Written by Sarah Boslaugh Tuesday, 12 April 2011 20:15
You have to love a film in which a character responds to a semi-accidental shooting with, "Didn't you learn anything from Phil Spector?"
The 4th annual Stella Artois QFest in St. Louis kicks off on April 14 with a documentary about Mardi Gras in the gay community, closes on April 17 with a narrative film about bears in New York City, and in between offers films about everything from gay athletes to transgender musicians. Tim Wolff's documentary The Sons of Tennessee Williams (Thur. 4/14, 7:30 pm) traces the history of gay life in New Orleans since the 1950s, centering on the activities of several gay krewes (clubs that organize parades and balls during the Mardi Gras season). It wasn't always easy; although in New Orleans cross-dressing on Mardi Gras is a venerable tradition, on any other day of the year it could, and often did, get you arrested. Wolff intercuts interviews and archival footage with preparations for a contemporary ball and, believe me, you haven't seen a costume until you've seen what these guys come up with. Director Tim Wolff will attend.
Variety is the name of the game in the Queer Shorts (Thur. 4/14, 9:30 pm) program, which features nine short films, eight from the U.S. and one from Singapore. "Bedfellows" (Pierre Stefanos) and "Deirdre" (Cyra Polizzi) take a humorous look at the modern dating scene. Wendy Weinberg uses archival footage to tell the story in "Never Too Late" of two San Francisco hotel maids who, due to Prop. 8, must journey to Massachusetts to get married.
"Masala Mama" (Michael Kam) centers on the growing understanding between a Singaporean shopkeeper and a poor kid who loves comic books so much he steals one. In "The Queen" (Christina Choe) a prom dress left at his parent's dry-cleaning shop sets a shy Korean-American off on a flight of fantasy. A tech support call has unexpected romantic consequences in the aptly named "Tech Support" (Erik Gernand) as does a funeral visitation in "Who Is Candy Bernardino" (Erin Li). In Grant Reed's "Yes Man" Nathan has a crisis of conscience when asked to take part in an anti-gay commercial. Finally, Guy Shalem's "Gaysharktank.com" takes a look at some of the things people say to their web cams for a gay dating web site. Cyra Polizzi, director and co-star of "Deirdre," will attend.
Mama Rose has nothing on Sheri Campari (Melanie LaPatin), stage mother par excellence in Leading Ladies (Fri. 4/15, 7:00 pm), directed by Erika Randall Beahm and Daniel Beahm. Sheri lives vicariously through her daughter Tasi (Shannon Lea Smith), a competitive ballroom dancer, while pushing her plainer daughter Toni (Laurel Vail) into the background. But Mama's script gets torn to shreds when Tasi turns up pregnant and Toni, accompanying Tasi's partner Cedric (So You Think You Can Dance winner Benji Schwimmer) to a gay bar, falls for Mona (Nicole Dionne).
I can't improve on the press kit description of Madsen Minax's documentary Riot Acts: Flaunting Gender Deviance in Music Performance (Fri. 4/15, 9:30 pm) as "a trans-fabulous rockumentary," so I'll just add that it features interviews with and performances by a number of transgender and gender variant musicians. They have a lot to say—from how gender transition can affect your voice to why drag isn't just a joke—and work in a variety of musical styles. Featured artists (and you have to love some of these names) include Novice Theory, Adhamh Roland, The Shondes (shonde is Yiddish for "shame"), Lipstick Conspiracy, Venus DeMars, Trannysaurus Sex, Systyr Act, The Cliks, and Coyote Grace.
March On (Sat. 4/16, 2:00 pm), directed by Laura McFerrin, documents the 2009 March for Equality while interviews with same-sex married couples and gay service members reveal the far-reaching consequences of the lack of legal equality. Here's one example: imagine taking a sheaf of official documents everywhere you go to demonstrate, should you or your spouse require emergency medical treatment, that you are in fact married—then imagine that there's a good possibility that even with documentation your relationship might not be recognized. Serious issues are at stake but March On is far from solemn and features appearances by celebrities including Michelle Clunie, Lady Gaga, Cynthia Nixon, and Cleve Jones. Director Laura McFerrin will attend, and the documentary short Just Like Anyone Else: St. Louis After Stonewall by Dawn Balk and Jen Rich will also be shown.
You have to love a film in which a character responds to a semi-accidental shooting with, "Didn't you learn anything from Phil Spector?" That's just the beginning of the fun in Brian Pelletier's comedy, Fishnet (Sat. 4/16, 4:30 pm). LA burlesque dancers Trixie (Rebekah Kochan) and Sulie (Jillian Easton), just about the cutest couple anywhere, are forced to flee to Sulie's parents’ Texas home after an unfortunate incident with a gun that turned out not to be a prop. They create a new act for a truck stop bar and hilarity ensues (as do gunshots) when business associates of the deceased track them down. Director Brian Pelletier will attend.
In Different from Whom (Sat. 4/16, 6:30 pm) Umberto Riccioni Carteni takes a comedic look at the world of Italian politics that lends truth to that old adage that the public should never see how sausage or laws are made. Gay politician Piero (Luca Argentero) is a leading candidate for mayor in a right-leaning town and to balance the ticket he's paired with the more conservative Adele (Claudia Gerini). Their campaign slogan, "the perfect couple," proves true in an unintended sense, causing conflict with Piero's partner Remo (Filippo Negri). A punchy score featuring pop and R&B hits enhances the lively plot and in the process you'll get a little mini-seminar in Italian politics as the characters throw off lines like "He's cute even as a Moderate," and "Discussing how to kill oneself is very Center-Left."
Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? More to the point, can a fag hag break free from her comfortable best friend role and find true love with a straight guy? That's the question in Violet Tendencies (Sat. 4/16, 9:15 pm) as Violet (Mindy Cohn from The Facts of Life), having passed the big 4-0, sets out to change her life. Among other things, she discovers that the road to love is strewn with one-liners and musical interludes, as least if you're seeking it in a Casper Andreas (A Four Letter World, The Big Gay Musical) film. There are enough good-looking guys (including Jesse Archer, Marcus Patrick, Samuel Whitten and Adrian Armas) on display to please all tastes (although sadly few are interested in Violet), and you get a virtual trip to upscale Manhattan thrown into the bargain.
Acclaimed director Cheryl Dunye goes for something different in The Owls (Sun. 4/17, 2 pm), which debuted at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival. This self-proclaimed "experimental thriller" uses a deliberately disjunctive, fourth-wall-breaking approach to telling the story of four 40-something lesbians (played by Dunye, Guinevere Turner, V.S. Brodie and Lisa Gornick) who are bound together by a violent incident in their past. Deak Evgenikos and Skyler Cooper also star in this thought-provoking film from the Parliament Film Collective, a group founded by lesbian and queer artists to make films telling stories usually ignored in mainstream films about the lives of lesbians, queers and people of color.
We all know that gay and lesbian people can be exceptional athletes—think Martina Navratilova or Greg Louganis—but that doesn't mean it's easy for student athletes who want to compete in sports without pretending to be someone they're not. Scott Bloom's documentary Out for the Long Run (Sun. 4/17, 3:30 pm) follows the careers of several high school and college athletes who have to deal with homophobia and stereotyping as well as the usual issues of growing up and competing in their sport. Bloom (who also directed Call Me Troy, the award-winning documentary about the Reverend Troy Perry) combines interviews with older athletes (among them Louganis, baseball player/manager Billy Bean, and Olympic gold medalist rower Holly Metcalf) with in-depth profiles of these courageous young people who demonstrate that "gay" and "athlete" are not mutually exclusive categories. Director Scott Bloom and producer Larry Diamond will attend.
Italian-Turkish director Ferzan Ozpetek relishes upsetting expectations in Loose Cannons (Sun. 04/17, 6:00 pm), which opens with a pistol-toting bride and persists in setting up apparently stock scenes (family dinners, beautiful women driving tiny cars) only to deliver something unexpected. Tommaso (Riccardo Scamarcio) and his brother Antonio (Alessandro Preziosi) are expected to take over their family's pasta business but Tommaso is gay and wants to be a writer, not a businessman. He intends to tell his family but is beaten to the punch by his older brother Antonio (Alessandro Preziosi), who is promptly banished by their conservative father. Tommaso has no choice but to step up and try to play the role expected of him—among other things he's afraid the news of a second gay son might cause his father to have a fatal heart attack—but the contradictions of this masquerade increasingly wear on him and it all comes to a head, so to speak, when his boyfriend Marco (Carmine Recano) and several of their friends pay a visit to the Cantone household.
You know how people are always saying that Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda are really gay men in women's bodies? Turnabout is fair play and Douglas Langway's BearCity (Sun 04/17, 8:30 pm) could be described as Sex in the City meets Queer as Folk in New York City's bear scene. Pretty boy Tyler (Joe Conti) has fantasies about doing X-rated things with Santa Claus but finds that admitting his attraction to older, hairier guys (as another character puts it, "he wants a mouthful of John Goodman") is like coming out of the closet all over again. BearCity alternates comedy and serious drama (with some fairly explicit sex scenes thrown in) as members of the bear community confront issues of body image, aging, fidelity, and the mysteries of attraction, just like the rest of us. Co-star Blake Evan Sherman will attend. | Sarah Boslaugh
All screenings will be at the Hi-Pointe Theatre, plus special events will be held at several venues around town. (See http://www.cinemastlouis.org/qfest for further details). Tickets are $12, $10 for students and Cinema St. Louis members with valid photo IDs, and advance tickets are available from Brown Paper Tickets (http://www.brownpapertickets.com/profile/49376)
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