Celebrating 13 Years in Rehoboth Beach
It’s almost here—the 13th anniversary of the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival (Nov 10-14). The Festival features a wonderful selection of American and international features, documentaries, and shorts. If you are primarily interested in LGBT films, below is a list of ten features and one documentary which will be included in this year’s Festival. If you don’t like films, read the last paragraph for non-film Festival events.
A Marine Story
A Marine Story stands up to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell honestly with this unflinching look at the policy’s effects on gays and lesbians in uniform. When a decorated Marine officer unexpectedly returns home from the war, she’s quickly recruited to help a troubled teen prepare for boot camp in this brave new film starring Dreya Weber (The Gymnast). Alex Everett (Weber) hasn’t been telling, but the Marine Corps is definitely asking. Despite a terrific record, promotions have been slow to come, her sham marriage isn’t fooling anyone, and her commanding officer has pictures of her getting close with a “good friend.” She returns home to her dry, desert home and meets a fiery teen, Saffron (rising star and out actress Paris Pickard), whose choices are boot camp or a life of drugs and prison. But who said prepping for boot camp would be easy? As Alex whips Saffron into shape during the long, hot summer, the reason for Alex’s dismissal from the Corps threatens the future for both of them. The leading duo shines: Weber combines Alex’s hard and soft sides with confidence and quiet power, while gorgeous newcomer Pickard stands out from a solid cast with impressive acting chops. The film is a heartfelt commentary exploring the effect of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, distilling the political down to the intimately personal.
[Dir. Ned Farr, 2010, US, DVD, 93 mins]
Awards: Outfest Jury Award Best Film and Best Actress (Dreya Weber), Outfest Audience Award Best Film
Children of God
The sun-kissed Bahamian streets and beaches evoke an escapist paradise, but there’s a cloud over the land. In Kareem J. Mortimer’s tender, tough and altogether touching drama, a nasty current of outspoken and religiously endorsed homophobia shadows two young men on their path out of the closet. Jonny, an awkward and awfully cute painting student, is “banished” by his instructor to the remote island of Eleuthera to focus on his work and find his voice. But first he finds Romeo, a handsome, self-confident guy who shows Jonny the scenic spots…and a bit more. Romeo’s got a girlfriend, however, as well as a blustery mother who willfully ignores any clue or hint he drops to set her straight. Meanwhile, Leslie, a pastor’s wife, has also made her way to this distant spot to contemplate her future in relative calm. Tired of her husband spouting high-and-mighty, anti-gay rhetoric at rallies, while refusing to own up to the cruelty and contradictions in his private life, Leslie has a decision to make. Children of God boasts glittering scenery and a rock-steady soundtrack, but Jonny, Romeo and Leslie’s high-stakes dilemmas captivate as the human drama takes center stage. Mortimer has crafted an engrossing character study with real social comment and gorgeous cinematography.
[Dir. Kareem J. Mortimer, 2010, Bahamas, video, 104 mins. In English]
Awards: Audience Award Torino GLBT Film Festival
With a healthy dosage of captivating drama and passionate sex and romance, Elena Undone combines the enchantment of falling in love for the first time with the reality and responsibilities of long-term commitments. Before crossing paths with Peyton, falling for a woman was an unimaginable situation for Elena, a straight wife and mother. The friendship between Peyton, an “out” lesbian writer, and Elena, the wife of an anti-gay pastor who has never experienced true love, transforms swiftly from a one-sided crush into a torrid extramarital affair. Despite their attraction, Peyton, jaded in a number of ways, has strong reservations about becoming involved with a married straight woman; Elena, recognizing that she is caught in a loveless marriage, can barely begin to rationalize the nature and magnitude of her desires. As their relationship evolves, Elena confronts the choice of leaving her husband, or ending her involvement with Peyton to save her already unraveling and unrewarding marriage and to return to a drab and automated life. Above all, Elena faces the looming challenge of convincing Peyton that the two women have a bright future together despite their unfavorable circumstances. Writer-director Nicole Conn (Little Man, Claire of the Moon) confidently tackles issues of religion, sex, family and commitment in this contemporary story about star-crossed lovers and the walls between them.
[Dir. Nicole Conn, 2010, US, video, 111 mins.]
Eyes Wide Open
Originally premiering at Cannes, Eyes Wide Open is a taut tale of forbidden love. Equal parts first-rate independent art cinema and fascinating anthropological study of a tightly-knit conservative community, the film sparks against the backdrop of an Orthodox Jewish community in Jerusalem. Aaron runs a kosher butcher’s shop. When he hires Ezri (Israeli heartthrob Ron Danker), he is confronted by feelings he thought he dispensed with long ago. Steeped in the codes of religion, each interaction between Aaron and Ezri is rife with underlying tension. From its first frames, Eyes Wide Open establishes an array of impassioned emotions and a slow burn of unspoken eroticism that satisfyingly smolders throughout the lenth of this amazing film. With a surprising economy of means, director Haim Tabakman manages to communicate the intense stakes for the two men. The paranoiac community is insular, where one’s status is always scrutinized, “purity police” pay visits, and contradiction and vice continuously threaten one’s very soul. The beautifully measured film at surface matches the necessarily sober, reserved demeanor of the film’s characters. And, equally so, just a thin layer below resides a burning ring of anxiety that haunts every interaction.
[Dir. Haim Tabakman, 2009, Israel, 91 mins. In Hebrew with English subtitles]
I Killed My Mother
Hubert Minel is a typical teenager in almost every sense: he is narcissistic, has mediocre grades, experiments with drugs, is defining himself sexually, and he hates his mother. Although “hate” does not aptly describe Hubert’s feelings—he is consumed by his loathing. He hates the way his mother eats, the way she drives, pretty much any and everything she does intensifies Hubert’s disgust, and he has no problem showing it. His mother, Chantale, is an equal player in their constant bickering. With his home life in shambles, Hubert finds solace at his boyfriend’s house and in the company of an understanding teacher. But, when Hubert is unwittingly outed to his mother, their already-strained relationship hits a breaking point. The characters’ interactions are familiar to anyone who has endured the uncertainties of adolescence. At times this is a wickedly humorous film as writer-director-actor Xavier Dolan delicately balances the blame between mother and son with realistic dialogue befitting an angry teen, but also with the eye of a blossoming adult who is starting to know better. Chantale and Hubert are the same—both with quick fuses and an inability to communicate—just as love and hate can be the same. I Killed My Mother is a complex drama about how relationships constantly regress, change and grow, and how easy it is to get lost along the way.
[Dir. Xavier Dolan, 2009, Canada, video, 100 mins. In French with English subtitles]
Awards: Grand Prix Cannes Film Festival, Jutra Award, Best Director, Best Canadian Feature, Vancouver Film Festival, Best Film Toronto Film Critics. Nominated as Best Foreign Film in the Academy Awards
Out of Annapolis
The prestigious U.S. Naval Academy is distinguished by its clean-cut male and female students in crisp uniforms who are excited by the opportunity to serve their country. But how many of them are LGBT, and what is their experience at the Academy? Filmmaker and former Navy submarine officer Steve Clark Hall asks, and eleven gay and lesbian alumni tell. With humor and charm, former officers share their struggles and triumphs in these candid stories of coming out and coming to terms with their sexuality during their service.
[Dir. Steven Clark Hall, 2010, DVD, 73 mins]
Purple Sea (Viola di mare)
In 19th century Sicily, rebellious Angela is considered to be possessed by evil and must endure brutal beatings by her father, the quarry master. When her best friend Sara is forcefully transferred to the mainland, Angela is left in the dreary village. Years pass and Sara returns. Their childhood friendship deepens and eventually they give in to their shared passion for one another. When Angela’s father insists she marry a successful quarry worker, she defiantly refuses, stating that she will marry Sara instead. Her father responds by imprisoning her in the cellar, where other family secrets are buried. Fearing the loss of her only child, Angela’s mother blackmails the town priest and offers her husband the son he always wanted; Angela must become Angelo. As a man, she is free to marry Sara and assume her father’s commanding position. The village is forced to accept the union or risk losing favor with the powerful church and possibly, jobs at the quarry. Struggling to shed her identity as a woman, Angela benevolently wields her newfound power, but in order to give Sara the child they both long for, she must cope with the jealousy and tragedy that threatens their love. Based on a true story, this taut epic is as intricate as Italian lace.
[Dir. Donatella Maiorca, 2009, Italy, 35mm, 105 mins. In Italian with English subtitles]
Young Sasha, studious and musically talented, is the beloved child of his Montenegro-born parents. But he’s got a secret crush that’s about to throw his life into chaos. With a clash of cultures and generations, Sasha is a refreshing take on the coming-out story, bravely addressing homophobia in a Balkan immigrant family. Sasha is beginning to take those first few momentous steps out of the closet, but he’s nervous about an upcoming audition for a prestigious music school, he’s beset by a powerful crush on his piano teacher, Mr. Weber, and he’s taunted by his younger, more athletic brother Boki. Sasha first comes out to his best friend, only to find her confused and upset as she’s been hiding strong feelings of her own for Sasha. His parents are loving and somewhat permissive but still retaining cultural prejudices against homosexuality. Pulled in all directions, Sasha’s relationship with his family comes to a violent head, only to be saved by an unexpected ally. Writer/director Todorovic juggles all these romantic conflicts and familial dramas with an effortless touch, while presenting a multi-ethnic Cologne with subtlety and nuance. The film boasts a winning cast of leading and supporting actors, who negotiate easily between comedy and drama. There is still vitality in coming-out stories, as Sasha shows us with soul.
[Dir. Dennis Todorovic, 2010, Germany, video, 102 mins. In German, Serbian, Croation and Bosnian with English subtitles]
The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister
Quite simply put, the film is a based-on-fact tale of an early 19th century English gentlewoman who “preferred the fairer sex” and recorded her conquests in a coded diary. But get ready—this is no decorous, Jane Austen costume drama. Anne and her beloved Mariana are sneaking off into the woods for a clandestine dalliance in the first five minutes and even manage a romantic bathtub scene. Nor is Mariana alone in succumbing to Anne’s charms. The independent Anne cruises girls in church and favors the classic pickup line, “Are you fond of Byron?” The lush, BBC-produced film charges ahead at a lively pace as Anne juggles fickle lovers, jealous best friends, sinister coal mine owners, and estate improvements. As her uncle’s only heir, Anne possesses unusual independence for a woman of her time, and makes good use of it, pursuing “manly” pleasures like reading Greek and practicing her shooting. When Anne declares she will never marry, and instead seek a female companion, her resigned aunt comments, “I suppose a lady will know what pleases you better than a man.” Which lady does Anne have in her sights? Heart-breaker Mariana? Faithful friend Tib? Miss Walker, the wealthiest heiress in the county? Audiences will cheer as Anne manages to carve a lesbian life for herself in an era so pre-Stonewall it seems as far away as the stone age.
[Dir. James Kent, 2010, UK, video, 90 mins]
Awards: Best Feature Frameline San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Best Feature, QFest, Philadelphia Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
Sister Smile (Soeur Sourire)
The end of the 1950s, on the outskirts of Brussels. Like the rest of the young generation of the time, Jeannine Deckers has a thirst for freedom and adventure. There’s no question of her following the path her parents have chosen for her—finding a husband and taking over the family bakery. She wants a different life. After toying with art studies, she enters a convent and quickly finds out that being a Dominican nun is a difficult vocation. It requires giving up one’s passions, including music. But she’s not prepared to do this. The other sisters don’t understand her, but with the blessing of the Mother Superior, she sticks to her dream and writes a global pop hit: “Dominique”. For audiences around the world, Jeannine became “Sister Smile”, also known as the Singing Nun. She was a worldwide sensation and sold millions of records. Her success was compared to that of Elvis Presley, and the single outsold both Presley and the Beatles. Struggling to reconcile her faith and her newfound fame, Jeannine leaves the convent and attempts to continue her career as a rock star. The film traces the unique and deeply moving story of this young girl who never gave up. Whether you are familiar with Deckers or not, her life as a nun, pop star, early feminist and tormented lover is bound to capture audiences as much as the woman herself.
[Dir. Stijin Conix, 2009, France, 35mm, 124 mins. In French with English subtitles]
Miguel and Mariela are a happily married couple, well-respected in their small seaside fishing village and looking forward to the imminent arrival of their first child. Miguel genuinely adores his devoted wife, yet also carries on a clandestine affair with handsome drifter Santiago, a painter of sensual nudes who is euphemistically referred to as “Prince Charming” by the village gossips. Santiago yearns to celebrate his love openly, while Miguel insists on secrecy for fear of jeopardizing his domestic bliss. As the story takes an otherworldly turn, rumors force Mariela to question her husband’s sexuality, and Miguel must accept his dual nature in order to refute Santiago’s angry claim that “There are thousands of ways of being a man, and you are none of them.” Stunning views of Peru’s Cabo Blanco coast provide an appropriately stormy backdrop to the tempestuous emotions of the three protagonists. As its ominous title suggests, Undertow dives far below the seemingly placid surface of self-identity and family ties, churning up waves of passion—and a fateful accident—that overwhelm the film’s bisexual love triangle. This Sundance award-winner enchants with unforgettable seascapes, and director Javier Fuentes-León eschews melodrama to present a transcendent romance in his remarkably-assured feature debut. With moving performances by some of Latin America’s star actors, Undertow makes it easy to get swept away.
[Dir. Javier Fuentes-León, 2010, Peru, 35mm, 100 mins. In Spanish with English subtitles]
Awards: Audience Award, Best Film Sundance Film Festival, Audience Award, Best Film Miami International Film Festival, Audience Award, Best Film San Sebastien Film Festival.
Website: www. contracorrientelapelicula.com
If you enjoy the short film, then 10% Shorts is just for you. This seven film series is mostly light-hearted with a couple of head-scratchers in the mix.
For those who don’t enjoy films or need a break from marathon film watching— the Festival has something for you. The Live in the Lounge hosts beer tastings, dancing, henna art, and other events. For more information about this and all you need to know about the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival, visit www.rehobothfilm.com.