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“Pray Away the Gay” May 9, 2012

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Protest against Love In Action

Yesterday evening, I attended the showing of a feature-length documentary at a small screening room (45 seats) in one of the ancillary theaters of the festival. The documentary, although well made, sported the klunky title, This Is What Love in Action Looks Like, referring to a program of Christian “reparative therapy” practiced on self-hating adults and hijacked minors.

A teenager is Memphis had blogged his unhappiness to his friends about being forced by his Christian parents to enroll in a residential brain-washing program, part of the Exodus movement, that seeks to turn people away from homosexuality through shame and fear. This sparked continuous protest amongst his friends (also Christians), who forwarded his blog post and organized daily demonstrations outside the program, called Love In Action. Their main beef was that, 1) you can’t change people’s sexual orientation, and 2) forcing minors into “straight camp” brainwashing is a form of child abuse. The protests eventually gained nationwide media attention, sparking a change of heart in the director of the program (an ex-gay himself) and leading to the shutdown of the residential program for minors. (The “ex-gay” movement is still going strong, however. Michelle Bachman’s husband, Marcus, runs a Christian counseling center in Minnesota that seeks to “pray away the gay.” Nasty queens claim he needs to butch up plenty himself.)
As I said, the feature-length doc was well-done, using web-based graphics to tell its story. The sophistication of even modestly-funded documentaries these days is quite heartening. Where this will end up is anybody’s guess. My straight friends liked it well enough but felt it was all advocacy and slighted potentially interesting issues that fell outside the ideological program. Before the closing credits, the filmmaker put in a scrolling text about how advocates of “reparative therapy,” most notably Exodus International, refused to be interviewed. But the filmmaker himself was part of the protest, and it was evident what his point of view was going to be. I wouldn’t have agreed to be interviewed for such a hostile project myself.

Boston LGBT Film Festival, Day 5 May 8, 2012

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“T’Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness” Goes to Boston

I arrived yesterday (day 5) in Boston and made my way quickly to one of the screening venues of the festival, the historic Brattle Theatre smack in the middle of Harvard Square. I had come with a friend I was visiting in Rhode Island, Jeff Clark, who is a ski buddy but has also been an active Episcopalian. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay man to be elected as a bishop, was scheduled to be present Monday night at a screening of the documentary about the struggle of the Anglican church to come to terms with its faggots. The full-length documentary, Love Free or Die (Robinson is the bishop of the New Hampshire diocese) was quite good, a PBS-style follow-the-protagonist documentary funded by the Ford Foundation, ITVS, and others. It won an award at the Sundance Film Festival and will be aired on PBS later this year. So it had all the good production values, and the story turned out to be rather gripping as well. The director, Macky Alston, comes from a religious family himself; his father was a Presbyterian minister who initially rejected his son’s homosexuality. (Relented later, however, and married his son to his partner of 11 years.)

There was a panel afterwards with Robinson, two doc directors, and two multicultural religious experts (one Chinese, one transgendered)–a bit self-congratulatory but also heartfelt and well-meaning. Robinson himself was warm and funny and–I hesitate to use the word, but–wise. Though I’m inoculated against religion myself and have never felt the need to belong to that kind of community, millions of people do, and it is one place to promote social change. (Organized religion actually played a progressive role in the abolition movement of the 19th century and the civil rights movement of the 20th.) The American Episcopalian church recently voted in favor of the consecration of LGBT bishops and the blessing of same-sex marriages within the church, a debate which was effectively documented in the movie. This puts the North American church at odds with the many conservative congregations on this continent and especially in the Southern Hemisphere (notably Africa) who have defected from the Anglican structure or who are seeking “realignment” (basically autonomy within the church). It’s all very interesting, and, for me, all very much beside the point. One of the women priests in the film was crying because, as she said about accepting same-sex unions, “pastorally it’s a no-brainer, but I can’t bring myself to go against 2,000 years of continuous Biblical teaching.” Really? So a woman who couldn’t even be a priest, according to the Bible, is tying herself up into emotional knots because she can’t let go of some verses in Leviticus which the church hasn’t repudiated. (She doesn’t seem to have a problem disregarding the strictures about slaves and multiple wives). Gene Robinson had a cute label for this kind of textual fundamentalism, “biblolotry.” But as much as I like the religious progressives I’ve met, religious discourse leaves me cold. And organized religion has been dragged by secular activism into the extension of civil rights for gays; it has not been in the forefront.
The Boston LGBT Film Festival looks to be a majorly well-organized event. It lasts 10 days, has organized venues at museums and theaters, and is punctuated with interesting events. For example, there will be a Scifi Night and Reception on Wednesday. Looks like I’ll be attending under the pseudonym “Robert Phillips” as a result of a mistake in the program (a beautifully glossy production), but Robert Phillips is only 51. There’s always a silver lining.

Hot Springs, Arkansas November 24, 2011

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Hot Springs postcard

AN AMERICAN BADEN BADEN?

What was the first land reserved by the federal government for the protection of a natural resource? If you answered Yosemite (1862) or Yellowstone (1872), you’d be wrong. In 1832 the federal government set aside undefined parcels of land to protect a hot springs in the Ozark Mountains that puts out over 700,000 of odorless water a day.

I’m going to date myself here, but those of a certain generation will remember a really stupid TV show from the 1960s called The Beverly Hillbillies.

Come and listen to a story of a man named Jed.

A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed

Then one day he was shootin’ at some food

When up from the ground came a bubblin’ crude.

Oil, that is . . . black gold . . . Texas tea.

And so the stereotype of the American rube, the Ozark Arkie, became forever enshrined in American popular culture. I’ve never visited the Ozarks, so I don’t know how distorted the popular conception is, but I can tell you from the four days I spent in Hot Springs for their annual documentary film festival that this town doesn’t adhere to my preconceptions of fundamentalist fear and prognathous facial features. But, because of its history as a spa town, Hot Springs, I suspect, has always been a slightly bluer enclave in a deeply red portion of the country.

Bath House Row

Much of the downtown area is a national park. After the original inhabitants, the Quapaw Indians, generously ceded the land to the United States (no doubt preferring some inhospitable Western reservation in return), the hot springs area was taken over by the federal government in 1832. Up until the late 20th century, federal oversight was lax, and the remarkable springs were commercially exploited in the chaotic and colorful ways of 19th and early 20th century capitalism. The town of Hot Springs grew from a raw frontier outpost, to “sophisticated” European spa wannabee, to Ozark Babylon and gambling haven (a gangster museum celebrates that piece of its heritage), to its current incarnation as a local arts center, camping Mecca, and tacky tourist destination. Although the wonderful 20th century buildings of Bathhouse Row have been preserved, taking the waters is but a minor activity.

The vulgar tourist dimension was visible enough, but since I was there as a guest of the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, I had a chance to see the town’s artsy side. And the physical setting is beautiful: tree-covered hills turning into the reds and golds of fall. The National Park service makes sure that the historic bath houses are properly maintained and has turned one of them into a museum of 19thcentury bathing practices, a confounding combination of upper-class fantasy, quackery, and medical practice.

Bathhouse skylight

THE “N” STANDS FOR NAPOLEON

Oddly enough, I have a family connection to this resort town in the Ozarks: a hospital is named after my paternal great great uncle, Leo N. Levi. (Nobody current knew what the “N” stood for.) Old World Jews were familiar with the idea of spas as places of healing, and both the wealthy and the poor came to Hot Springs in the early 1900s for extended stays. The local Jewish community (now much diminished) was overcome with requests for housing and transportation, so the B’nai B’rith stepped in, authorizing the construction of a hospital facility in 1910. Its illustrious president, Leo N. Levi, had died of a heart attack six years earlier, and the hospital that finally opened its doors in 1914 bore his name.

Hot Springs is a large town, but it’s still a town, and the vaunted six degrees of separation are reduced to two, or at most, three. When I told the film festival volunteer who picked me up at the airport of my family connection, she had her friend, Donna Casparian, who works there, contact me at a reception the evening of that same day. The next morning, I was given the grand tour of Levi Hospital by its CEO, Patrick McCabe.

As you might guess from the CEO’s name, Levi Hospital has drifted away from its Jewish roots. Although there are still Jewish memorabilia in various spots (mezeuzot, a menorah in the window of the old front entrance), I had to explain to this Scotch Irish descendent that the year 5763 inscribed as the erection date referred to the Jewish calendar. With typical Southern hospitality, Patrick, on short notice, took almost two hours out of his schedule to show me around, treated me to lunch at the modest hospital cafeteria, provided me with documents relating to the hospital’s history, and gave me a thin hardback book on the topic as well as a paper weight.

Busted with my great great uncle, Leo N. Levi

As for the family connection, you will see a picture of me with the bust of my great great uncle. [Leo and me.] Also the same multi-generational family portrait of the Levi patriarch, Abrahahm (Victoria, TX), which I had framed for my stairwell also hangs in the hospital meeting room. Other than that, not much.

In 2003, motivated by curiosity about the Texas branch of my family (my father never talked about our Texas relatives), I took a trip to San Antonio, Victoria, Galveston, and Houston to do some research in the local libraries. On the Levi side of things, Uncle Leo is far and away the most prominent of my ancestors.  Though his father was a typical Jewish-merchant-turned-banker, Leo was sent to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville to be turned into an American gentleman. It worked. Even though he remained Jewish, Uncle Leo hewed closely to the model of American cultural and business success. (His classmate, writer Thomas Nelson Page, based the character of the noble Jew, Wolfert, on Levi.) He settled in Galveston as a prominent lawyer when that town was the biggest and most important in Texas. Elected national president of B’nai Brith in 1900, Levi moved to New York in that year, thereby missing the hurricane that still counts as the deadliest natural disaster ever to hit the U.S. (some 2500 dead).

Part of Uncle Leo’s fame stemmed from his windy gifts as a Victorian orator. In a time when public speaking was considered a form of entertainment, Levi’s prose was particularly orotund. I have in my possession an 1879 letter that Leo wrote to his sister, Rosa, upon learning that she was betrothed to the San Antonio merchant, my great grandfather, Moses Haas. And I quote: “… it is natural that I should rejoice when one so near to me as you are has entered the radiant avenue that leads to the temple of Hymen; and I am the more disposed to rejoice at the step you have taken, when I reflect that your chosen spouse is one so eminently fitted to make your life a long succession of happy days.”

Top that, Kanye West!

“UNCLE SAM BATHES THE NATION”

Such was one of the slogans used to promote the city. But Uncle Sam was a racist. African Americans had to open up their own baths in 1905 because they had no access to the waters otherwise. However, they were extensively used in their familiar menial capacity. And, for those yearning for the pleasures of Jim Crow service, you can still have that experience at the Buckstaff Baths. (Pun intended?) This was an aspect of Southern tourism I couldn’t pass up.

Bathing has sadly fallen out of fashion in Hot Springs. Only two bath houses are currently in operation, one modern one (been there, done that) and the Buckstaff, which has been in continuous operation since 1912 – hasn’t been upgraded since then either.

The Buckstaff opens at 7:00 a.m. and closes at 3:00 p.m. Strange hours, but if you want to avoid the crowd, you have the option of going really early. I arrived around 8:30 on a Monday morning and had the place to myself. And it was an odd experience. After dropping off my valuables at the front reception, I was led to an area of small dressing rooms, also with lockers. The Black dressing room attendant then took me back to the bath area where I placed under the care of Jim (!), an older Black man who shepherded me through the various stages of the Traditional Bathing Package ($68) without ever meeting my eyes. I was given towels with which to drape myself, but since the bathing areas are sex segregated, nudity was clearly the norm. The bathing area itself was out of another era: white small-tiled floor, stalls with marble dividers but no doors, iron tables, everything rusty and careworn but spotlessly clean. Everything white white white except for the attendants.

I began with a whirlpool soak in a clawfoot bathtub, made to drink a few cups of the water to demonstrate its lack of mineral taste. At the end of 20 minutes, Jim came with my purchased loofah and scrubbed me down: arms, back, legs. I knew better than to attempt conversation. I was then led to the stall where I enjoyed my sitzbath and an unimpeded view (no doors, as I said) of the bathing area. On to the needle shower, a Jules Verne-looking set of pipes that peppered my body with thin sprays. More drying off, then Jim wrapped me in hot towels as I lay supine on a table. By this time I was ready to give up on the cultural anthropology and just submit to the hedonism of the experience.

After the towel wrap, Jim led me to another part of the building where the massage rooms were located. My masseur was an interesting and voluble émigré from Roumania. I turned a 20-minute massage into a 30-minute one by simply getting him to talk about his life story. I had now left the traditional South and was back in familiar multi-culti territory.

Image+Nation, the Montreal LGBT Film Festival November 6, 2011

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Image+Nation will be 25 next year. For some fifteen plus years, the festival has been run by a lesbian couple, Charlie Boudraeau (francophone) and Katharine Seltzer (anglophone). Like the couple themselves, the festival is completely bilingual, as is the city of Montreal. I’ve spent a lot of time in francophone countries, but being in Montrealwith its perfect mastery of the two languages is a new experience for me. And the festival programming reflects the city’s dual linguistic heritage. Films in French and English, without subtitles, are routinely screened in the same program. My own film, for example, which is not subtitled in French, is playing with an equally monolinguistic French documentary, Louis(e) de Ville, Portrait d’une bad girl.

Image+Nation looks like a successful festival and well-established institution. The festival spans twelve days with two, sometimes three, simultaneous screenings. Most of the programs take place atConcordiaUniversity, which has an enormous screen and good sound system. The theater doubles as a classroom, so the seats also have fold-down wooden writing tables, an acceptable substitute for cup holders. The crowds are good. The big theater seats 300 and has been close to full more often than not.

Moi with festival directors Katharine Seltzer (r) and Charlie Boudreau(l)

This is not a festival that brings in a lot of film makers, though it does a few. When Charlie and Katharine heard I was attending, they offered me three nights at an elegant gay B&B. There are two other directors here as well, though I’ve only met one other, Steve Lewis, another San Francisco resident (works at The Chronicle, actually) who is travelling with his fourth feature film (Longhorns, a gay comedy). One night Charlie and Katharine invited the directors in attendance (two locals and one guy from Los Angeles) to a late dinner at one of the sponsoring restaurants, and I had a chance to talk to them over a beef and horse mix of steak tartare about the programming process. They’re both smart and sophisticated in their film tastes (only what you’d expect). They love “T’Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness” and have put it in the shorts competition. I don’t think it has a chance, since it is the only documentary, but it’s quite a compliment to be nominated.

The best thing about Image+Nation is the wide international net that it casts. At American festivals, I’ve seen the same “big” films programmed again and again. And I have to say, they don’t knock me out. The best feature films I’ve seen at this festival are ones I haven’t seen elsewhere: a black Israeli comedy entitled Joe & Belle (subtitled in English); an equally black French drama, Notre Paradis (no subtitles) about murderous rent boys in a passionate affair; a fascinating, complex glimpse into Tehran’s upper and political classes entitled Circumstance (subtitled in English). Actually Circumstance won the Sundance U.S. audience award for drama this year. See it when it comes to a theater near you.

Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival — Day 1 October 24, 2011

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I’m having a bit of a Burning Man experience here: my mind is mildly blown by my introduction into a new world to which I have gained unexpected access. The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, now in its 20th year, is seriously about the documentary genre. All of the film makers are documentarians, documentaries are the principal topic of conversation, and the audience—inhabitants of this middling town in the Ozark Mountains —love documentaries. That’s what blows my mind. For ten days from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. two, sometimes three screens show documentaries simultaneously, and from the shows I’ve been at, they’re well attended, garnering audiences of between 40 and 80 people.
My own screening took place at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. There were 60 to 70 people in the audience. I was part of a program that included a bad short short (6 minutes) and a beautifully shot black-and-white documentary aboutNew York subway performers. The director of the bad short and I fielded questions for a good 15 minutes after the screening, and people continued coming up to me the rest of the day to tell me how much they liked (or wished they had seen) TNB.
The HSDFF is a bit of a shaggy dog, unkempt and extremely lovable. It’s all about the filmmakers and their films. The financial resources are not great, but, this being the South, the hospitality is unparalleled. Filmmakers love coming to this festival. There are parties, workshops, and receptions throughout the week. The festival provides hospitality to broke filmmakers; I’ve been given my own down-at-the-heel condo for the four nights I’m in town. A couple of rooms in the upstairs of “the historic Malco theater” are reserved for filmmakers and well stocked with snacks, refreshments, and even hard liquor. The historic Malco theater itself might be uncharitably described as “old” rather than “historic”: unrenovated, well used, but with two medium sized screening rooms that always have people in them. This year the festival is screening 110 documentaries of various lengths (chosen from over 700 submissions), and each doc receives two screenings.
On any given day there seem to be at least 10 filmmakers in attendance. That’s pretty impressive for such a small film festival. All of us showed up at 6:00 that day in one of the screening room for a visiting filmmakers forum, and we had an audience! The filmmakers range in experience from seasoned pros (one guy from Baltimore worked as a shooter for The Wire) to newbies at their first film festival. And we ended up having a pretty interesting discussion about the documentary as a genre and where it fits in to the current cultural landscape. Love of the genre suffused the room, both in the passion of the filmmakers and the interest of the audience. I was—have I said this before?—blown away. When I am at LGBT or mainstream film festivals, documentaries are usually the stepchildren of the film family. Narrative films are prized above all. Not in Hot Springs. There is a Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute: threadbare offices next to “the historic Malco theater” that operates year ‘round with an archive of 15,000 films.
That evening saw a reception at an art gallery with live music (no tip jar!), lots of delicious food, and the leather art of Winfed Rembert newly installed. More on him later; he was not only in attendance but the subject of a documentary that screened the next day. At the reception I met a woman who works as a physical therapist at the Hot Springs hospital named after my great great uncle, Leo Napoleon Levi. She urged me to call her the next morning so she could arrange for me to be taken around.
I ended the day at a bar hosting a performance of a heavy metal band, Slow Southern Steel, that had been the subject of a documentary screened earlier that evening. Three ear splitting numbers later, I packed it in and called it a night.

The Pittsburgh International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival October 21, 2011

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They claim it’s the fifth or sixth oldest in the country, and at 26 years, they might be right. And it’s a long one, stretching over 10 days. It gets all the big films populating the film festival circuit this year (Gun Hill Road for the men; Hannah & the Hasbian for the women). It benefits from good business support, a cadre of dedicated volunteers and the tireless leadership of its president and programming chair, Mitchell Leib. Also, its printed program is worthy of an A-list festival, glossy and beautifully produced.

 

And yet, the PILGFF is second-rate, as Mitch ruefully confessed during our first conversation. There is no expectation that filmmakers will come, and when they do, not much is made of that. Unlike Rochester, a smaller town by far, the film festival draws only middling crowds, provides no accommodations to visiting filmmakers, and its film festival events seem to be limited. (I was only in attendance from Monday thru Wednesday, so can’t really judge the quality of the parties.) The film festival trailer preceding each showing was lackluster (Rochester’s, by contrast, was fabulous—in both the superlative and queer sense).

 

As I’ve frequently remarked, film festivals provide a reflection of their respective communities, and if Rochester, though small, bespeaks a remarkable intersection of homosexual community and film fandom, I’m not sure what the PILGFF says about Pittsburgh. Perhaps that the place is big enough to provide money and resources but that the centrifugal demands of a fast-paced urban life (so much to do! so little time!) have fragmented the community. The venue provides a spacial metaphor. Southside Works Cinema is a gleaming, new multiplex in a soulless, renovated section of Pittsburgh’s  gentrifying south side. The audience watches the films in the 21st-century comfort of large screens and stadium seating, yet upon exiting the screening room, the generically Hollywood setting—eye-popping carpets, attractive posters of current attractions at the 9 other screening rooms, brilliantly huge concession counter—obliterates any sense of individuality or community the films might have created. One becomes, has always been, a pampered consumer.

 

(Once again, by contrast, the Rochester film festival took place in two characteristic venues: the quirky downtown art theater, small and unrenovated; and the large modern screening room connected to the George Eastman house.)

 

“T’A’in’t Nobody’s Bizness” showed with an eclectic mix of other shorts in Wednesday night. Around 65 men and women scattered themselves around the large screening room—really a respectable number for a week night. The Q&A was lively, a good 2/3 of the audience stayed for that, and, as usual, I fielded most of the questions. The reaction to the short was quite positive. (But, of course, anybody with a negative opinion would keep it to themselves.)

 

Another filmmaker was present, a New York graduate of Hunter College who made a personal documentary about his small-town family’s slow move toward accepting the presence of his long-term partner. The documentary was so-so—a good subject amateurishly handled (he said loftily)—but the filmmaker was excited to be there, and I ended up having a fascinating discussion with his partner as we sat in a bar afterwards. (Scott was pretty much a white guy who had been adopted by middle-class Black parents, so you know I found his story way more interesting than the one that had been told on screen.)

 

I was in attendance with my “nephew” (actually a cousin), Jeremy Philipson, who is in his last year at Carnegie Mellon Institute. He had persuaded three of his classmates to go as well, so I was part of a student pod, great fun. Since they were straight, shorts that I found tiresome in their “please-accept-us-we’re-human-too” message struck home with them. Good! I think LGBT film festivals should sponsor “bring a breeder night” with special programming, free admission for straight companions, and raffle prize copies of Loving Someone Gay.

Image Out–The Rochester Lesbian and Gay Film Festival October 10, 2011

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My posse at the Image Out screening

It’s a good one, really one of the best I’ve attended. The prestigious LGBT film festivals—Frameline (San Francisco), Outfest (Los Angeles), New Fest (New York)—are associated with big cities, but ImageOut of Rochester, NY lasts 10 days and boasts the same line-up. Of course it doesn’t have the big names (Chaz Bono of Becoming Chaz showed up for the screening of his documentary at Frameline) nor do the programmers of other film festivals attend to see what they might solicit for their own, but the programming is top-notch, the community support, unparalleled, and the vibe is wonderfully hospitable. (The film festival put me up in the downtown Radisson for a couple of nights.) A 10-day festival is no joke to put on, and ImageOut does so with the help of over 100 volunteers. The excellence of the programming is due to the hard work and enthusiasm of its programming co-chair, Micahel Gamilla, a charming and seemingly tireless film buff. Other board members work hard at their functions AND hold down full-time jobs. The end result is an upbeat and well-run event, one that everyone seems delighted to be involved with. I got a fair amount of love and respect as a film maker, but the work I put into my short pales in comparison to the efforts of ImageOut’s principal movers. Over and over I said, “I’ve been to a lot of film festivals, and this is one of the better ones”—and it was nothing but the truth. And it surprises me that I have been to a lot of film festivals. How did this happen? I still don’t think of myself as a film maker.

I might have to revise this opinion given the success that “T’Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness” has met with. People at ImageOut loved the short. The woman photographing the event for the festival asked me to autograph her program—a first. In fact, I was taken aback. Having published two books, I’ve autographed before but never for a film.

The screening took place at 11:00 a.m. on an unseasonably warm and beautiful Saturday morning. I joked with my nephew Joe, his girlfriend and roommate that we might be the only four people who showed, but in fact there were around 50 who forewent an Indian summer day (all the more precious because of the long, frigid winter that is inexorably on its way) to sit in the large theater attached to the historic George Eastman (Kodak) mansion.  “TNB” screened first, and then I was called up for a Q&A session. The audience seemed genuinely interested in the subject matter (no Blacks in attendance as the main attraction to follow had  no racial content) and asked good questions about the historical context and its possible distribution. I was pleased. Michael Gamilla moderated, and he’s a witty guy. He said he liked to listen to the blues when he was doing his nails. I countered that I listened to the blues while combing my silken locks. “When they’re on the stand?” he asked. The photographer caught my laugh.

The laugh

The film that followed was an hour-length documentary called The Tents, about the New York fashion week shows that took place in Bryant Park for a period of about 20 years. The Tents was made with money and access to famous people—Diane von Furstenburg, Isaac Mizrahi, and Tommy Hilfiger—and also benefited from good cinematography and dynamic editing. But . . . it lost its story arc and ultimately, its audience. Too many digressions. It needed to be cut by at least 20 minutes. Joe and his roommate Christian left the theater before the end. And, as one of the film goers said to me afterwards, “The Tents needed to be shorter and yours needed to be longer.” “I can’t tell you how many guys have told me that,” I replied, going for the easy laugh.

Although I was only at the festival for its first 3 days, it was a packed 3 days. There were films I’d missed at Frameline that I wanted to see at Image Out. The festival put on a great opening night party—no music but excellent food (good priorities)—where I hobnobbed with real film makers (a gay couple screening their fourth feature film) and newbies (a straight couple flushed with the prospect of their first screening ever).

Film festivals reflect the character of their communities, and this seemed to be true of Rochester as well. Upstate New York—Buffalo, Syracuse, Ithaca, Rochester—are bastions of liberalism. I tend to associate small towns and cities with more conservative attitudes, but upstate New York has deep roots in the abolition movements (Frederick Douglass published The North Star from Rochester), women’s liberation (Seneca Falls), and Progressivism. Rochester’s lesbian and gay community is strong and visible. Their newspaper, The Empty Closet, is the longest continuously published print newspaper in America. ImageOut is the centerpiece of gay life in Rochester (there are only two gays bars in a town full of bars), and it holds pride of place. The gay and lesbian community loves and supports its film festival, and rightfully so. As the festival’s board chairman remarked, “Culturally, Rochester punches above its weight.”

A Slew of Video Acceptances September 8, 2011

Posted by homolog88 in film festivals, Hot Springs Documentary FF, ImageOut (Rochester LGBT), Pittsburgh Gay and Lesbian FF.
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picture of film festival laurel leaves

My latest video, “T’Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness: Queer Blues Divas of the 1920s,” has garnered a bunch of acceptances on the film festival circuit lately. Film festivals tend to bunch up in the fall and spring. I knew the film would do well, and the early spate of acceptances has justified my optimism. As of this writing, the video has been accepted in the following film festivals:

  1. Outflix (Memphis Gay and Lesbian Film Festival)
  2. Pittsburgh Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
  3. Northern Louisiana Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (Shreveport)
  4. Austin Gay Lesbian Film Festival
  5. Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival (Arkansas)
  6. Some Prefer Cake Lesbian Film Festival (Bologna, Italy)
  7. ImageOut (Rochester Gay and Lesbian Film Festival)
  8. Reel Affirmations (Washington, DC)
  9. Queer Black Cinema Film Festival (New York)

The screening dates for all of these festivals fall in September and October. I’m still waiting to hear from film festivals with later screening dates.

As you’ll note, the vast majority of film festival accepting this film are gay and lesbian ones. This, of course, makes perfect sense given the subject matter. I do not confine myself to submitting  to LGBT film festivals, but those are the ones where I stand the best chance of getting accepted.

I am particularly pleased, however, when one of my videos gets accepted to a film festival outside the LGBT niche. Therefore the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival is of particular interest to me. It establishes my bona fides as a documentary director, not just a director of videos only of LGBT interest.