Although, I’ve been too busy to take full advantage of this year’s SGLIFF, I really enjoyed most of what I did see. Here are some highlights:
“Heart Breaks Open”
I haven’t been this inspired by a local film since Lynn Shelton’s “Hump Day”. This is what indie cinema ought to be. This is what queer cinema needs to be – homegrown, authentic, brutally honest, not sloppily put together from clichés and gimmicks and shaved abs. In the age of pharmaceutical ads that constantly remind us how nice and normal a life with HIV can be, while a whole new generation of gays are barebacking away with impunity, it’s nice to have a film with some backbone, a film that doesn’t mince words and reminds us that our actions affect others, that our community is ours to keep safe and healthy. And although “Heart Breaks Open” is built around a message, it never feels like a PSA. In fact, it’s one of the few American indie films, that I’ve seen, that embody the effortless poetic realism prevalent in European cinema. Maximillian Davis’ graceful understated performance ties everything together: from the excruciating scene of his protagonist, Jesus, getting tested (if everybody on manhunt was forced to watch this scene, new infection rates would plummet) to the touching and funny scene of his ex, Johnny, trying to patch their shuttered friendship Portlandia-style. Someone once said that to make something truly universal, you have to make it most personal. “Heart Breaks Open” feels very personal and very local. Its cast of beautiful distinctly-Seattle queers couldn’t have come from anywhere but the Northwest.
One of this year’s male shorts program was frankly CRAP. Where do I start? How about a film about some poor straight woman who looks for her husband at a creepy gay cruising site for what seems like an eternity? Now it’s also shot in nauseating Blair Witch style and is called “Cannibals”. Yes, it’s called “Cannibals”. The only thing that distracted me from boredom and motion sickness was the hope that, maybe, at some point Anthony Hopkins would show up in a skin mask with a spoonful of Ray Liotta’s oblongata. No, such luck. Oh, I get it. It’s gay men who are cannibals. They eat sperm and ruin marriages. Get it? Apparently “Cannibals” screened at all kinds of non-gay film festivals. Someone needs to make another “It Gets Better” video just for the poor teens whose parents, friends or teachers see this noxious toxic homophobic piece of shit. And no, it doesn’t get better – we have a Marxist manifesto called “Manhunt” about a hot Muslim terrorist who makes an even hotter French soldier fall in love with him only to kill him, for revolution’s sake. OK, so the scene of the Muslim terrorist (who looks like Francois Sagat) getting dry-humped by the soldier against a tree will totally get you hard, but COME ON. This director should make porn instead of pretentious political metaphors where homosexuality is a sinister tool of manipulation and murder. And talking about homosexuality being sinister – there is another political metaphor about an Israeli soldier, who’s also a vampire, who seduces a cute boy only to kill him just to please his homophobic comrades. Not all films were painful though. In “Winner Takes All” an extremely annoying and strangely affected drama queen pits his lovers against each other in a boxing match to see who’s man enough to win his heart. At the end he gets punched in the face and Alec Mapa smashes his teeth with a hammer. Yay! In “Regrets”, a delightfully creepy serial killer plays mind games with a cocky slut trapped in his den – and there is a twist! I make a point not to review anything unless I can say something nice, so why am I even bothering? Because the first short in the program “A Day in the Country” was a truly flawless little film, totally worth the ticket. Shot verite style, this impeccable slice-of-life managed to navigate the subject of gay male sexuality with subtlety and poignancy you hardly ever see. I was wondering how this small masterpiece ended up in the same program with “Cannibals” and “Manhunt”. The only thing they all had in common were hot men naked. Oh well, that’s us, gay vampire cannibals. Dick and ass is all we care about.
How nice to see a sexy gay film where neither “sexy” nor “gay” are key words. “Judas Kiss” has a hot cast. It has lots of gayness. It has plenty of steamy hot gay sexy gay gayness, if that’s what you’re looking for in a SGLIFF film. What it generally lacks is terrible acting, predictable plot and lazy filmmaking (Sorry, Eating Out 1-100). Writer Carlos Pedraza and director J.T. Tepnapa crafted a sweet modern-day fairytale in which a [gay] filmmaker, struggling with a midlife crisis, gets to meet his younger self and prevent his own arrogance from ruining his future. Meanwhile his tortured younger self is trying to make it through film school while having to choose between his adorable good-hearted friend (played by Seattle native Sean Paul Lockhart) and the evil rich boy (played by Belgian pop star Timo Descamps). Just don’t geek out over the physics of time travel – it won’t make any sense. This, after all, is magic realism not Terminator 5. And Sean Paul Lockhart should be in every gay movie! Wait, he is!
“Attack of the Musicals”
Another shorts program. Who knew that there is a whole genre out there of gay horror musicals? I didn’t. Now I do. It makes me happy. Anyone who loves “South Park” would love “Cupcake: A Zombie Lesbian Musical”. What’s not to love when you’re treated to numbers like “No Penis Can Come Between Us” and “My Girlfriend Ate My Pussy…. Literally.” I never thought I would see a bloody chunk of vagina with a prominent pube patch being tossed on a hamburger bun with some lettuce and mayo: must see! In the hilarious “Fortune Cookie Magic Tricks”, bilingual Derek Lui is waiting for a kidney transplant while his subtitled father tries everything from straight porn to a pair of kung fu wizards to break him up with his troubadour boyfriend. Chinese magic misfires and summons a zombie, whose deadly martial arts force the father, the son and the boyfriend to put aside their cultural differences. The program ended with “I Was A Teenage Werebear” a sort of gay homage to 50s B-horror and Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello beach party musicals. Throw in some leather werebears raping homophobic jocks, Sean Paul Lockhart singing and dancing, Sean Paul Lockhart writhing in a wrestling singlet, Sean Paul Lockhart doing a musical number in a jockstrap, Sean Paul Lockhart, Sean Paul Lockhart, Sean Paul Lockhart, Sean Paul Lockhart…. We got a winner! Overall, this was the first shorts program that I’ve seen in a while where every film was fun and watchable. It was by far better than the similar “macabre musical” program at SIFF this year.
(Editor’s Note: What did Wes come away with from the 16th Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival?
More Sean Paul Lockhart, please!)