Archive for the ‘DGLFF’ Category

Nashville Neurosis

What’s the Matter with Gerald?

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Director: Matt Riddlehoover

Cast: Jacob York, Kathy Cash, Jonathan Everett, Angel Luis, Daniel Choico, Claudia Church, Dan Carter

Taking inspiration from Woody Allen, director Matt Riddlehoover writes and directs an amusing social comedy What’s the matter with Gerald? which recently opened the 6th Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival http://www.dglff.org.za/ after its world premiere at the Nashville Film Festival in 2016.

The film centres on wealthy Gerald, a Hush Fund man who is basically paid by his father to keep a low profile about his sexuality. Slightly overweight and completely neurotic, Gerald is in a comfortable relationship with the business orientated gay republican Charles, played by Jonathan Everett. They live a bourgeois life in contemporary Nashville, Tennessee.

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At the suggestion of a friend at a cocktail party, Gerald seeks the advice of a mysterious jeweller May wonderfully played by the wise-mouthed and unconventional Kathy Cash. Soon Gerald’s spiritual and sexual reawakening begins as he soon uses crystals to enhance his life and broaden his horizons. Those horizons include eyeing out a gorgeous young jogger played by Daniel Choico.

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Gerald’s complicated and slightly dependent relationship with his wealthy and snobbish mother Doris played by Claudia Church is soon another problem that he has to solve. Let’s face it – which gay men do not have an overly complicated relationship with their mothers?

What’s the matter with Gerald? is a delightful Nashville comedy about one thirty something man’s reawakening through a series of events brought on by his chance meeting with the wise cracking May whose best line is “Most men don’t reach maturity until they are fifty!”.

A humorous and witty comedy about Gerald’s reawakening and his transformation into a gay man who takes control of his destiny and ultimately moves out of his comfort zone. Let’s face it, how long could he go on dating a Gay Republican?! Talk about Nashville Neurosis.

An enjoyable comedy which opened to a packed audience at the 6th annual Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. We hope to see more of director Riddlehoover’s quirky films at the Durban festival in the future.

Strippers and Chorus Boys

Waiting in the Wings

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Director: Jenn Page

Cast: Jeffrey A. Johns, Adam Huss, Rena Strober, Lee Meriweather, Christopher Atkins, David Pevsner, Mitch Poulos, Matt Wool, Harrison White

Director Jenn Page’s hilarious romantic comedy Waiting in the Wings is a cross between Magic Mike and A Chorus Line.

A case of mistaken identities lands a stripper Tony played by the beautiful Adam Huss last seen in the Mediterranean short film Foreign Relations being cast in an off Broadway musical and a wannabe chorus boy Anthony played by Jeffrey A. Johns being cast in a male strip show at the Banana Peel club. Waiting in the Wings had its South African premiere at the 6th Annual Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival http://www.dglff.org.za/and is a witty musical played with fabulous vigour by the two leading actors Huss and Johns.

Audiences should look out for a cameo by Christopher Atkins as a conservative Montana priest at the start of the film. Atkins made his cinematic debut in the controversial film Blue Lagoon opposite Brooke Shields back in 1980.

Set in the off Broadway theatre district of bustling New York City, Waiting in the Wings features some exuberant performances by Rena Strober as Rita a dazzling singer and Harrison White as a Drag Queen in charge of the group of male strippers.

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Tony has to learn to sing and Anthony has to learn to dance. Both scenarios of strip club and musical theatre provide some really entertaining musical numbers and the plot involving mistaken identity is soon resolved by the ever resourceful Rita who brings the two together.

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Waiting in the Wings is a fun, exuberant comedy about mistaken identity, Broadway dreams and strippers realising that they can do more with their bodies. Naturally the script is loaded with huge doses of sexual innuendo and if audiences don’t know what that means then its best to see the film.

Highly recommended viewing, with some outrageous musical numbers especially the song about matinees this is a Gay version of A Chorus Line with ample doses of hot bodies, drag queens and dumb but gorgeous male strippers. There is eye candy for everyone plus a musical number to match!

Over the top and camp, Waiting in the Wings will be sure to put any gay audience in an even happier mood especially as it features an abundance of strippers and chorus boys.

And the good news is there is a sequel coming out soon: Waiting in the Wings: Still Waiting.

 

 

Mediterranean Avant-Garde

Lost in the White City

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Directors: Tanner King Barklow and Gil Kofman

Cast: Thomas Dekker, Haley Bennett, Bob Morley, Noni Geffen, Tawfeek Barhom

Co-directed by Tanner King Barklow (The Invisible War) and Israeli Gil Kofman, Lost in the White City is a fascinating film about a couple’s relationship which disintegrates during a Mediterranean summer in the capital of Tel Aviv. Lost in the White City had its South African premiere at the 5th Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival DGLFF

Lost in the White City stars rising Indie actor Thomas Dekker as the hard drinking self-obsessed experimental film maker Kyle and Haley Bennett (The Equalizer) as the gorgeous aspiring writer Eva, who as the film opens, it is evident that their relationship is compromised.

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Soon Kyle and Eva are swept into a precarious and intriguing Israeli environment where menace, seduction and danger are interlaced with a sultry awareness of each other’s more preferred sexual choices. Kyle’s sexual awakening comes in the form of the gorgeous and gregarious ex-soldier Avi ironically played by Australian actor Bob Morley.

There is a superb scene where Avi leads Kyle to a bombed out nightclub on the outskirts of Tel Aviv and Kyle shoots Avi naked in a semi-erotic pose for his Avant-Garde film, liking their coupling to that of German independent director Werner Herzog and actor Klaus Kinski.

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In this significant scene, the sexual tension between Kyle and Avi is palpable onscreen, something which is often masked by aggression and heavy drinking, as the boys hit the Tel Aviv nightclub scene.

Eva while browsing through a suburban bookshop meets Israeli-American writer Liam, played by Nony Geffen, who is the complete antithesis of the reckless, almost unfettered Kyle. Liam introduces Eva to a more sophisticated world of the intelligentsia and is invited to book launches and parties on yachts.

However, the film makers cleverly underscore both Kyle and Eva’s journeys of self-discovery and their own relationship crumbling with a disturbing sense of danger as with Tel Aviv there is always a massive security risk with an omniscient violence along with the continual threat of suicide bombings.

Lost in the White City follows the blooming of the sexual relationship between Kyle and Avi after a completely wild night partying, spliced with gorgeous shots of them on the beach in Tel Aviv as well as aerial shots of the “white city” in the heat of a Mediterranean summer.

Israeli cinematography Shahar Reznik paints Tel Aviv in a sumptuous glare of sunlight contrasting with the night sequences which are expertly filled with glamour, drugs and decadence, giving the audience a sense of the city being constantly under threat while its citizens dance the night away in complete hedonistic abandonment.

Comfort Of Strangers

Watching Lost in the White City, the audience is reminded of a similarly intriguing film about obsession framed by sinister intentions with director Paul Schrader’s The Comfort of Strangers set in Venice starring Rupert Everett and Helen Mirren.

Highly recommended viewing, gorgeously shot and definitely aimed at a more open-minded audience, Lost in the White City sensually explores the dangers of summer romances, sexuality and unrequited dreams.

 

Sexual Repression in Film

Maurice

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Director: James Ivory

Cast: Hugh Grant, James Wilby, Rupert Graves, Ben Kingsley, Denholm Elliott, Phoebe Nicholls, Helena Bonham Carter, Judy Parfitt, Simon Callow

Cinema Lovers Workshop on Sexual Repression in Film presented as part of the 4th Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival 2014 http://www.dglff.org.za/ on Thursday 26th June 2014 at the KZNSA Gallery, Durban.

Director James Ivory’s 1987 film Maurice is a nuanced and delicate study of sexual repression in the Edwardian era based upon the posthumously published novel by the acclaimed British novelist E. M. Forster who also penned Howards End, A Room with A View and his most famous novel, A Passage to India.

At the beginning of Maurice, Maurice Hall’s tutor, played by Simon Callow standing on an English beach instructs the young boy that “Your body is your temple”, a sentiment echoed by the Victorians.

The film moves to 1909 when Maurice Hall played by James Wilby and Clive Durham played by Hugh Grant are at Cambridge together and over a classical tutorial discuss the notion of words versus deeds. The post-Victorian early Edwardian attitude towards sex was prohibitive and repressive.

Whilst reading Classics at Cambridge, there is an early reference to the “Unspeakable Vice of the Greeks” which is seen by the Edwardians as a strong rejection of Western Christian principles in favour of Mediterranean hedonism and unadulterated sexual desires. Maurice also establishes a close link between all male sports such as cricket and boxing and the forbidden homosexual love between men which was naturally more than fraternal.

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Viewers must bear in mind that Maurice is set not even 20 years after the infamous trial of Oscar Wilde in 1895 when he was accused and convicted of sodomy and sentenced to two years hard labour so beautifully documented in the 1997 Brian Gilbert film Wilde starring Stephen Fry, which forced the majority of repressed homosexuals in late Victorian London to flee to the continent.

Under the shadow of the Oscar Wilde affair, homosexuality was considered the worst crime in the calendar, making the environment of Edwardian England sexually repressive for the lead characters in Maurice. Ultimately Maurice charts the doomed love affair which starts at Cambridge of Maurice Hall who was suburban middle class and Clive Durham which came from Landed Gentry and was a symbol of inherited wealth being the only son in the family who would inherit the country estate Pendersleigh Park.

Interestingly, many Edwardian homosexuals to avoid scandal married each other’s sisters to continue an illicit gay love affair post marriage. Many suspected homosexuals in England prior to the outbreak of World War 1 were arrested on charges of soliciting and immorality. This is exemplified in the film by the scandalous arrest of Lord Risley, who was arrested while trying to pick up a soldier in an alleyway and publicly named and shamed in the press, suffering a similar fate to Oscar Wilde without the associated sensational publicity. Lord Risley was sentenced to six months hard labour.

In this repressive society, the fearful and closeted Clive Durham rebukes Maurice’s affections for fear of scandal and being charged with immorality especially as he is due to inherit the family’s gorgeous country estate. By 1912 and after a brief visit to Greece, Durham returns and breaks off all romance with Maurice and promptly marries the naïve Anne Woods played by Phoebe Nicholls recently seen in Downton Abbey leaving Maurice angry, jilted and heartbroken.

Maurice turns his sexual frustration to boxing in Bermondsey and considers that he is suffering from an unspeakable disease consults a doctor and a hypnotist Lasker-Jones wonderfully played by Ben Kingsley who aptly suggests that Maurice flee England and live abroad in a country more accepting like France or Italy.

The third part of the film takes place around Pendersleigh in 1913, the country estate owned by Clive Durham who is approaching his nuptials with Anne. At this estate works an unconventional and almost pastoral figure Scudder beautifully played by Rupert Graves, who is an underkeeper and not afraid to wear his sexuality on his sleeve. The character development of Maurice is evident in the film and soon he succumbs to the opportune sexual advances of Scudder who enters into Maurice’s bedroom at Penderleigh through an open window and promptly seduces him. The central character’s development goes from emotional innocence to sexual experience and is expertly played by Wilby who along with Hugh Grant both won Best Actor awards at the 1987 Venice International Film Festival.

In a series of interesting hypnosis scenes between Kingsley and Wilby, it is suggested that a cure for his characters sexual urges to those of the same sex should be to play sport and carry a gun. As Maurice and Scudders sexual relationship blossoms within the confines of a Country Estate, the scenes with Maurice by the window become symbolic of his character being trapped in a sexually repressive environment with Scudder being the one who ultimately releases Maurice from this sexual and moral dilemma. Scudder plans on fleeing the strict rules of Pendersleigh and emigrating to the Argentine and whose only crime is bring guilty of sensuality.

Maurice and Alec Scudder’s eventual reunification at the boat house is a way for Maurice to decisively escape the repressive environment he find himself in, ultimately leaving the pompous Clive Durham, repressed and stuck in a loveless marriage to Anne Woods. The closing shot of the film is one of Clive Durham closing the window and himself into a stifled existence, symbolic of a generation of Edwardian young men who have yielded to social conventions like marriage and sexual repression. A repression which was ultimately was to be broken by the outbreak of World War II in 1914.

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After the success of A Room with a View, Maurice was a continuation in a long line of lucrative and Oscar winning Merchant Ivory Productions and securing James Ivory a Best Director prize at the 1987 Venice Film Festival and can be seen as a prelude to his more successful films like Howards End and the adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel The Remains of the Day.

In terms of the history of queer cinema, director James Ivory’s Maurice is a superb cinematic starting point to examining what it was like to be gay in a sexually repressive environment over a century ago. Thankfully society and the film industry has developed significantly since then, flinging open the glass closet doors of Hollywood.

Suggested Reading:

Maurice by written E. M. Forster

Morgan, A Biography of E. M. Forster written by Nicola Beauman

 

Oregon’s Brokeback

The Falls

the falls jon garcia

Director: Jon Garcia

Starring: Quinn Alan, Brian Allard, Zach Carter, Benjamin Farmer

Unlike Ang Lee’s Oscar winning 2005 film Brokeback Mountain, American director Jon Garcia’s film The Falls is not big budget, overlong or does not feature any major Hollywood stars. Instead The Falls is a nuanced and superb analysis of how two young men discover affection and sexual attraction for each other in the confines of a repressive religious context in this case the Mormon religion in the North Western United States.

Set mainly in a small town, The Falls follows two young men as they have to share a room together during their spiritual guidance training in Oregon, who are both cut off from family and any normal youth influences. Their rather sombre mission is to convert as many of the random townsfolk to Mormonism and guide new believers into their religion.

This proves rather difficult, when the two gorgeous but naïve young men R. J. played by Nick Ferrucci and Chris played by Benjamin Farmer harbour sexual feelings for each other, spurred on by a rather funny and quirky visit to an Iraqi war veteran who offers them some pot. Soon their inhibitions and moral instructions fly in the face of conventional Mormonism which is restrictive to say the least.

In one of the funniest scenes in the film, R. J. and Chris are smoking weed and watching the animated film Finding Nemo as the reclusive drop out war veteran comments “what could be funnier than having two pot smoking gay Mormons in my living room!”

On a more serious note it’s when the rigid Elder Harris discovers Chris and R.J. in a compromising position, he reports the two men to the Mormon Church elder and soon their parents, the Church and the community are forced to confront the couple’s homosexuality and the young men have to make a choice whether to continue their relationship or abandoning their own sexual feelings for the strict Mormon religious conventions which govern their lives.

What director Jon Garcia does so brilliantly is that he never makes fun of the Mormon religion or belittles their belief system, but rather subtly shows how homosexuality obviously does not have a place in such a family orientated and conservative religion which cherishes procreation, the sanctity of marriage and a strong conversion ethic.

Naturally setting The Falls in Idaho and Oregon so close to Utah and the epicentre of ultra conservative Mormon beliefs Salt Lake City, director Garcia makes a valid if not slightly amusing point that the stricter a religion is, the less likely that any deviation is tolerated. And boy, do these boys deviate! The title of the film, The Falls refers to a place in Idaho where young R.J. witnesses a lot of homosexual activity, basically a discreet cruising spot in the city centre.



The Falls is well acted, wonderfully directed and cleverly conceptualized which will definitely find a broader appeal than being its immediate LGBTI target audience. Definitely recommended viewing and not to be compared with the much hyped but equally superb mainstream film about repressive love, Brokeback Mountain.

http://www.dglff.org.za/

Activism and Martyrdom

Milk

directed by

Gus van Sant

The article below was prepared for a film workshop and discussion of Milk held at the inaugural Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival November 2011.

“My name is Harvey Milk and I want to recruit you”.

 

Political Activist, Martyr and lover of Opera

These words were used at a speech Milk made on the San Francisco City Hall steps as an elected city supervisor at the Gay Freedom Day Parade on the 25th June 1978 four months before being assassinated. This scene in Gus Van Sant’s film is critical to the viewing of Milk as not just as a film about the Gay rights movement in America, but a film about civil rights and the fight for protection against bigotry and the preservation of individual freedoms which should be enshrined in any democracy.
Milk was an activist for Gay rights and for human rights and he galvanized the communities of Castro Street in the Eureka Valley and also the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco for the protection of civil liberties. Milk was also the first openly gay man to be elected to an official position in a major metropolitan American city. He was a south-African equivalent of an Executive councillor and not merely a ward councillor.

Historically any political movement with a strong base of supporters, martyrdom works. There are examples of martyrs in a range of socio-political movements worldwide from Gandhi to Martin Luther King, to Ruth First. Milk knew of the risks he was taking as an openly gay supervisor who was ready to engage in public debate at a time when the gay rights movement was blossoming along the American West Coast.

Milk was ready to die for his beliefs and was already casting himself in the role of a martyr – he persevered in the face of constant death threats. He challenged opposing viewpoints which were mostly grounded in the form of religious bigotry and parochial conservatism crystallized in the form of Florida religion fanatic Anita Bryant and Californian Republican Senator John Briggs.

Milk stood up for what was right at a particular moment in a historical context which reflected the aftermath of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and followed on from similar social political movements in America most notably the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the anti-war demonstrations of the late 60s and early 70s (notably about the Vietnam war). Harvey Milk was a skilled political activist and knew how to mobilise his supporters effectively.
Milk’s challenge to gay and lesbian people in America was this – We have to let them know who we are. You have to be open about your sexuality. He was the political version of the current crop of Hollywood stars and singers who are breaking through the glass closet Zachary Quinto and Ricky Martin, David Hyde Pearce, Neil Patrick Harris.

As a film, Milk was hugely successful for 3 reasons –
1) Director Gus van Sant is an openly gay director and has touched on homosexuality in his previous films, My Own Private Idaho and his award winning film Elephant.
2)  The screenwriter Dustin Lance Black who won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay was openly gay.
3) Milk as a film was researched and had the input of surviving members of the Gay rights movement of the 1970s notably the influential Cleve Jones, played by Emile Hirsch in the film, Milk was shot in all the actual locations in and around San Francisco, notably the City Hall and Castro Street neighbourhood. Van Sant encouraged all the actors to improvise in their characters in the authentic locations they were shooting in. Seasoned actor, Sean Penn’s performance of Harvey Milk is exceptionally brilliant, notably winning him a 2nd Best Actor Award.

There is a moment in Milk when Harvey is delivering the recruitment speech at Gay Freedom Parade that this biopic transcends the boundaries of being just a film about gay rights, but a film about justifiable civil rights. Ironically the call for recruitment sounds very similar to Uncle Sam calling for new army recruits to the US military. Gay people came to San Francisco from small towns across America and the gay community swelled after the end of World War 2 when many closeted military men disembarked at San Francisco after returning from the Pacific theatre of War and remained in the city, not obviously keen to return to conservative mid-Western towns.

Viewing Milk in a South African context

South Africa is an intensely political society and as a new democracy which has enshrined the rights of every individual by having one of the most liberal constitutions, gay people are protected by the constitution but is there an adequate justice system to enforce the civil liberties of gay people in SA. This point is made in Milk in the 70s when gay men are beaten up and victimised by SF police officers in the film. Even though gay rights are enshrined in the South African constitution and discrimination based on sexual orientation is forbidden, does the South African police force adequately uphold these rights in contemporary society? In terms of Gay Pride marches worldwide from Sao Paulo to Warsaw – the role of the police as both protector and persecutor is brilliantly explored in the documentary Beyond Gay: the Politics of Pride.

Best line in the film – “I sound like a homosexual with Power” – from being marginalised to being politicized that was the legacy that Harvey Milk gave to the American and the international gay rights movement.
Harvey Milk was a quintessential Gay politician who only served in office for one year but his impact on social change and his symbol as a martyr for the gay rights movement in America and internationally is huge. Milk was 40 years old when he first came out the closet and started living as an openly gay man.
The character of Dan White played by Josh Brolin in Milk represents a complete dichotomy from Harvey Milk. White was also a fellow city supervisor from a strong Irish Catholic neighbourhood who was concerned more with supporting a family on a municipal salary than supporting any of Harvey Milk or Mayor George Moscone’s liberal city ordinances. Dan White viewed Harvey Milk as a threat and he acted upon that threat, whereas Milk underestimated the danger of Dan White as a potential enemy. The last quarter of the film, there is a sense that Milk had almost become cavalier with his political power despite receiving numerous death threats. Milk was willing to become a martyr and for the cause, often remarking that politics was theatre.

Politics is Theatre

Politics is theatre except the scripts are different, but there remain the stars even they become legends as martyrs.

Van Sant skilfully shows not just the extent of the Milk’s activism but also his passion for the gay rights cause at the immense cost of his personal life and safety. The film beautifully reconstructs the fateful events leading up to Milk’s assassination and the truly poignant ending of Harvey Milk being heralded as a martyr by the community he served and adored. Milk is more about Martyrdom and Activism in a socio-political movement in the 1970s and the call for equal civil rights for gays and all other minorities.

Today in San Francisco there are convention centres, streets and public institutions named after slain City Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. Corner of Castro and Market Street in Eureka Valley is now called Harvey Milk Plaza.
The immortalization of martyrs for a cause is not new in any political movement and is especially significant in the current SA political context with conference centres, highways and streets being renamed after struggle heroes against Apartheid more appropriately in cities such as Durban and Johannesburg.

Proposition 6 as put forward by Californian Senator Briggs was legislation that allowed the California state to discriminate against employees in this case teachers on the basis of sexual orientation. Milk’s biggest triumph was getting the gay communities and the broader society to vote against the implementation of proposition 6.
Irony is that Gay Marriage in America as a federal law is still banned. Only several US states have passed legislation allowing gay marriage to date including Vermont.
Proposition 8 (ballot title: Eliminates Rights of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment; called California Marriage Protection Act by proponents) was a ballot proposition and constitutional amendment passed in the November 2008 state elections. The measure added a new provision, Section 7.5 of the Declaration of Rights, to the California Constitution, which provides that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” – Wikipedia source.
Innovative film style of Gus Van Sant –Van Sant’s visual style is unique from extreme close-ups highlighting the intimacy of the characters to showcasing the broad political activism that Milk did to galvanize and protect the gay community in San Francisco in the 1970’s. Political activism involved taking over a block then a neighbourhood and gaining support and credence for specific municipal issues.
Suggested Reading and Viewing: ~
Biography: The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life & Times of Harvey Milk by Randy Shilts
Documentary: Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride by Bob Christie

 

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