GLBT Highlights of the 2008 Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival
|November 5-9 - Film Festival Fever: Catch It!
It's hard to believe that another summer has come and gone, but with the passing of summer we move one step closer to the eleventh Rehoboth Beach. Independent Film Festival. This year there is no shortage of films aimed at the appreciative GLBT audience. While we hope everyone will enjoy all of the amazing films, we have highlighted below the films of special interest to the GLBT community.
The Amazing Truth about Queen Raquela
A Filipina "lady-boy" blessed with extraordinary beauty and grace, Raquela Rios makes her living by walking the streets and serving a clientele with exotic tastes. Alas, this self-proclaimed queen dreams of far bigger and better things, so when she's recruited by a fellow transsexual to join the lucrative world of internet porn, Raquela puts on a nurse's uniform and dives in headfirst. Her online popularity skyrockets, and soon she's off living a life of odd adventures such as traveling to Iceland, working in a fish factory, and finally, fulfilling a lifelong dream to see Paris. And once the site's New York-based owner takes a shine to her and visits her in the City of Light, Raquela may even find true love. Part fact and part fairytale, Olaf de Fleur Johannesson's dazzling docudrama blends gritty vrit and fictional flights of fancy to chronicle this truly transtastic character's life. Actors trade lines with sex-industry professionals, key moments are recreated with a certain dreamy liberty, and you're never sure whether you're watching reality or fantasy. What's never in doubt is the sense of empowerment that Raquela, playing herself, natch brings to every encounter and interaction in which she engages. Winner of this year's prestigious Teddy Award at the Berlin Film Festival, Johannesson's tribute to Rios truly earns the titular adjective; it's amazing from start to finish. All hail the Queen!
Breakfast With Scot
Only in Canada can you mix homos, hockey and family values. Breakfast With Scot is a light-hearted and touching comedy starring TV hunk Thomas Cavanagh (Ed and Scrubs) as Eric, an ex-hockey player turned sportscaster with memberships in three gyms. Eric is one of those gay guys who would describe himself as "straight-acting" in a personal ad if he weren't too busy acting straight to place the ad. Though not out at work, Eric is living the perfect gay life at home with his lawyer boyfriend Sam (the handsome Ben Shenkman of Angels in America and Law & Order) But their closet paradise is threatened when a long lost friend dies and Eric and Sam are told they have custody of her 11-year-old son. Eric fears the arrival of a rude and messy brute who, before they know it, will be swiping beers from their refrigerator and deflowering girls on their 500-thread-count sheets. What they get instead is Scot (the charming Noah Bernett), an "artistic" waif who sings Christmas carols out of season, spells his name with one 't' and likes to give everything, including his pee-wee hockey uniform, "a little more sparkle." Can these uptight gay dads learn to love their sissy son? Or will Eric's reluctance to "be gay", or even be seen in public with Scot, stand in the way?
Drifting Flowers (Piao Lang Qing Chun)
Drifting Flowers is an alluring Taiwanese love story skillfully woven together in three parts. Each set in a different time period, the story's heroines unabashedly seek their true identities in balance with the worlds in which they live. In the first scenario, 8-year-old Meigo is literally the eyes for her blind sister Jing, a responsibility she loves to have. Every night after school she carefully walks her big sister to a singing gig at a local bar. One night, a new accordion player named Diego joins the backup band. Both Meigo and Jing soon fall for this suave butch dyke, and the bittersweet love causes friction for all. The second scenario is a beautiful story of loss and rekindled friendship. Lily quietly struggles alone with Alzheimer's, longing for the day when her missing girlfriend Ocean will walk through the door. Instead, her long lost cross-dressing pseudo-husbandreminiscent of her lovershows up on Lily's doorstep. Their fragmented friendship grows beautifully into an inseparable bond that tugs at the heart. Coming full circle, the third segment features Diego during her teen years, fighting her traditional family, binding her breasts and falling in love for the first time. Brilliant director Zero Chou (Spider Lilies) deftly merges these bittersweet personal journeys as they navigate finding their place in the ebbs and flows of life.
Seventeen-year-old Jesse lives in Newcastle, the center of Australia's booming coal industry and home to some of the country's most beautiful surfing beaches. The stark contrast of these surroundings encapsulates Jesse's choices in life: will he become the champion surfer his older brother Victor failed to be, or will he follow in Victor's footsteps toward bitterness and self-destruction? As Jesse grapples with his own self-sabotaging tendencies, his twin brother Fergus struggles with his own sexuality while trying to fit in with Jesse's surfing crowd, and Victor strives to overcome rage due to his failed dreams. When Jesse and Fergus decide to sneak away for a weekend to camp out and surf with a group of friends, they set off a chain of events that could change their lives forever. After Victor unexpectedly arrives on the scene, new relationships are formed, friendships are altered, and the brothers may never see each other in the same way again. Writer and director Dan Castle crafts an impressive feature debut, combining the ravishing elements of surfing movies with a compelling family drama. The cast is an incredible ensemble of up-and-comers that make both the visceral surfing sequences and tender emotional scenes seem effortless. While the brothers' complicated relationship forms the crux of the film, the waves and the beaches of Newcastle can also rightly claim a starring role.
The New World (La Nouveau Monde)
Lucie and Marion are in love and as their relationship grows, so does Lucie's desire to experience motherhood and to share that experience with Marion. The prospect of starting a family brings mounting complications for these two beautiful, young women living a fast-paced life in Paris. Everyone has an opinion for them: Their friends, their coworkers and their families all feel compelled to weigh in on the best road to take, or whether to begin the journey at all. When the happy couple finally takes the plunge, the hopes and dreams that once brought them together begin to pull them apart. Soon, there are more questions than answers in this warm and witty exploration of a modern family's origin. What role, if any, will the father of their child play? Is a father even necessary in the world of a contemporary lesbian couple? As the due date approaches, Lucie's maternal instincts surge, while Marion begins to question her place in the life she thought she had all figured out. With their lives on the verge of changing forever, they seek approval from their families, watch friends struggle with their own children and try to overcome financial insecurities. But until the old world catches up to them, it's up to Lucie and Marion to make this new world they've entered their own.
Save Me is a subtly nuanced and deeply sympathetic look at both sides of one of the most polarizing religious and sexual debates in America: the conflict - and possible reconciliation - between homosexuality and Christianity. Mark (Chad Allen, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman) is a young gay man who is addicted to sex and drugs. After a particularly nasty binge his brother checks him into Genesis House, a Christian retreat in New Mexico miles from anywhere. Run by a compassionate husband and wife team, Gayle (Judith Light) and Ted (Stephen Lang) have made it their life's mission to cure young men of their 'gay affliction' through spiritual guidance. At first, Mark resists, but soon takes the message to heart and begins to bond with his fellow residents...in particular Scott (Robert Gant, Queer as Folk), a mentor charged with guiding Mark through his conversion. As their friendship evolves into romance, Mark and Scott are forced to confront their true selves, while Gayle and Ted find the values they hold as absolute truths to be threatened. Powerful, restrained performances and a provocative yet believable plot bring light to this contentious subject and offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity.
The Secrets (Ha-Sodot)
The Secrets is a profound story of love between women at an isolated Jewish seminary in Israel. Naomi is a passionate devotee of the Torah, but her Orthodox family has arranged for her to live out her years in domestic servitude as a wife to a stern student. She convinces her rabbi father to allow her to study at an all-women's seminary (or midrasha) in ancient Safed, the birthplace of Kabbalah, where the pious have studied the mysteries of Jewish mysticism since time immemorial. There she meets the cool, strong-willed Michelle - sent there by her parents in an effort to tame her wildness - and they become fast friends. Soon the two are assigned to visit and feed a dying and reclusive older French woman named Anouk (Fanny Ardant), who lives near the midrasha. Sparks fly between the two young women as they endeavor to redeem Anouk from her tumultuous and terrible past through an elaborate series of Kabbalistic rituals that will cleanse the older woman of "the secrets". By the time the rituals are complete, none of the women will be the same, as they are torn between religious devotion and desire. Avi Nesher brilliantly tackles subjects taboo to a conservative community, including feminism, sexual awakening and lesbianism. Each character is tormented over what is right and what is seemingly wrong.
Thanks to global warming, humanity may be approaching its end soon. Unfortunately the general public seems to feel they've heard enough about this, and are bored with the subject. There remains only one reliable pathway to still reach peopleCOMEDY! In the great tradition of movies like Dr. Strangelove (for atomic warfare), Life Is Beautiful (the Holocaust), and M*A*S*H (the Korean War),Sizzle uses the comedy of a mockumentary/reality show/documentary hybrid to examine a deadly serious issue from a different, lighter perspective. Director Randy Olson plays himself, an uptight filmmaker on a mission to tell the scientific truth about the state of the planet.The film comes complete with a Hummer driving cameraman who interrupts interviews to say that he thinks global warming is a scam, an endless quest for a celebrity host, and - more centrally - experts who don't agree on much of anything. To make the film even more interesting is the fact that Olson uses experts on each side of the argument and uses their words to help us make up our minds on the potential devastation caused by global warming. Ranging from silly comedy to sharp satire to eye-opening reality, Sizzle provides a fresh take on the most vital issue facing humanitythe destruction of mother earth.
Three very different women weave a fragile bond at their local steam room, where they hope the hot water vapor might wash away their loneliness, confusion and fear. During her first year at college, Elizabeth (Kate Siegel) questions her sexual identity and struggles to break free from her strict Catholic parents. Middle-aged Laurie (Ally Sheedy) is a single mother dealing with the psychological games played by her ex-husband and the potential problems in a relationship with a much younger man. And recent Academy Award nominee Ruby Dee (American Gangster) gives another award-worthy performance as Doris, an older woman facing feelings of despair and emptiness after the death of her husband. When she meets another man, she opens herself up once again to the vulnerability of giving one's heart to another. Unbeknownst to them, these women share many of the same struggles and joys and separately learn to find strength, joy and beauty in their unique circumstances. By interweaving the stories of their individual journeys, director Kyle Schickner shows how age, race, class and religion have little to do with matters of the heartultimately, we all want the same things: love and happiness. At times playful and uplifting and other times heartbreaking, Steam speaks to the universality of human experience and the resilient spirit that allows us to rebound from struggle and emerge triumphant.
When her two moms uproot her from the comfortable trappings of a San Francisco upbringing for a generic Southern California suburb, high school sophomore Tru despairs. Surrounded by homophobic football players, Paris and Nicole wannabes and a doting but closeted English teacher, Tru escapes into fantasy: She daydreams of living in a 1950s black-and-white Leave It to Beaver-like household (with two moms and two dads, no less) and imagines herself as a benevolent Maria in a Jets-versus-Sharks dance sequence. Astonished to win the attention of the town's star quarterback, Tru soon realizes that her new "boyfriend" is simply another closet case. While protecting her appearance-wary friend by putting on a public front, Tru finds an outlet for her frustrations with her homogeneous high school peers by co-founding a chapter of the Gay-Straight Alliance. But now she must reconcile her very public positions on sexual orientation with her private "gentleman's agreement." Tru Loved is an examination of one adolescent's courageous ability to counter small-town small-mindedness, broaching tough issue interracial dating, gay parenting, school-sanctioned homophobia that the average after-school special eschews. And, in the end, Tru actually finds true love. This family-friendly film features appearances by Bruce Vilanch, Alec Mapa, A Different World's Jasmine Guy, Best in Show's Jane Lynch and David Kopay the first openly gay professional athlete!
Were the World Mine
Timothy is a gay boy stranded in a private, rugby-obsessed boy's school. But there's just one thing about rugby he's obsessed with: the ber-hot Jonathan. Both boys are students in Ms. Tebbit's English class. She's a teacher with a mission: to excite her students with the literature of the ages. When she decides to cast these two boys as the romantic leads in her production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, you know she's just as mischievous as Puck himself. The rugby coach and townspeople are up in arms, and Timothy sends himself off into musical gay fantasies that look as if they're designed by Pierre et Gilles. But Timothy just can't get the language right, and Ms. Tebbit advises the boy to let the words work their magic. They do just that as Timothy finds in the script the recipe for a potion to make people gay! One spritz from Timothy's magic pansy and the person goes totally queer. The entire town (filled with Christian fundamentalists) is whipped into a frenzy as the glorious production night approaches. This deliciously surreal confection is steered by first-time co-writer/director Thomas Gustafson, whose award-winning 2003 short Fairies inspired this bit of magic. The musical numbers are over-the-top, production values are first-rate and the acting is as flawlessly beautiful as the boys. We know the Bard would appreciate this totally queer take on his immortal tale of mayhem.
The World Unseen
Early apartheid South Africa is an unlikely place to be free. Yet here's Amina scandalizing her conservative Indian community by living as she pleases. They gossip about her wearing men's clothes and taking women lovers; they wonder if she'll ever marry. Furthermore, Amina owns a successful caf with her "coloured" business partner, Jacob. To skirt the law, they pretend he is just an employee. Into this haven of rebels comes young wife and mother, Miriam, who stuns Amina with her shy beauty. Their immediate mutual attraction surprises them both. Seeing such a self-possessed Indian woman makes Miriam think and feel things she hasn't before. She discovers just how imprisoned she is in her traditional marriage and starts to look for ways to have her own voice and enter the larger world. As the two women get to know each other through a series of driving lessons, passion ensues, and events soon force them to stand up to the ever-vigilant and volatile apartheid police. Bringing her award-winning novel to the screen, director Shamim Sarif gives us fully realized characters resisting dehumanization in a touching story of the daily fight for liberation and its immediate rewards, where the beauty of the surrounding land belies the turmoil in a system built on fear, hatred and separation.
XXY, Luca Puenzo's accomplished debut, explores the painful search for gender identity of Alex, a hermaphrodite, as she enters adolescence and is pressured by her parents to "choose." Alex's ambiguity is painfully apparent. She is forced to think about having her penis removed when her parents invite a surgeon to their home in an isolated area of the Uruguayan coast. He comes to visit with his wife and son, lvaro. Alex and lvaro strike up a friendship and it soon emerges that they are equally confused and curious about sex, sexuality and gender. At the same time, they are obviously much less confused and fearful than their parents, whose prejudices often unknowingly hurt their children. Alex's father, Kraken, is the only adult who tries to understand the difficult choice facing his child, and the only one who grasps the true nature of Alex's relationship with lvaro. Gracefully shot, including many scenes on deserted beaches, XXY tastefully explores its subject matter with as little adornment as possible silences and atmosphere communicate much. The film's most astonishing trait is its openness and lack of judgment as it tackles this difficult, emotional topic. Moving and forceful, XXY virtually demands that people be given freedom of choice in a tolerant and understanding atmosphere.
10% SHORTS: I Won! I Won!So here is a collection of GLBT shorts that have been deemed the best of the best at film festivals throughout North America. Dire StraightsTwo women discuss their reservations about the way that they are dressed (like a straight bride and groom) on their wedding day. Congratulations Daisy GrahamIn this passionate and empathetic short, the local high school is honoring 70-year-old Daisy Graham, but she has more important things on her mind: her mentally ill long-term partner. No Bikini At seven years old, Robin decides to go without her bikini top at a summer campwith surprising results! WrestlingA love story about two wrestlers who must keep their relationship a secret from the inner world of Iceland's national and very macho sport. I'm Jin-YoungJin-Young, an irrepressible little girl, falls in love for the first time. Cowboy Christian, a young city boy meets a cowboy in a small village, but unlike the easy going attitude of most little villages, life isn't so easy in this one.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 14 October 10, 2008