6:
OVER THE MOON (LMAC, 4:15 p.m.)
Lesbian Charissa King-O’Brien documents her precarious journey to parenthood from donor search to delivery and two years beyond. “Over the Moon” is on one hand quite simple, but on the other, explores the deeply personal and sometimes painful path to becoming mothers. — Bo Shell
MIXED SHORTS (LMAC, 5:30 p.m.)
BEARCITY (LMAC, 7:10 p.m.)
“BearCity” is a romantic comedy about Manhattan’s gay bear population and the men who love them, written with Lawrence Ferber by director Douglas Langway. Roger (Gerald McCullouch) is the center of the bear universe. He can and does have any man he wants, so of course he’s ready to get serious about newbie Tyler (Joe Conti) — if they can work through all the plot contrivances. Two couples illustrate other issues in bear relationships. For the underserved community “BearCity” spotlights, it should be a big hairy deal. Preceded by the short “On the Way to the Videostore” by Ryan Halun.
THE SECRET DIARIES OF MISS ANNE LISTER (APP, 7:10 p.m.)
Although it could have been based on a lesbian novel by Jane Austen — if she’d written one —Jane English’s screenplay is taken from actual diaries (four million words’ worth, with intimate details in a code of her own devising) written by a 19th-century English lesbian. Despite pressure to marry, Anne (Maxine Peake) insists, “I have in mind to settle with a female companion.” Finding another woman who’s similarly inclined and equally bold is a problem, but perhaps not unsolvable. James Kent directed this BBC production, recreating the past in a way that’s not too alienating for contemporary audiences. Miss Anne Lister was a champion in her day for rights we’re still fighting for.
FROM BEGINNING TO END (LMAC, 8:55 p.m.)
I didn’t know I had a “prude” button until writer-director Aluisio Abranches pushed it with his incestuous romance between half-brothers in Brazil. For nearly half the movie, with Francisco and Thomás, ages 12 and 6, they’re so close it borders on kiddie porn. They restrain themselves until their mother dies, 15 years later. From then on it’s their love story, presented without question, justification or judgment. The photography is beautiful, the syrupy orchestral score annoying. Anyone with two sons who sees it will become paranoid. Preceded by the short films “The Window” by Phillipe Gosselin and “Beaver” by Jackie Beat.
I KILLED MY MOTHER / J’AI TUÉ MA MÈRE (APP, 8:55 p.m.)
A 20-year-old (now 21) Montreal kid, Xavier Dolan, thought he could write, direct and star in a movie. He tried and the result was one of Canada’s best films of 2009, finally crossing the border this year. In his semi-autobiographical tale of a gay youth’s love-hate relationship with his mother, Dolan plays 16-year-old Hubert, who behaves like a brat and doesn’t come out to his mother, even though his boyfriend’s mother accepts them as a couple. There are minor script weaknesses in the latter part but it’s still beyond incredible that a teenager put all this together. On top of his many talents Dolan has movie-star good looks. I hate him — and want to have his baby!
Thursday, Oct. 7:
OUT IN THE SILENCE (LMAC, 4 p.m.)
Filmmaker Joe Wilson was born in Oil City, Pa., and after 25 years away he announced his wedding to Dean Hamer in the local paper. The American Family Association raised hell but Wilson got a letter from a woman whose 16-year-old son was bullied at school for being gay. That inspired him to go back to Oil City with a camera and see what he could do. He found support, he found opposition, and ultimately he found little people making little changes in a little town, because that’s often how progress is made.
BOARD SHORTS (LMAC, 5:15 p.m.)
BEYOND GAY: THE POLITICS OF PRIDE (LMAC, 6:30 p.m.)
This look at Pride festivals around the world gives new context to our own annual celebration. As Atlanta has fussed in the past several years with location and date, Prides in other countries are plagued with violent protests and stringent legal restrictions. Co-presented by Atlanta Pride. — Bo Shell
ROLE/PLAY (LMAC, 8:25 p.m.)
At a Palm Springs resort a closeted soap star (Steve Callahan) who’s been outed by a sex tape meets a gay marriage activist (Matthew Montgomery) who’s getting divorced. With a lot of talking points to make about the impact of their situations on the community, writer-director Rob Williams has the actors recite them in various stages of undress, often in bed. Followed by Q&A with director Rob Williams and actors and real-life couple Matt Montgomery and Steve Callahan.
Top photo: ‘Ella Undone’ (Publicity photo)