The Best LGBT Films of 2014
As the weather turns cooler, the days grow shorter and the memories of another great summer pass through our minds; it is time to look ahead to all of the wonderful things autumn and winter bring to Rehoboth. One of the activities synonymous with November on the Eastern Shore is the annual Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival. This year the Festival takes place November 5-9. While you can expect the same great quality of films, there are a few changes that are very exciting. Film screenings will begin at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, November 5, allowing for a full day of films on the Festival’s opening day and again on Thursday, November 6. Also new, in addition to the Movies at Midway, this year we will be expanding to the beautiful auditorium at the Cape Henlopen High School. Once again we thank CAMP Rehoboth for being a Sponsor of this event which brings people from more than twenty states to the beautiful coastal area of southern Delaware.
As much as things change, many things remain the same. The Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival has always been committed to including the best in LGBT films and this year is no different. With comedies and dramas, narrative and documentaries, and the ever-popular 10% Shorts program, there really is a little something for everyone. While all of the films will hopefully appeal to the LGBT community, here are those films that would be considered gay films or have a plot that would make a film of particular interest to the community.
Sixteen-year-old Billie is blindsided by the news that her mother is planning to transition from female to male and that, during this time, Billie will live at her father’s house. Billie and her mother have always been extremely close, so the two make an agreement they will meet every Tuesday during their year apart. As her mother transitions and becomes less emotionally available, Billie covertly explores her own identity and sexuality with two older schoolmates, testing the limits of her own power, desire, and independence. Director Sophie Hyde’s methodical, but organic, approach to filmmaking results in a deeply authentic, bittersweet, and textured experience. The fictional 52 Tuesdays was shot on a regimen of chronological Tuesdays, allowing the characters to develop and evolve visually and emotionally, their natural highs and lows unfolding before us. The role of technology becomes central as both parent and child use modern tools to document and alter their lives, impelling themselves, and everyone around them, to arrive at a place of naked honesty.
For Shirin, being part of a perfect Persian family isn’t easy. Acceptance eludes her from all sides: her family doesn’t know she’s bisexual, and her ex-girlfriend, Maxine, can’t understand why she doesn’t tell them. Even the six-year-old boys in her moviemaking class are too ADD to focus on her for more than a second. Following a family announcement of her brother’s betrothal to a parentally approved Iranian prize catch, Shirin embarks on a private rebellion involving a series of pansexual escapades, while trying to decipher what went wrong with Maxine. Written and directed by Desiree Akhavan (who also stars), Appropriate Behavior introduces a gray area to the LGBT coming-out narrative; in an Iranian-American family, sharing information about one’s sexuality isn’t always the right approach to liberation. With her priceless deadpan delivery, Akhavan’s portrayal of Shirin is the film’s true revelation. She is a woman caught between self-doubt and self-possession, trapped in a web of family mores and societal expectations with all their accompanying, and often-hilarious complexities.
Cupcakes (Bananot) (4)
In order to forget the stress of their daily lives, a group of friends in a Tel Aviv suburb get together to watch Universong, a Eurovision-like television song contest. Yael is a former beauty queen unfulfilled by her job; Dana is a stressed-out aide to a cabinet minister trying to please her traditional father; Anat has a successful bakery but an unsuccessful marriage; Keren is a shy blogger; Efrat is a frustrated singer-songwriter; and Ofer is a nursery-school teacher who is upset that his boyfriend, is still in the closet and won't publicly acknowledge their romance. When the Universong finale rolls around, they gather to watch and are depressed by the lackluster Israeli entry, a parody of many recent offerings, a flashy, grating song about "amour." After they realize that Anat is distraught over the crisis in her marriage, they compose a song to cheer her up. As a lark, Ofer enters their cellphone video of it in next year's contest, and it becomes Israel's entry. Cupcakes is infectious and glorious escapism with light and catchy music. It is like taking an extravagant 90-minute vacation from reality, and who couldn’t use a vacation these days?
In 1972, John Wojtowicz attempted to rob a Brooklyn bank to pay for his lover's sex change operation. The story was the basis for the film Dog Day Afternoon. The Dog captures John, for the first time, telling his story in his own unique, offensive, hilarious and heartbreaking way. Drawing upon extraordinary archival footage, the film shuffles between the 1970s and the 2000s. We gain a historic perspective on New York's gay liberation movement, in which Wojtowicz played an active role. In later footage, he remains a subversive force, backed by the unconditional love of his mother Terry, whose wit and charm infuse the film. How and why the bank robbery took place is recounted in gripping detail by Wojtowicz and various eyewitnesses. Filming began in 2002 and the long-term dedication pays off in this unforgettable portrait capturing all of the subject's complexity: he is, by turns, lovable, maniacal, heroic, and self-destructive. To call him larger than life feels like an understatement.
A nurturer by nature, cute, 18-year-old Lake is in what seems to be a successful relationship with impassioned, feminist girlfriend Desiree. But underneath the placid surface, Lake has a particular fetish; He is attracted to much older men, possessing a penchant for pensioners, if you will. When his boozy mother, Marie, secures him a gap-year job as an orderly at the Coup de Coeur nursing home, Lake strikes up a romance with octogenarian Melvyn Peabody, who springs to life when his young lover begins replacing his meds with martinis. As people discover their secret, the sexual outlaws head out on a fugitive road trip, and before long, their relationship no longer seems as unusual as it first appears. Don’t be frightened by the presence of Canadian trash-art provocateur and director Bruce LaBruce. Gerontophilia is as sweet and pleasing as his earlier works were hardcore and confrontational. Wiser than he used to be, LaBruce rolls out a beautiful and charming tale of love beyond prejudice. Gerontophilia is an unapologetically queer update of Harold and Maude, sure to get a rise...and tears...from generations new and old.
Straight Paige (Gillian Jacobs) and lesbian Sasha (Leighton Meester) are codependent best friends in their late 20s who have spent the last ten years acting more like wives than friends: they talk to each other on the toilet; they drive each other to the doctor. And as with any good marriage, they’re a perfect yin and yang. Until the night Paige meets Tim (Adam Brody). Despite some superficial drawbacks, he’s the kind of guy you marry. As Paige and Tim’s relationship grows, the bond between Paige and Sasha inevitably shifts. Suddenly without a “partner,” Sasha is left to examine her own shortcomings and panic about her impending 30th birthday. Passive-aggressive conflict brews in their friendship until the girls must finally confront the question they’ve been avoiding: can their friendship survive growing up? With a hilarious supporting cast including Gabourey Sidibe, this riotous look at love and courtship in L.A. reminds us that, gay or straight, we're all in the same leaky love boat together! Susanna Fogel directs this female-driven comedy, filtered through the indescribable complexities of female friendship.
The sudden death of a young London man named Kai leaves his headstrong Chinese-Cambodian mother, Junn, and his boyfriend, Richard, each in a personal and profound state of grief. Feeling a strong sense of responsibility toward Kai’s only family member, Richard reaches out to Junn, who has been biding time in an assisted-living home. Though Junn speaks little English, her dislike of Richard is plain, and she meets him with stony resistance. Since they share no common language, Richard hires a translator to facilitate communication, and the two improbable relatives attempt to reach across a chasm of misunderstanding through their memories of Kai. Writer/director Hong Khaou’s intimate debut feature film dances between the real and imaginary to express the unspeakable loss that both characters experience. Quiet and spare, Lilting boasts delicate performances by Ben Whishaw and legendary Chinese actress Pei-Pei Cheng, who sustain a palpable sense of discomfort when in each other’s presence onscreen. Lilting is a perceptive meditation on the path to connection between two human souls and reveals that what separates us can also bind us together.
Love is Strange
After 39 years together, Ben and George finally tie the knot in an idyllic wedding ceremony in lower Manhattan. But when news of their marriage reaches the Catholic school where George works, he is fired from his longtime job, and the couple can no longer afford their New York City apartment. As a temporary solution, George moves in with the two gay cops next door, while Ben moves to Brooklyn to live with his nephew, Eliot; Eliot’s wife, Kate; and their teenage son. As Ben and George struggle to secure a new apartment, the pain of living apart and their presence in two foreign households test the resilience and relationships of all involved. Propelled by exquisite performances from John Lithgow as Ben and Alfred Molina as George, with robust support from Marisa Tomei, this subtle, yet profound, drama is suffused with gentle humor and will shake audience members to their cores.
Tru Love (8)
Tru, 37, is a serial bed-hopping lesbian who cannot commit to a relationship too long. Restless by nature and wounded by the past, she seems to live from mattress to mattress, with no anchor to ground her. She gets by on her wits, her good looks and charm, but at her age, it is starting to wear thin. Then she meets Alice, 60, a beautiful widow, who has come to town to visit her daughter Suzanne, 35, a too-busy corporate lawyer who is a friend of Tru’s. Tru agrees to meet Alice and let her into Suzanne’s house, for which she mysteriously has a key. Sparks fly and Alice and Tru begin forging an unlikely friendship… and more. Suzanne, who has a deeply conflicted relationship with her mother and a complicated and a secret past with Tru, becomes increasingly alarmed at the growing bond between Tru and her mother. After Suzanne witnesses an intimate moment between them, feeling jealous and threatened, she tries to sabotage the budding romance. But it backfires, as true love is hard to contain.
The Way He Looks (Hoje eu quero voltar sozinho) (6)
Set to the bouncy beats of pop sensation Belle and Sebastian, this euphoric, sun-kissed coming-of-age fable, dances entirely to its own tune. Stuck fending off bullies and over-protective parents, Leonardo spends his days allowing his best friend Giovana to drag him around town. Being blind has always been an inconvenience for Leonardo, but his angsty adolescence gets a lift when the handsome and smooth-talking Gabriel turns down numerous offers from ogling girls to hang with Leonardo after school. The longer they spend together, the more apparent their shared attraction becomes, not just to them but to a spurned Giovana as well. As social pressure mounts on both to fit within their confined social boxes, the two must decide whether to ignore their feelings or to throw caution to the wind and admit that they might actually be falling in love. Whether you have seen Daniel Ribeiro's short film I Don't Want to Go Back Alone or are just meeting this charming trio of teenage friends at the heart of his feature-length adaptation, it will be hard to resist The Way He Looks.
Alone With People - Growing up gay in the South, a high school girl seeks the help of a therapist to come out to her family and friends. A poignant coming-of-age story told with humor and compassion.
Cruising Electric (1980) - The marketing department green-lights a red-light tie-in to the Al Pacino starrer Cruising. Sixty lost seconds of modern movie merchandising is the best ever!
Dinner at 40 - A gay man turning 40, brings out all the emotions: the panic, the doubt, and the supposed loss of his youth. The only celebration he wanted was a quiet evening at a restaurant with a small group of his closest friends. What he got was unexpected dinner guests, crazy friends, a hot ex, cocktails, and a drag queen.
Jellyfish - Danica, a fourteen year-old fisherwoman and breadwinner for her family, tastes first love with Riya, a mysterious transgender woman who arrives in the village one day. However, Danica’s desire becomes complicated when she soon discovers that it is her father who Riya really wants.
Safe Word - Safe Word is a short gay comedic thriller in which a young gay couple decides to spice up their relationship and find themselves in peril when fantasy and reality start to blur.
Secrets and Toys - In this sexy, fun and whimsical romp about the balance of familial expectations and sexual liberation, secrets are exposed and identities are revealed in the last places you'd ever expect.
Tom In America - For 50 years, Michael and Betty have been united by one guiding principle: no secrets. But when a provocative Tom of Finland doll triggers Michael’s long-buried desires, Betty discovers that secrets have been part of their life all along. Starring Sally Kirkland and Burt Young.
And while not classified in the traditional sense as an LGBT film, the following film does have a character and plotline that would be of interest to the community…and it is charming and funny as well.
Barri (played with great aplomb by indie darling Sophia Takal) and Noah (a hilarious and adept performance from director Lawrence Michael Levine), a newly engaged Brooklyn couple, are disheartened by the death of their elderly downstairs neighbor, Sylvia. Though Noah sees nothing unusual about the old woman's death, Barri suspects foul play and sets out to investigate, enlisting her roommate Jean to join her on a reconnaissance mission to trail a possible suspect. Tensions mount, however, when the investigation uncovers unsettling secrets throughout the building, including in their own apartment, and suddenly everyone seems like a reasonable suspect. As if the pressures of big city living and an impending marriage weren’t enough, there just might be a killer loose! A highly entertaining and carefully crafted film that gleefully and smartly references the likes of Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery and Peter Bogdanovich’s What’s Up Doc? and their genre-classic forbearers, while maintaining a thoroughly modern sense of life in the 21st century. Wild Canaries is a freshly comedic take on classic film noir and brings a unique sensibility to a high-stakes murder mystery.
Looking forward to seeing you at this year’s Festival!