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Twelve years of sex, politics, and videotape

This year's ImageOut has all of the rule-breaking, gender-bending, sweet love stories, and good old-fashioned skin its audiences have come to love and expect. It also offers a good stock of politically charged documentaries and features, some historical, some fun, some handling the hot-potato issues of marriage and parenting. Several City writers --- Matt Ehlers, Michael Koldan, Christopher Nakis and Katie Papas, and Dayna Papaleo --- divvied up all the movies they could watch to give you this preview. With 45 programs over 10 days, we'll do our best to help you choose wisely.

Drag Kings on Tour

Sonia Slutsky, Canada-USA, 2004

7 p.m. Friday, October 8, Little Theatre

Drag queens are men who dress like women and lip-synch to Annie Lennox. Drag kings are women who dress like men and lip-synch to Annie Lennox. Sonia Slutsky's documentary, Drag Kings on Tour, is a film dressed like a documentary that lip-synchs to the Real World, Road Rules, or any other melodramatic "reality" TV programming. DKOT chronicles the Kingdom Come Tour, a 15-city three-week tour by six drag kings who want to express themselves and in the process challenge the way society views gender. I was challenged to stay interested during their motor-home odyssey; the gender-bending issues here have been covered for the past several years in other films, documentaries, television dramas, and sitcoms, and I found the six Kings On Tour to be somewhat of a drag both in and out of their costumes. Meet director Sonia Slutsky and stars Pat Riarch, Christopher Noel, and Luster at the screening. Opening night! After-party at Nasty D's. (MK)

Bear Cub (Cachorro)

Miguel Albaladejo, Spain, 2004

9:30 p.m. Friday, October 8, Little Theatre

It's nothing you haven't seen before: person with alternative lifestyle reluctantly saddled with kid slowly warms up to kid and must fight to keep kid with help of zany makeshift family. But foreigners always seem to handle the genre clichés better than Americans do, and this funny and touching Spanish entry proves that point. Apparently there is a subset of the gay community called "bears" --- hirsute, Fred Flintstone-type guys who look scary but are actually lovable and cuddly. And if someone would have told me that the hottest on-screen action of the films I previewed for the festival would involve big, hairy Spanish men, I'd still be laughing. (DP)

Late Wedding

Jehoshua Rozenman, The Netherlands, 2003, 57 minutes

12 p.m., Saturday, October 9, Dryden Theatre

This film centers around the wedding of Ale van Dijk and Oscar Janssen, two men who have been in a loving relationship for more than half a century. It's enlightening to see a civilized secular European attitude toward their union while America continues the same-sex marriage debate. The filmmakers ask if the couple can remember incidents of discrimination or mistreatment during all their years together in Amsterdam. They go so far as to scoff at the question. All they can come up with are some insensitive comments made by Oscar's mother, which she later regretted. This film should be required viewing for all right-wing Americans worried about the sanctity of marriage. (Part of the "In Love and at Liberty" program.)(ME)

Liberty: Three Stories About Life and Death

Pam Walton and Ruth Carranza, USA, 2004, 55 minutes

12 p.m. Saturday, October 9, Dryden Theatre

A group of women who form eternal bonds is documented in a celebration of life in the face of terminal illness. The most unique aspect of this documentary is the choice of how the first segment's footage is chronologically presented. Joyce Fulton, who died of a brain tumor in 2003, is first presented near the final days of her life. Each subsequent segment goes further back until the time of her original diagnosis. The lasting image of Joyce is a woman unburdened by disease, receiving a gift from her friends. The unique and massive gift, which gives the film its namesake, symbolizes the way we would all like to remember our friends. The film is shot in a no-frills manner that often resembles home video, but the moments that are captured weave a tapestry of courage, love, and perseverance. (Part of the "In Love and at Liberty" program.)(ME)

Black Aura on an Angel

Faith Trimel, USA, 2004

4:30 p.m., Saturday, October 9, Little Theatre

Given the obstacles a low-budget filmmaker faces during the various stages of production, there is always something to be admired when a film is actually finished. In the case of Black Aura on an Angel, however, this appears to be its only redeeming quality. While this film includes unimaginative camera work, amateurish acting, and shameful sound quality, perhaps its most offensive element is the stale, seen-it-a-million-times storyline. At the center of the film is the chance encounter between two women, one of which has something of a dark side. The instantaneous love and blissful perfection of their relationship is ripped apart by, of all things, a disturbing tarot card reading. Doomed to failure by the prophecy of the cards, the relationship deteriorates into a hackneyed story, which includes stalking and an ultimately tragic demise. This film only serves to reexamine the already over-examined theme of falling in love with a troubled soul. Meet director Faith Trimel at the screening. (CN and KP)

Mango Kiss

Sascha Rice, USA, 2003

7 p.m. Saturday, October 9, Little Theatre

Hovering in critical no-man's land is the film Mango Kiss, as much a standard Hollywood romantic comedy as it is an edgy, homosexual slice of life. The journey of Lou and Sassafras, though somewhat circular, comes replete with chances to learn about a multitude of experimental relationships. Moving from monogamy to open lovers, from homosexuality to heterosexuality, from sadomasochism to role-play, and everywhere in between, the couple finally ends up back in good old-fashioned monogamy, finding comfort in the knowledge that they have tried it all. While the "true love always wins" attitude of the film is rather cliché, the actors provide enough of a creatively vibrant spark to carry the somewhat mundane storyline. Presumably geared to the self-consciously hip and ultra-cool early- to mid-20s demographic, Mango Kiss is a perfect example of "cinema light" and is most likely to be forgotten somewhere between the walk from the theater to the car. (CN and KP)

Eating Out

Q. Allan Brocka, USA, 2004

9:15 p.m. Saturday, October 9, Little Theatre

In Eating Out, a screwball, romantic comedy from writer director Q. Allan Brocka (creator of the award-winning animated short Rick and Steve: Happiest Gay Couple In the World), straight cutie Caleb wants more straight action so he takes his gay roommate Kyle's advice and starts pretending that he's queer. The ruse attracts both "fag-hag" Gwen and her gay best friend Marc. Everyone is hot, horny, and ready with the canned, sit-commy quips: "My heart beats like a trailer-park husband." "Guys are like day-old donuts; I eat them because they're there." The film has won several awards during its festival run. Hmmm. It does feature American Idol 2002 Top 10 finalist Jim Verraros as Kyle, so perhaps Simon Cowell had something to do with the judging. Meet director Q. Allan Brocka at the screening. (MK)

A Woman's Love (Un Amour de Femme)

Sylvie Verheyde, France, 2001

9:30 p.m. Saturday, October 9, Dryden Theatre

Jeanne, a Parisian osteopath closing in on 30, is at a party when she gets a gander at Marie, an alluring dancer with whom she soon begins a scorching little fling. The only problem --- in true cinematic fashion --- is that, in addition to this unbridled lust for Marie, Jeanne also has a husband and a son. It's all a bit melodramatic, with actions seeming unclear as we don't know enough about Jeanne to understand what made her ripe for an affair --- especially with a woman --- but worth seeing for the performance of the magnetic Raffaela Anderson (last seen starring in the controversial Baise-moi) as Marie. The film also features Anthony Delon as Jeanne's husband, who looks just like his dad, luscious French film god Alain Delon. (DP)

Clara's Summer (Clara Cet Ete-La)

Patrick Grandperret, France, 2001

5:15 p.m., Sunday, October 10, Little Theatre

Best friends Zoë and Clara head for a week-long summer camp in this French film with echoes of 1980's Little Darlings. Zoë is hell-bent on losing her virginity at camp, which slowly estranges her from the beautiful-yet-shy Clara. And since teenaged boys are jackasses (come to think of it, they don't improve that much with age), it's not surprising that Clara would have her head turned at summer camp by the sophisticated --- and bisexual --- Sonia. Inexplicable behavior and eleventh-hour changes of heart make for a slightly unsatisfying moviegoing experience, but teenaged girls are often idiots, too. (DP)

Superstar in a Housedress

Craig B. Highberger, USA, 2003

7:15 p.m., Sunday, October 10, Little Theatre

With narration by Lily Tomlin, Craig Highberger's skilled, if repetitive, biopic about drag diva and Andy Warhol superstar Jackie Curtis is as pure as a documentary can get. Through interviews and actual footage, the audience is taken into the world of this playwright, poet, and performer of far-off Broadway. Curtis, who achieved fame in the circles of the avant-garde theater world long before colliding with Warhol's Factory, is frequently referred to as a genius. Highberger convincingly establishes that Curtis was as inventive and innovative as any performance artist of his time. As one of the brainier members of the drag scene, Curtis was at the forefront of gender study, flamboyantly flouting rules which would not be fully explored for at least another decade. (CN and KP)


Jacob Tierney, Canada, 2003

9:30 p.m., Sunday, October 10, Little Theatre

In case you were wondering, this is what would happen if you were to take Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, set it in modern-day Toronto, and reimagine the orphans as hustlers and junkies. The always-stellar Nick Stahl (from In the Bedroom and HBO's Carnivale) stars as Dodge, a heroin-addicted prostitute who befriends angelic runaway Oliver and shows him the depressing ropes. Gary Farmer, probably best known as the big Indian in Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man, turns in a brutal yet sympathetic performance as Fagin. Twist's feel-bad denouement is kick-started by one of the more shocking and uncomfortable scenes you're likely to see on screen this year. (DP)

Reflections in a Golden Eye

John Huston, USA, 1967

7 p.m. Monday, October 11, Dryden Theatre

By today's standards, Reflections In A Golden Eye seems repressed, even humorous at times. But major Hollywood figures such as Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, and director John Huston risked damage to their legendary careers to bring this story of repressed homosexuality and sexual dysfunction to movie theaters in 1967. And that deserves respect. Brando plays a closeted southern military officer. Taylor plays his cheating wife, and she sinks her teeth into this Tennessee Williams-style role, nude scenes and all. Added to this is local hero Robert Forester in his first major film appearance. His mesmerizing portrayal of a gay private, the focus of Penderton's obsession, is not to be missed. Huston's pacing, at least when compared to the frenetic pacing of today's films, is as languid and well mannered as Brando's southern drawl. And while the central story, Penderton's slowly burning passion, seems as relevant and realistic as any contemporary movie, the filmmakers couldn't take that story anywhere. Everything remains subverted until the ending scene. I won't give it away, but Huston's choice of camera movement on the final shot makes the ending almost laughable. (ME)

Adored: Diary of a Male Porn Star

Marco Filiberti, Italy, 2002

9:30 p.m. Monday, October 11, Little Theatre

Incorporating none of the gorgeous cinematography or passionate characters typical of Italian filmmaking, Marco Filibreti's film about fictitious porn star "Riki Kandinsky," is stiff and totally devoid of beauty or humor. Reunited with his family after the death of his father, Kandinsky, played by Filibreti, is a porn star with a heart. As he flashes his bedroom eyes and pouts for the camera, Filibreti gives a completely self-indulgent performance. Just when it seems things could not get any more narcissistic, Filibreti asks the audience to believe that this porn star really just wants to be a family man. Kandinsky's final act of egocentric self-sacrifice does little to change the fact that this character and story are completely bland. The only real question left for the audience to answer is: When was the last time a filmmaker tried to make a hero out of a heterosexual porn star? (CN and KP)

False Offender (Falsa Culpable)

Carles Vila, Spain, 2003

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 12, Little Theatre

False Offender is an 80 minute, made-for-Spanish-TV "thriller" about a married woman and mother who spends 18 months in jail for the grisly murder of a young woman she claims she did not kill. Once a judge overturns the ruling due to a lack of evidence, Carmen (Pepa Lopez --- the Spanish cousin of TV's Tyne Daley?) returns home to prepare for a retrial and to lead a new life devoid of a husband, son, or friends. And they can't handle the murder accusation, the media scrutiny, or the revelation that she is a lesbian. At least she has a creepy stalker (the real killer?) keeping her company. The film scores points for introducing a potentially complex lesbian character, but loses twice as many for never exploring her sexuality, never making the audience doubt her innocence, never developing the serial killer's madness or motives, never creating any suspense, and for including several scenes that make you scratch your cabeza and ask "┬┐Que?" (MK)


Helen Lesnick, USA, 2004

9:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 12, Little Theatre, 18+ only

After about 20 minutes with this poorly crafted film about two lesbian couples who find themselves tangled in an unexpected affair, the audience might see how apt its title really is. We are subject to characters and a storyline that are all but incidental to the meaningless sex, which abounds. When former college friends and roommates are reunited at a medical conference, each with their current partner in tow, the trivial insecurities and invented head games begin to fly. Attempting to fool audiences into thinking this film will be about a rekindled romance, the filmmaker instead chooses to ignite a relationship between the two strangers. Overwhelmed by guilt, the newly anointed lovers must eventually make tough decisions, which, given the overall mood of this film, mean about as much as those made in the common skin flick. (CN and KP)

Farm Family

Tom Murray, USA, 2004

5:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 13, Little Theatre

Tom Murray's documentary about homosexual men living in rural America paints a sometimes serious, sometimes humorous pastoral picture of life on the range for these fish out of water. With production values most closely resembling a low-budget PBS documentary, the film roams from a couple working on a dairy farm in Wisconsin to the founder of a gay rodeo in Colorado. Though the filmmaking is flat and stories are told almost entirely from the talking-head perspective, Murray does manage to focus on some relatively fascinating individuals, most of whom seem to agree that life in these varied settings can be lonely, awkward, and yet still rather fulfilling. While Murray struggles to convince us that these men are eliminating many of the stereotypes associated with homosexuals, in the end this film only perpetuates many of the myths, if only presenting them in a different setting. (CN and KP)

Iron Ladies II

Youngyooth Thongkonthun, Thailand, 2003

9:45 p.m. Wednesday, October 13, Little Theatre

One could only imagine the scenario which might accompany a movie with this title, yet this is a pleasant and charming surprise. With a quirky, imaginative story and a central character who steals the show, Iron Ladies II has something many films of this genre lack: a sense of humor. This sequel to a film about a transsexual volleyball team finds the ladies caught in the midst of the recent turmoil brought on by their unexpected success. When jealousy and squabbling drive star volleyball player Nong to break away from his team and join a rival team financed by a rich owner, the smell of a campy catfight between the two is in the air. Through flashbacks and personal reminiscence, Nong's former teammate Jung gives the film its comical edge as the teams prepare for the big showdown. This predictable ending has an unanticipated twist, providing just the sort of panache to make it almost accidentally amusing. (CN and KP)


Ruthie Shatz and Adi Barash, Israel, 2003

5:30 p.m. Thursday, October 14, Little Theatre

The story behind the friendship of Nino and Dudu is a sad and powerful look at the life of two young male prostitutes of politically conflicted backgrounds who come together with the simple goal of survival. Opting against the all-too-common talking-heads set-up, this documentary moves directly into the environment of these boys, treating the audience to a fly-on-the-wall view of life in the Garden District of Tel Aviv, Israel. The slow and steady pace of the film allows for full development of Nino, a Palestinian refugee, and Dudu, an Arab Israeli. With no explicit or even casual sexual scenes to rely on, this film derives its tangible tension from the disturbing and paradoxical fact that, although these young men exist in one of the harshest environments imaginable, in many ways, it's a life they have chosen. (CN and KP)

Slutty Summer

Casper Andreas, USA, 2004

9:30 p.m. Thursday, October 14, Little Theatre

A Manhattan fairy tale with plenty of sex. Marcus recovers from his cheating boyfriend by taking a job at an outdoor café for the summer. Marcus and the other three waiters, and one waitress, engage in a summer of couplings and conversations about all things sexual and romantic. The film teeters back and forth between sweet and sappy to graphic and, well, slutty. There aren't many surprises, and the conversations tend to cover well-trotted ground, but the film manages to find a good rhythm (no innuendo intended). At times it even exhibits a sincerity rarely found in the sex-farce genre and is sure to be a true crowd pleaser. Meet director Casper Andreas at the screening. (ME)

Blue Citrus Hearts

Morgan Jon Fox, USA, 2003

6 p.m. Friday, October 15, Cinema Theatre

Gritty. Awkward. Honest. Clumsy. Wandering. Painful. Pimply. Boring. Juvenile. Moody. Sound like your high-school experience? It also describes Morgan Jon Fox's Blue Citrus Hearts. Set in and around a Memphis, Tennessee high school, the 90-minute story focuses on the burgeoning friendship of two teens, Sam and Julien.Sam, a mercurial poet from a dysfunctional family, forces a change in the dynamic of his relationship with everyone, including Julien, when he shows Julien a poem. Filmmaker Fox gets a few real moments from a group of non-professional actors, a script that is 70 percent improvised, and a production crew of whoever happened to be available to hold a boom mic or prop a scene. (MK)

April's Shower

Trish Doolan, USA, 2003

8 p.m. Friday, October 15, Cinema Theatre

Burdened with clichés, over-the-top performances, and all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, Trish Doolan's film about a bridal shower gone crazy is a schizophrenic mess. Unsure whether it wants to be a farcical comedy or a poignant examination of relationships, April's Shower never generates enough momentum to go down either road. As Alex (Doolan) prepares for her friend April's shower with very mixed emotions, various guests clumsily arrive on the scene. The huge cast of deliberately quirky yet mostly stereotypical characters does little to give the story any meaningful depth or wit. And with only one location, this simple, generic production reflects an overall lack of innovation. By the end, with the predictable secrets of the film revealed, the shower guests enjoy an even more predictable wave of self-discovery, ultimately leaving the audience with little more than a "feel good" experience. (CN and KP)

The Raspberry Reich

Bruce LaBruce, Germany, 2004

10:30 p.m. Friday, October 15, Cinema Theatre, 18+ only

This movie would definitely give Dick Cheney that long overdue heart attack. Raspberry Reich is a hilariously campy and pornographic romp that is part Warhol and part Gregg Araki. The story, if you can call it that, revolves around a revolutionary vixen who cajoles her army of followers to participate in kidnapping and gay sex. The film features fellatio freeze-frames, cheesy industrial disco, and lines like "The revolution is my boyfriend." It's full of well-researched diatribes on such topics as: Why Corn Flakes Are Counter-revolutionary. At one point, however, all the campy erotic fun is derailed during a videotaped hostage sequence. Some things just aren't funny in light of today's tragedies. (ME)

Love Rules!

Beth Bailey, USA, 2004, 40 minutes

12 p.m. Saturday, October 16, Dryden Theatre

Local writer, director, and lyricist Beth Bailey delivers a short film that can best be described as a Shakespearian musical. Aphrodite confronts a delinquent Cupid, who has given up the love game and settled into a nice loft apartment. The two immortals battle over the fate of three sexually confused lovers in a series of musical numbers reminiscent of the Bard's romantic comedies. Bailey culls the best of Rochester's talent pool with standouts including Anne Barr and Marc Raco (who also composed the music) as well as Blackfriars Theatre players David Kyle and Ruth Caselli. The 40-minute film does have some rough edges. It seems claustrophobic (the whole thing takes place in two rooms) and much of the staging is better suited for theater. But if you're into locally produced musical films, this is your ticket. (Part of the "Flower City Flicks" shorts program.) (ME)

Girl Play

Lee Friedlander, USA, 2004

9:30 p.m. Saturday, October 16, Cinema Theatre

Based on a stage production --- and at times shot like one --- Girl Play recounts the true story of the relationship between Robin and Lacie, two L.A. actor-comedians whose friendship evolved into a very inconvenient romance. Unfortunate choices behind the camera are probably responsible for this real-life couple's surprising lack of chemistry on screen, but it doesn't diminish our hopes that these likeable women will have a happily-ever-after. Watch for John Waters regular Mink Stole as Robin's (stereotypical) Jewish mother and Dom Deluise, in perhaps the most irritating performance ever, as the director of the play that throws Robin and Lacie together. (DP)

Goldfish Memory

Liz Gill, Ireland, 2003

7 p.m. Sunday, October 17, Dryden Theatre

Angie, a Dublin reporter resembling a lush, sad-eyed Ellen DeGeneres, falls for Clara, a petulant bitch. Clara had been involved with Tom, a predatory professor in the throes of a midlife crisis, but he has moved on to another student. Meanwhile, Angie's best friend Red is smitten with David, whose girlfriend will probably be less than understanding when she finds out. The title stems from Tom's theory that our memories are as short-term as those of goldfish, which is why we seem to forget the agony of our last relationship as we dive headlong into the next. A lovely way to end the festival, Goldfish Memory is a delightful Irish comedy as frothy as a pint of Guinness and as sweet as, um, well, Ireland isn't exactly famous for its desserts. Features a great Irish-centric soundtrack including Damien Rice, Nina Hynes, and --- one of my absolute favorite bands --- The Frames. Closing night! After-party at the George Eastman House. (DP)

More on the ImageOut Film Festival

A love that binds here!

Brando gives good queer here!

Telling the intergenerational tales here!

You gotta fight for your right to family here!