QFest 2010, Day 2 | 3.28.10-3.31.10

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Day 2 at QFest presented two contrasting films, each worth seeing although perhaps not necessarily appealing to the same audience.

Day 2 at QFest presented two contrasting films, each worth seeing although perhaps not necessarily appealing to the same audience. Patrik, Age 1.5 is a romantic comedy from Swedish director Ella Lemhagen (her 9th film—who knew?) about a gay male couple who decide to adopt a child. Due to a misplaced comma (used in Europe as a decimal point) in their notification letter they believe they will be getting a baby aged one and a half years, so it’s quite a surprise when a 15-year-old juvenile delinquent named Patrik (Thomas Ljungman) arrives on their doorstep instead. It doesn’t help that the young man in question is a galloping homophobe or that he’s been involved in some violent crimes in the past, and his arrival places an unexpected strain on Sven (Torkel Petersson) and Goran’s (Gustaf Skarsgåd) somewhat shaky relationship as well. Let’s just say that one of them is considerably more interested in the whole adoption/fatherhood thing than the other.

Patrik, Age 1.5 is a real crowd-pleaser (it won the Audience Award at the 2009 San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival) which deftly combines humor and romance with more serious subject material. The story is both gay-specific and universal: it’s ultimately about fallible people trying to overcome their difficulties and become a cohesive family while dealing with the added pressures which come from being non-conformists in a small town. Sweden may be a relatively liberal country but that doesn’t mean that every Swedish citizen is without prejudice. Some of the film’s incidents do seem contrived but the believable acting of the leads carries the day and I defy you to watch this film and not warm to its generous spirit.

The Big Gay Musical, directed by Caspar Andreas and Fred M. Caruso, is a backstager about the trials and tribulations of modern gay life among members of the cast of a big gay musical which redoes the Biblical creation myth in lavender as Adam and Steve: Just the Way God Made ‘Em. You see quite a bit of the musical—I  wasn’t running my stopwatch but screen time seems to be about equally distributed onstage and off—and another big chunk of action takes place at a club which has a show tunes open mic night. The musical itself is as campy as you would imagine (featuring a fine-looking cast of young men frequently wearing next to nothing) and provides a counterpoint and commentary on the cast’s troubles offstage which are straight from the plot-o-matic: the difficulties of finding Mr. Right, whether one should even bother when casual sex is so readily available, the ever-present threat of HIV infection, how much you can trust a partner and what you can expect from them, and what to do about religious parents who are about to learn something about you which doesn’t fit into the plans they had for you.

There’s a certain boilerplate quality to The Big Gay Musical but it’s also a lot of fun and a near-capacity crowd on Monday night (all the more impressive because this film was also screened on Sunday) certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves. The performers are better than the script: according to the film’s web site (www.thebiggaymusical.com) cast members have appeared in almost 50 Broadway musicals. The show-within-a-show goes for obvious jokes and incorporates some heavy-handed parodies of religious homophobes, but they’ve got it coming, don’t they? The musical numbers were definitely not written by Stephen Sondheim (supposedly the show is about to open Off-Broadway after a surprisingly lengthy preview period which gives the offstage action time to develop, but it looks more suited to Off-Off back in the good old do-it-yourself days) but they’re adequate to the purpose.

The Big Gay Musical was preceded by the short Gotta Have Pride: The Big Gay Musical directed by Bobby Kirk and Dave McCahan which was made as part of the 48-Hour film project in 2004. For the uninitiated, this is a contest in which production teams have 48 hours to make a completed short film (writing, shooting, editing, burning to disk) in an assigned genre and incorporating a specified line, character and prop. The wonder is that many of the films produced in this time frame are not only watchable but actually pretty good and Gotta Have Pride (which you can watch on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTIicjP5B74) is a fun film which makes an excellent pairing with The Big Gay Musical. | Sarah Boslaugh

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