QFest 2010 | 3.28.10-3.31.10

QFest serves up an eclectic mixture of films which offer something, if not for everyone, at least for a lot of people.

I’ve come to think QFest as the cuter little brother of the Saint Louis International Film Festival. Everything’s a little more low key, the scale is much smaller (only four days, with only one film playing at a time) and the scope is more focused (every film has some relationship to gay culture) but within those confines QFest serves up an eclectic mixture of films which offer something, if not for everyone, at least for a lot of people. Sad to say, I’m not going to see every film on the program but what I’ve seen so far is definitely worth recommending.

The festival kicked off on Sunday with two feature documentaries and a documentary short by local filmmaker Cody Stokes. Ferron: Girl on a Road is a documentary about the legendary Canadian folksinger who was one of the founding mothers of women’s music and has been compared to, among others, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Johnny Cash. Directed by Canadian Gerry Rogers (best known for her 2000 film My Left Breast, which documented her battle with breast cancer), Ferron presents a biography of the singer against the backdrop of a reunion concert with her old band which represents something of a comeback after an absence of 10 years due to a disastrous contract she signed with Warner Brothers.

The title comes from one of Ferron’s hits, the autobiographical “Girl on a Road” which provides a good example of her densely poetical lyrics while depicting her departure from home at age 15: “My momma was a waitress, my daddy a truckdriver. The thing that kept their power from them slowed me down awhile. I remember the morning that was the closing of my youth, when I said goodbye to no one and in that way faced my truth…and a walk along the river… and a rain a’coming down…and a girl on a road.” Rogers’ film has an endearingly handmade feel, and she allows us to hear long takes from the concert intercut with Ferron’s reflections on her life and career (illustrated with some priceless photographs—this lady was quite the heartthrob in her younger years) and low-key interviews with the band members.

Mississippi Queen is an autobiographical documentary directed by Paige Williams, a Southern lesbian whose parents began an ex-gay ministry after she came out in high school. The film documents Williams’ return home to Mississippi after years of living in Montana and her efforts to reconcile with her parents and understand the culture of her childhood. Williams was raised to love God even before her family which might be a reasonable approach to life were it not that in a Southern Baptist context loving God means acquiescing to the teachings of homophobic ministers who pick and choose which Bible passages should apply to modern life. So to them Leviticus 18:22 (“Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind”) proves that any and all same-sex relationships are strictly unacceptable in 21st century America while neighboring prohibitions about wearing two kinds of cloth (Leviticus 20:18) and sleeping with a woman during her menstrual period (Leviticus 20:18) somehow have no applicability.

You may think you’ve already seen this film, but believe me you haven’t. Williams has a fresh take on the context and a deceptively innocent manner as an interviewer which causes people involved in the ex-gay movement to reveal things about themselves they probably never intended to be captured on celluloid. There’s certainly a shock value, which Williams underplays, in meeting attractive, clearly gay people who have chosen celibacy as preferable to expressing their sexuality. But she avoids unnecessary confrontation and allows the film to find a peaceful way to a happy ending, aided by the arrival of her first child: after all, there’s nothing like a grandchild to melt the heart of the most judgmental parent. Mississippi Queen is distributed by Porch Productions: further information is available from http://www.msqueenmovie.com/.

Of particular local interest is the 8-minute documentary short Heartland Transport directed by Cody Stokes. It documents the first of several bus trips organized by St. Louisans Ed Reggi and Scott Emanuel for same-sex couples from the St. Louis area who want to be legally married in Iowa. The film is straightforward and heartwarming and gives you faith that there are good people everywhere: mayor Regina Bailey (of Iowa City) greeted the couples in person and the ceremonies took place at the local Unitarian Church who also supplied home-baked goodies for the reception. Reggi, Emanuel and Stokes participated in a question-and-answer session afterward the film which revealed tidbits like the fact that lesbians have been far quicker to line up to get married than gay men and that Wisconsin is the only U.S. state where it is actually illegal for same-sex couples to get married in another state. If you missed it at the festival you can watch Heartland Transport on the internet at http://vimeo.com/9226377. | Sarah Boslaugh

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