GLBT Highlights of the 2005 Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival
|by Bridin Reynolds|
|If illuminating diversity is the charge of all media, filmmaking has perhaps the best potential to literally deliver that light in the darkness. Not an easy admission for a journalist, but the dimensional and intense imagery brought to us through moviesparticularly independent moviesoften does trump the written word.
In recognition of that power, The Rehoboth Beach Film Society annually assembles an intriguing and distinctive bevy of films. The 2005 Rehoboth Beach Film Festival, slated for Novem-ber 9-13 at the Movies at Midway, looks to be a film lovers browsing utopia.
Through months of effort the RBFS procured hundreds of filmsincluding many honored at the Sundance Film Festival; Venice International Film Festival; Toronto Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival. The lineup showcases films of all genres and provides numerous opportunities to experience films not readily available in our region such as foreign language films, and gay and lesbian films:
"When I began reviewing the program notes, I was struck by the consistent excellence of this year's films. I think filmgoers are going to be hard-pressed to make decisions," said Beth Hochholzer, RBFS Board of Directors President. Hochholzer cited the strong presence of stellar Latin American films as a true coup for the festival.
"I've been told in the past that this is a hard market to break into, so our efforts are beginning to pay off," said Hochholzer. "The good news is that even for those who are not able to get their first choices, there seem to be no losers in this bunch."
RBFS Managing Director Sue Early concurred. "For a great festival experience include second and third choices as part of your film selection. Many times the best film experience is not one's first choice," she said. "Be open to seeing films that are outside of your regular box. Talk to others about what films they have seen. Not only will you get valuable feedback, you may make a new friend."
The following are descriptions of films of special interest to the GLBT community.
In Cote D'Azur the Mediterranean wind churns the azure sea in the background as a complicated family tale unfolds. As the story begins, central characters Marc and Batrix have traveled with their two teenage children to the seaside house of Marc's youth.
While their daughter has a rendezvous with her biker boyfriend, their son Charly, roams with his best friend Martin, who is in love with him. Batrix is sensitive to the undisclosed, erotically charged atmosphere that exists between the boys, and imagines that her son is gay.
When Batrix's lover Mathieu shows up, and Marc's old flame Didier appears under the most unexpected circumstances, complications escalate and the vacation collapses into hilarious chaos.
Co-director Jacques Martineau of France calls the film a delightfully quirky comedy which not only serves as an ode to a certain joie de vivre but also opens up another chapter in the book of love, commitment and family.
An official selection of the Sundance Film Festival, and Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize winner at national festivals, Loggerhead is inspired by true events. Considered by critics to be unflaggingly true to life in its subtlety, the film charts the course of an adoption triadbirth mother, child, and adoptive parentsas they struggle to bridge the gaps of time, space, and culture that separate them.
In the small town of Eden, a minister's wife played by Tess Harper must confront her conservative husband, who has enforced a harsh estrangement from their adopted son since they've learned that he's gay.
Renowned actress Bonnie Hunt plays the birth mother. Listless and disappointed in life, her character Grace makes a last ditch decision to search for the son she was pressured into giving up for adoption as a teenager. Mark, played by Kip Pardue, is a longtime drifter strangely fascinated with loggerhead sea turtles. Mark crosses paths with George, a fixture of his quiet beach community, who for a time provides him the support and companionship he's been starved for.
Their stories interweave to create a portrait of familial detachment and longing that is at once universal, and steeped in the keenly observed looks and rhythms of three distinctive settings across North Carolina. Directed by American talent Tim Kirkman, Loggerheads confronts middle-American intolerance and austerity without condescension, but in a manner no less biting, and ultimately heartbreaking.
MRS. STEVENS HEARS THE MERMAIDS SINGING
Octogenarian actress Lucy Brightman portrays poet and author Hilary Stevens in the film adaptation of May Sarton's most popular novel, Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing. The book was a groundbreaking novel in the mid-'60s for its sympathetic treatment of lesbianism. Sarton's notoriety eventually faded, and over the years she published several volumes of poetry, journals and memoirs that met with somewhat less fanfare.
The 70-year-old writer, who in the 1920s shocked two continents with her novel about love between women, grapples with her reemergence into fame and its demands on her time and privacy.
Brightman's character is visited by two ambitious young reporters who are asking the question that everybody seems to want to know: Who's the Muse? The question sparks a series of flashbacks to the times when she has found inspirationinspiration that has always come from women. In reflection of her Muses, she reaches new levels of self-acceptance and appreciation of her integrity as an artist and a lesbian.
Beyond shining the light on May Sarton's fine work, Ohio filmmaker Linda Thornburg has turned Sarton's literary life and loves into an exploration of the creative process and true inspiration.
MY SUMMER OF LOVE
Distinguished by multiple awards, this film vibrantly charts the emotional and physical hothouse effects that bloom one summer for two young women. Behind a spiky exterior, newcomer Natalie Press's character Mona hides an untapped intelligence and a yearning for something beyond the emptiness of her daily life. She meets Tamsin, played by Emily Blunt, a well-educated, spoiled, and cynical character. Seemingly complete opposites, each is wary of the other's differences, but this coolness soon melts into mutual fascination, amusement, and attraction.
Adding further volatility is Mona's older brother Phil (Paddy Considine), who has renounced his criminal past for religious fervorwhich he tries to impose upon his sister. Mona, however, is experiencing her own rapture...but can Mona completely trust it?
Critics call this tale of obsession and love a cinematic gem based on remarkable performances, lush cinematography and subtle directing by Pawel Pawlikowski, one of Daily Variety's "10 Directors to Watch" in 2005.
Based on the acclaimed novel by Scott Heim, Mysterious Skin explores the hearts and minds of two very different boys who come to find the key to their future happiness lies in the exorcism of their collective demons. Critic Roger Ebert calls it, "At once the most harrowing and, strangely, the most touching film I have seen about child abuse."
Portrayed by Joseph Gordon Levitt, character Neil is the ultimate beautiful outsider with a loving but promiscuous mother played by Elisabeth Shue. Neil is wise beyond his years and curious about his developing sexuality, having found what he perceived to be love from his Little League baseball coach, played by Hal Hartley veteran Bill Sage. Ten years later, Neil is a teenage hustler, nonchalant about the dangerous path his life is taking.
The second lead character Brian Lackey, played by Brady Corbet, is a troubled 18 year-old, growing up in the stiflingly small Kansas. Plagued by nightmares, Brian believes that he may have been the victim of an alien abduction. Neil's pursuit of love leads him to New York City, while Brian's voyage of self discovery leads him to Neil who helps him to unlock the dark secrets of their past.
In this romantic comedy, 28-year old New Yorker Wilhelmina "Wil" Pang is juggling a promising career as a surgeon and her responsibilities as a dutiful daughter. Like the #7 train she takes to visit her Chinese family on a weekly basis, Wil is perpetually in transit between two worlds. The expectations of the Flushing, Queens society she is from and the desires that alienate her from it have made Wil content to live below the surfaceeven if it means playing an inadvertent game of charades with her widowed mother, portrayed by Joan Chen, and the old world Ma represents. The masquerade is comic even in its pain as Wil tolerates Ma's weekly set ups with eligible Chinese-American boys at the Friday Chinese socials, but it quickly becomes a farce when Ma's mask cracks first.
One night, Wil comes home to find Ma on her doorsteppregnant. Disgraced by the Chinese community, and with no where else to go, Ma moves in with her daughter, making it difficult for Wil to nurture a budding relationship with gorgeous dancer Vivian (Lynn Chen). As her carefully compartmentalized worlds collide, Wil is forced to find her mother a husband, placate her girlfriend, and choose between breaking a cycle of keeping up appearances, or risk losing the girl she loves.
Saving Face is the story of unspoken loves, contemporary and cultural taboos, and the journey of two women towards living their lives honestly.
THE FAVOR/EL FAVOR
Boasting critical recognition and international awards, this is the story of two Argentinean women on the verge of lesbian motherhood. Mora and Roberta are desperate to have a child. With no scruples or hesitation they work out a plan: Roberta will seduce and have sex with Felipe, Mora's brother. Felipe, Javier Lombardo, seen in Intimate Stories, is a hermit who lives in Patagonia and, coincidentally enough, earns his living by artificially inseminating turkeys. He arrives at Mora's house with no hint of his sister's plotor the fact that she's a lesbian!
But sure enough, things won't go smoothly. Felipe isn't easily seduced, and when an unexpected visitor arrives, the plot turns colorful and wacky. Non-stop demented twists and turns make El Favor a giddy and delightful politically incorrect comedy. On the more serious side, it's a film that proves that starting a loving family can take many forms.
A story about love and fear, about race and sexuality, about truth and compromise, and about the courage of being faithful to oneself, The Reception earned raves at The Tribeca Film Festival.
A wealthy French woman, and her best friend and partner Martin, a gay black artist, share a complex life and relationship in upstate New York. Two people mired in loneliness and driven together by the same perceived predators, men, they play out their nightly saga of despair with gaiety and quiet fortitude. Jeannette is the life of the party, burying her sorrows and regrets in alcohol and daily confrontations. Martin, the most frequent casualty of her outbursts, is by contrast quiet and introspective, spending his time painting in his private studio and cleaning up after his partner's destructive habits. Still there is great love and affection between the two.
Jeannette's estranged daughter Sierra and her new husband appear and shatter their fragile existence, however. Only interested in collecting an inheritance she had been promised, Sierra's relationship with her mother is strained, at best. But instead of allowing Sierra to take the money and run, Jeannette decides to throw the couple an impromptu wedding reception. As the reception nears, Andrew and Martin start peeling away the first layers of untruthfulness. Lies, motives, flaws, and deceptions melt away to reveal that nothing, and no one, is as it seems.
THAT MAN: PETER BERLIN
With his trademark Dutchboy haircut, Tom of Finland physique, and oh-so-tight trousers, Peter Berlin was the poster boy for the hedonistic and sexually-liberated 1970s. Jim Tushinski's fascinating portrait, That Man: Peter Berlin, traces Berlin's story over the past 40 years, from his birth in wartime Germany to his current life in San Francisco, and shows the human being behind the icon.
Photographed by Robert Mapplethorpe, filmed by Andy Warhol and lusted after by countless gay men, Berlin was more than just a piece of eye candy. A talented artist, photographer, and filmmaker, he starred in two underground gay erotic classics from the early 1970s, Nights in Black Leather and That Boy, which he also directed. But his biggest creation was "Peter Berlin," a carefully constructed, unattainable icon awash in eroticism.
In this film, his many fans and friends, director John Waters, author Armistead Maupin, adult film legend Jack Wrangler, and photographers Rick Castro and Dan Nicoletta amongst them, offer their reflections on Berlin and the time period.
Most illuminating and exciting is the extensive commentary by Berlin himself, still looking remarkably boyish in his early 60s. Tushinski's interviews are complemented by archival photos and film clips that reveal the full scope of Berlin's impressive body of work.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 14 October 14, 2005