A punky blue-haired music store employee gets butt nekkid in the front yard of a straight-laced admirer. A gay Brit has to "come out" to his activist mother about shagging a female friend. The most beloved rockin’ transsexual this side of The Rocky Horror Picture Show is demystified.
Just a few of the sights and sounds beheld at the 2002 Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, which wrapped 10/24 after seven fabulous days, a record 63 programs, and slews of high-profile premieres.
I had the pleasure of serving on the festival’s shorts-program committee over the summer. Every week an eclectic group of queers got together to screen every (and there were oodles – digital technology run amok) under-30-minute film submitted to the festival; in August we made our final selections, and spiffy programming director Jason Plourde did his magic. The result: twelve shorts programs that ran the gamut of the elusive and undefinable "gay experience."
As good as they were, I stayed away from the shorts at the festival. (Hello, I’d seen ‘em all.) Instead I used my handy-dandy Staff pass to see some of the features and special programs I’d heard so much about. Highlights included:
LUSTER. Northwest-produced eye candy. Lots of sexy nude boys. And I mean lots. Sigh. Oh, the plot? Unrequited love all around: blue-haired Jackson wants a pretty young thing he met at a party, who wants Jackson’s straight cousin, who wants Jackson’s lesbian coworker. And lots of people want Jackson, including his troubled boss and a vanilla Young Republican customer.
SHOWBOY. Actual Six Feet Under writer Christian Taylor plays a fictionalized version of himself – he gets fired from the show and tries his hand at becoming a Las Vegas showboy. In the SLGFF program book I wrote that ultimately it’s a "charming story of fortitude, fortune, and the inexplicable power of dreams." Yeah, that.
STRAIGHT. Filmed version of Stranger writer David Schmader’s hilarious one-man show about his first-hand experience with conversion therapy – the process whereby gay homosexuals are allegedly transformed into straight heterosexuals. It’s hysterical stand-up, mixed with documentary reportage, with a heapin’ dash of social critique. What’s great is that no one gets demonized – the message is more anti-dogma than anti-conversionist.
I LOVE YOU BABY. Muy caliente Spanish film about a hot country boy who moves to beautiful Madrid (I’m jealous Dana enters the picture and… well, see it. Yeah, it’s wacky, and heavy on the !), falls hopelessly in love with another hot boy, then gets a nasty knock on the noggin and wakes up straight as a rail. retty soon Boy George enters the picture and… well, see it. Yeah, it’s wacky, and heavy on the Almodóvar stylistic homages, but big fun.
The fluidity-of-sexuality theme continued in my favorite program of the festival, BOB AND ROSE. ‘Tis a smashing 6-episode British TV series by Russell T. Davies (creator of the original Queer as Folk) in which a gay late-twenties Manchester lad falls in love with someone who happens to be female. I knew going in that it would take a lot to make this premise pay off, and that I’d be a tough nut to crack re believability. But the payoff was glorious, and believe I did. This is heavenly drama – a serialized story about so much more than relationships or sexuality or the quest for love. It’s about the twists and turns of life and longing – a universal text. I remember thinking that even my mom would love it. (And not just because she hopes I’ll settle down with a nice girl someday.)
I wish more people had given it a chance. Disappointingly, the Cinerama was less than half full for the first three-episode program, and the conclusion was even more poorly attended. Which suggests that a lot of people couldn’t get past the premise, and those that did weren’t open to the outcome. Damn shame. A few days after the screening I ran into tireless festival director Justine Barda, who shared my concern. It seems that we take our acceptance as queers for granted, but at this point in our evolution we still want things to be relatively clear cut, black and white, gay and straight. This is why there’ll never be an American version of Bob and Rose.
But we’re incredibly fortunate to have the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival to bring us programs like this – international queer cinema that steps beyond boundaries to challenge notions of our identity, of ourselves.