Not to oversimplify, but like most things, it comes down to love. The basic human right to love and be loved is at the heart of ImageOut: The Rochester Gay and Lesbian Film & Video Festival, now in its 14th year. And since love often inspires art, ImageOut's 2006's incarnation features 37 programs of film and video about the lesbian-bisexual-gay-transgender experience, all set to unspool over 10 autumn days, October 6 to 15, at the Little Theatre, the George Eastman House's Dryden Theatre, and the Cinema Theater.
Visiting filmmakers? Of course.Parties?Duh. And ImageOut continues its tradition of giving back with ImageOutreach, an initiative to ensure the festival's accessibility to all interested parties, now entering its second year of accepting donations to subsidize tickets to festival screenings for lower-income people. Sign language interpretation and community co-sponsorships of certain films are also part of ImageOutreach, as is the Youth Project Film Series, free to those under 21.
All the details anyone could want about ImageOut --- including film selections, showtimes, and ticket information --- can be found at the website, www.imageout.org. What follows are thoughts on some selections from this year's festival: nine films I saw, plus one I couldn't get my paws on...
A Love to Hide (Un Amour à Taire)
Saturday, October 7, Little Theatre, 7:30 p.m.
In French with English subtitles
Between 1933 and 1945, 100,000 homosexuals were arrested in Europe as a result of Hitler's policies, with more than 10,000 of them exterminated for their sexual preference by the end of World War II. A Love to Hide tells the story of two brothers, golden boy Jean and black sheep Jacques, who both have their dealings with the Nazis. Jean enjoys life as heir to the family business until Jacques, jealous over Jean's attention from Jewish childhood friend Sara, inadvertently brings attention to his brother's secret life as a gay man. Director Christian Faure shines a light on some of the lesser-known victims of the Holocaust with exquisite attention to period details, even the more horrific ones. Lovely performances all around, especially by French up-and-comer JérémieRenier as Jean, who tries to please all around him while staying true to himself, but pays a devastating price.
Saturday, October 7, Dryden Theatre, 7:30 p.m.
In Catalan and Spanish with English subtitles
Filmmaker Marta Balletbò-Coll stars as Marina, a quirky writer who has fashioned a play about the strange relationship between Madame deSévigné and Madame de Grignan, a mother and daughter whose love letters scandalized 17th century France. Júlia, a respected Barcelona stage director, is unhappily married to a cold theater critic and is mourning the loss of her daughter when Marina's pet project falls into her hands. As the intense Marina also falls into Júlia's heart, the play comes to symbolize their own unusual and passionate relationship. Sévigné is serviceably directed by Balletbò-Coll, but she has a natural and surprisingly charismatic screen presence that will hopefully find her in front of the camera again.
Saturday, October 7, Dryden Theatre, 9:30 p.m.
Annabelle has recently arrived at a Catholic boarding school, and her unflinching gaze, omnipresent cigarette, and refusal to ditch her Tibetan prayer beads let you know she's not going to be following the flock. She also (gasp!) prefers women. Annabelle meets a kindred spirit in Simone, her English teacher who has a boyfriend and a backstory similar to that of the newest teacher's pet. Will Simone succumb to her growing attraction to the aggressive Annabelle? Director Katherine Brooks explores what happens when love shows up in an inconvenient package, but it's slightly naïve and more than a little irresponsible to throw down the softcore without also visiting the repercussions attendant to an educator bedding her student in this day and age. Throw a male into the equation and it probably wouldn't be viewed as a love story.
Monday, October 9, Little Theatre, 9:30 p.m.
In Swedish with English subtitles
Susanna Edwards' psychological thriller chronicles the unraveling of a man's storybook existence when he falls for another man. Peter is engaged and on track to take over the family business when he meets Nassim, an impossibly hot Algerian whose free-spirited nature and lovely tresses cause Peter to ditch the straight way straightaway. It isn't long before Peter is ostracized by his family and shacked up with Nassim, and it isn't long after that before Nassim turns up dead and Peter is in police custody. Since KeillersPark is told in flashback, it would have been helpful to have some background to aid in understanding why Peter was so quick to embrace the gay lifestyle, but that Nassim, while immature and flighty, is sexy as hell.
Wednesday, October 11, Little Theatre, 5:30 p.m.
One of the Youth Project films free to the under-21 set is CampOut, an uplifting documentary about 10 teenagers attending gay bible camp. Adolescence is tough enough, but these LBGT kids are working hard to find a way to reconcile their newfound understanding of themselves with the faith they've taken comfort in all their lives. Among the campers are Christine, a loving and loudmouth camera hog who seems to be extremely at ease with herself, and Tim, a shy young man keenly aware of his shortcomings yet committed to attacking his deep-seated issues. Not everyone is on board with a faith that oftentimes doesn't seem to want their devotion, but it's camp! Crushes, games, bonfires, and the problem of who sleeps where since dividing the boys and girls isn't really an option.
Friday, October 13, Cinema Theater, 10 p.m.
"So how's Shortbus?" I asked my friend who saw it at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month. "It's porn, basically," he replied. ImageOut's Centerpiece selection is the latest film from John Cameron Mitchell, the mind behind stage and screen hit Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Lars von Trier incorporated unsimulated sex scenes in his Dogme 95 film The Idiots, but Shortbus might be the first American feature to include homo, hetero, and solo sex. (Needless to say, it's bypassing the MPAA and being released without a rating.)
Oh, the story? It's a comedy-drama about relationships between various New Yorkers who convene at the titular club, or, as Mitchell described it in Entertainment Weekly, "like Woody Allen with money shots."
Saturday, October 14, Dryden Theatre, 2 p.m.
Ed Wong has just retired from the working world, which will leave him more time to watch old home movies and make inept suicide attempts. His wife concerns himself with their daughters, of which there are three: Sam, engaged to an uptight blond businessman but mooning over an old flame; Julie, a med student embarking on an affair with a famous actress; and Katie, an aspiring choreographer exchanging Wile E. Coyote-level pranks with the boy she may or may not actually like. Georgia Lee's look at a Chinese-American family straddling the line between the comforts of the old world and the demands of the new is quite funny at times --- the Katie thread is adorable --- but the lesbian angle is slight, forced, and, quite frankly, the least interesting part of Red Doors.
Time To Leave (Le Temps Qui Reste)
Saturday, October 14, Dryden Theatre, 4 p.m.
In French with English subtitles
Gifted filmmaker François Ozon (See the Sea, 8 Women, Swimming Pool --- I could go on) returns to the ImageOut screen with the story of a photographer who learns he hasn't long to live. The stunning Romain --- he looks like a cross between Gavin Rossdale and Eric Bana --- is 31 years old when he gets the news of his terminal illness and proceeds to drive away both his family and his lover, only choosing to confide in his grandmother, played by the priceless Jeanne Moreau. Following a tentative acceptance of his fate he receives an unusual request from a waitress (played by Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi from last year's French slapstick Cote d'Azur) to help her conceive a child. Ozon masterfully changes genres yet again, this time directing a quiet meditation on love and death and life. As Romain, MelvilPoupaud poignantly embodies the seven stages of grief, his obvious physical decline in no way indicative of his spiritual growth.
Saturday, October 14, Dryden Theatre, 7 p.m.
In Spanish with English subtitles
Only the Europeans attempt these broad sex farces anymore. Queens --- which can stand for both the men and women in this film --- tells the story of a gaggle of mothers and sons preparing for Spain's first mass gay wedding ceremony. Foremost is the great Marisa Paredes, recognizable from later Almodóvar like All About My Mother, as Reyes, a successful actress coming to terms with the fact that her son is marrying the son of her pigheaded gardener. Carmen Maura (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) plays Magda, a no-nonsense hotel owner juggling a career, an affair, and her new in-law's massive sheepdog. And then there's Veronica Forqué (Kika) as Nuria, a bubbly sex addict unable to keep her hands off her son's fiancé. There's no great message here, just a lot of candy-colored fun brought to life by some of Spain's finest actresses.
Sunday, October 15, Little Theatre, 11:30 a.m.
Local filmmaker Beth Bailey premiered scenes from Getting Personal, her debut feature, at ImageOut 2005, and this time she's returned with the finished product. It's about four couples --- two gay, two straight, all toting baggage of some kind --- who meet up via the personal ads. The acting veers from the accomplished (Marc Raco as Paul is the standout of the cast) to the community-theater level, but the script is quite clever at times --- one woman likens dating to square dancing: "You can change partners, but there are only so many people in the room" --- and the film lovingly showcases the charms of our fair city.