QFest St. Louis | 04.27-5.1.2014

qfest 75While I didn’t find a single outright clinker in the lineup … 

 

Enjoyment of a film often relates as much to individual preferences (I like European arthouse, maybe you like romcoms or action films) as it is does to the quality of the film itself. Nonetheless, a really good film can appeal to viewers not usually interested in the genre, and this year’s QFest has several of those. While I didn’t find a single outright clinker in the lineup (well, maybe Getting Go: The Go Doc Project, but perhaps I’m too female, and too far removed from my undergraduate years, to really get that one), a few standouts deserve special mention: the innovative documentary The Circle (4/27, 8:30 pm), the erotic thriller Stranger by the Lake (4/27, 9:15 pm), and my overall favorite, the genre-bending Valencia: The Movie/s (4/29, 7:00 pm), which is based on Michelle Tea’s memoir of lesbian life in the 1990s.

Two films were not available for screening: Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years (4/27, 1:00 pm), a documentary by Dagmar Schultz about the American poet who helped create the Afro-German movement, and The Case Against 8 (4/27, 3:30 pm), a documentary about the effort to overturn Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage. Here’s the rest of the lineup, in screening order:

Jennifer M. Kroot’s To Be Takei (4/27, 6:30 pm) looks at Star Trek star George Takei’s whole life, from his childhood in an internment camp to his current life as a civil rights activist, composer of an award-winning musical, and happily married gay man. By the end of the film you’ll feel that you’ve gotten to know a very interesting guy who’s done a lot more than play helmsman Hirakuru Sulu.

Stefan Haupt’s The Circle (4/27, 8:00 pm) mixes drama and documentary to examine the history of gay rights in Switzerland in the 1950s and 1960s. The key characters are Ernst (Matthias Hungerbühler), a school teacher, and Röbi (Sven Schelker), a hairdresser and drag singer, both of whom also appear as themselves in the present day, commenting on events in the film and filling in some of the background. I normally hate documentaries that use re-enactment, but The Circle feels more like a period film interspersed with commentary, and the central characters are so sweet that you’d have to be a real meanie to not like them. Shown with the short film “A Last Farewell” (dir. Casper Andreas, 13 min.).

Kate Logan achieved extraordinary access to a school for “troubled teens” in the Dominican Republic in Kidnapped for Christ (4/28, 7:00 pm), and the result is an eye-opening look at what some parents will do to try to turn their gay kids straight. Logan supplies both a detailed description of how the school functions (the general approach is to impose conformity through intimidation and abuse) and a disarming look at some of the surprisingly poised students incarcerated there. Shown with the short film “Families are Forever” (dir. Vivian Kleiman, 21 min.).

Cory Krueckeberg’s Getting Go: The Go Doc Project (4/28, 9:15 pm) tells the story of nerdy-cute college student Doc (Tanner Cohen) and his obsession with the male stripper Go (Matthew Camp) through the kind of film that a college student might make when just discovering how to goof around with a camera, and that’s before the film-within-a-film even gets started. Your enjoyment of this one will depend on your patience with the obsessions of a callow youth and a directorial style based on collage that deliberately thumbs its nose at “quality” filmmaking. Shown with the short film “Jackpot” (dir. Adam Baran, 10 min.).

I don’t know what the dyke scene was like in San Francisco in the ‘90s, but if was anything like Valencia: The Movie/s (4/29, 7:00 pm), it must have been a trippy good time. Based on the autobiographical novel by Michelle Tea, Valencia is a collaboration by 20 different filmmakers, who throw just about everything they can think of at the screen—including black and white, color, violet-tinted, live action, animation, multiple actors in the lead role—and, to their credit, most of it sticks. It’s way more fun that I’m Not There, that’s for sure.

Dan Hunt’s documentary Mr. Angel (4/29, 9:30 pm) details the extraordinary life story of the transgender educator and activist Buck Angel, who describes himself as a “man with a pussy.” Happily accepted as a tomboy in his early years, in adolescence and early adulthood his gender dysphoria led to alcoholism, drug abuse, and attempted suicide. He found his niche in pornography, where he was the first transman in an all-male porn film, and went on to win be nominated for numerous awards in the industry, including Transsexual Performer of the Year and Most Outrageous Sex Scene (and wouldn’t you like to know what that was?).

Sidney Lumet’s 1975 film Dog Day Afternoon is based on one of those only-in-New-York stories—a bank robbery intended to raise the money for a sex change that turned into a 14-hour armed standoff and a public spectacle. The Dog (4/30, 7:00 pm) tells the story of John Wojtowicz, the real leader of the robbery attempt. He’s quite a character and loves being on camera—rather too much, since he’s not nearly as entertaining as he thinks he is—but directors Allison Berg and François Keraudren also call on other voices and loads of archival footage to fill in the context in a story that’s truly stranger than fiction.

No one can do an erotic thriller quite like the French, and Stranger by the Lake (4/30, 9:15 pm) carries on the tradition. Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) is an ordinary guy cruising the Lake of Sainte-Croix when he comes under the spell of Michel (Christophe Paou). Despite clear indications that Michel is a Gallic Satan in a Sunday hat, Franck can’t or won’t shake his obsession. Beautifully shot by Claire Mathon, Stranger by the Lake won the Queer Palm and Best Director (Alain Guiraudie) in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. Shown with the short film “The Best Friend” (dir. Allan Deberton, 17 min.).

If you’ve ever longed to see an all-female version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in a film that also features a woman in a giant vagina costume, seek no further than Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf? (5/1, 7:00 pm), directed by and starring Anna Margarita Albelo. It’s part drag queen humor for the ladies, part self-actualization story, and overall pretty funny. Special note for True Blood fans: Carrie Preston (“Arlene Fowler”) has a strong supporting role in this film.

If the James Bond Franchise ever decides to take a walk on the wild side, while also regaining its sense of humor, the result might be something like Hot Guys with Guns (5/1, 9:00 pm). Actually, it’s the title sequence that evokes Bond, while the movie itself is more of a buddy cop comedy about two exes (Marc Anthony Samuel and Brian McArdle) who team up as crime fighters to track down a gang of robbers targeting gay sex parties. Seriously. Hot Guys with Guns is fun, if lightweight, and Joan Ryan is a hoot as McArdle’s cougar mom. | Sarah Boslaugh

QFest is presented at the Tivoli Theater. Tickets are $12 for the general public, $10 for students and Cinema St. Louis member with valid and current photo IDs. Tickets are on sale at the Tivoli box office and online. For more information, call 314-289-4152. You can watch the trailers on the Festival YouTube page and download a PDF of the program here.

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