QFest St. Louis 2013 preview

qfest2013 75Even if you blindfold yourself and throw a dart at the program this year, you’re bound to hit something good.

 

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QFest St. Louis seems to get better every year—not just in terms of the headliner films, but also in the sense that the overall quality keeps improving. Even if you blindfold yourself and throw a dart at the program this year, you’re bound to hit something good, so the main issue is sorting out which films suit your interests best.

Allan Piper’s documentary Married and Counting (June 6, 7 p.m.) showcases the extended honeymoon of two guys, Pat Dwyer and Stephen Mosher, who are so cute and wholesome and stable that they could be poster children for gay marriage. They met as college students in Texas, and were together for 25 years before finally being able to get married in Connecticut. As a sort of performance art and political protest project, they decided to get married in every U.S. state and territory that permits gay marriage—Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa, Massachusetts, California, and Washington, D.C.—setting off a road trip that includes a fair share of bickering (what road trip doesn’t?) as well as displays of the obvious love the two men have for each other. A word to the wise: To enjoy this one, it helps to be really, really into weddings. Director Alan Piper and subject Stephen Mosher will attend.

Carl(a) (June 6, 9 p.m.) is fiction, but often has the feel of a documentary, aided by location shooting in New York City and strong, believable performances by newcomer Joslyn DeFreece and reality TV pioneer Laverne Cox. As the title hints, Carla (DeFreece) is a male-to-female transgender person, a fact not embraced by her family, except for her grandfather (Mark Margolis). Carla makes her living doing internet porn, but unexpectedly finds herself falling for one of her clients, a sweet computer programmer played by Gregg Bello. The sex trade is not glamorized in Carl(a), and neither are the hard decisions Carla must make in her quest to become herself, but the message is essentially one of empowerment. Director Eli Hershko will attend.

Every time I went into the screening room at SXSW, it seemed that at least one person was watching I Am Divine (June 7, 7 p.m.), and hugely enjoying it. No iamdivine posterwonder: I Am Divine, directed by the prolific Jeffrey Schwartz, is a sensitive yet wickedly funny portrait of Harris Glenn Milstead, better known as Divine. Even if you don’t normally enjoy documentaries, this is one you won’t want to miss—it’s thoroughly entertaining (of course; since John Waters appears regularly, how could it not be?) and also a little sad, as Milstead died much too soon (in 1988, age 42), and just as he was becoming a mainstream star.

There are some films you simply have to see, no matter what anyone says, and Interior. Leather Bar (June 7, 9 p.m.) is one of those. It’s directed by James Franco and Travis Mathews, and Franco also appears in the film, which purports to present a project to reshoot the 40 minutes of hot-and-heavy leather footage cut from William Friedkin’s 1980 film Cruising. Truth be told, Interior. Leather Bar has a lot more talking in its 60 minutes than it does man-on-man action, but nothing could have convinced me to not see it, so I won’t try to convince anyone else to skip it either.

Here in America, we’re a long way from judging people on the content of their character, as Martin Luther King, Jr., recommended so many years ago—and even people who think themselves above racial and gender prejudice often have a blind spot when it comes to sexual diversity. For all that, a few openly LGBT people have gotten elected to public office in the United States, and Cindy L. Abel’s documentary Breaking Through (June 8, 3 p.m.) offers a collective portrait of a few of those pioneering souls. The senior member of this elite club is Barney Frank, a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts; others include Annise Parker, the mayor of Houston; Tammy Baldwin, U.S. Senator from Wisconsin; Phyllis Frye, a transgender judge on the Houston Municipal Court; and Karla Drenner, State Representative from Georgia. Directors Cindy Abel and DP Michael Bruno will attend.

Scary Normal (June 8, 5:15 p.m.), directed by Jennifer Bechtel, is a sweet comedy about a high school girl, Chelsea (Laura Welle), who just wants to be “normal,” which in her book means “like everyone else.” That’s not easy when your stepfather (Mike Trippiedi) makes low-budget horror movies and thinks a severed head prop makes a good dinner table centerpiece. Chelsea’s mother (Chris Taber) and bratty younger brother (Finn Dallas) are both on board with the films, but Chelsea finds it all mortifying, and finds some escape by developing her talent as an artist. She also has a crush on a boy totally unworthy of her, because, you know, that’s what conventional girls do. Then, into her life comes the confident and unconventional Danielle (April Cleveland), and life gets a whole lot better, although not without some trials and tribulations along the way. Director Jennifer Bechtel will attend.

Tennessee Queer (June 8, 8 p.m.) is also a sweet comedy, this time focusing on Jason (Christian Walker), who grew up in a Tennessee town where the high school jocks proudly kept a “smear the queer” wall listing their fag bashings. Jason is now a successful career guy in New York City, with a great boyfriend (Jerre Dye) and a job offer in London (the one in England, as he has to explain in his mother), but his family is doing their deceptive best to lure him back to Tennessee. He decides to stick around long enough to help other gay kids by organizing his hometown’s first Gay Pride parade, in the process uncovering the town’s continuing homophobia. I’d say this film’s villains are cartoonish, but given some of the foolishness we’ve seen from politicians and religious leaders surrounding the issue of gay rights, they’re really not that far from reality. Producer/writer Mark Jones will attend.

Terrence McNally’s play Corpus Christi imagines the life of Christ if he were born into 1950s Texas (as was McNally). Nick Arnzen’s documentary Corpus Christi: Playing with Redemption (June 9, 3 p.m.) includes the play’s history (the first performances, in 1998, were picketed by religious protestors), but is mainly concerned with a 2006 production that began in a small California church and ended up going on a world tour. This documentary is much more about the people involved in the 2006 production (a cast including women and people of color, unlike the original production), and its transformative effect on their lives, than about the play itself (you don’t get to see much of the latter). Director James Brandon will attend.

Although a few U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriage, the federal government is forbidden to do so by the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act—hence, if you are an immigrant applying for a green card on the basic of marriage to an American citizen, that citizen had better be of the opposite sex. That’s the crux of the dramatic problem in Glenn Gaylord’s much-honored I Do (June 9, 5:15 p.m.). Jack (David W. Ross) is a gay Brit working in New York and helping raise his brother’s daughter (Jessica Brown). When Jack loses his immigration status, he enters into a sham marriage with Ali (Jamie-Lynn Sigler, best known as Meadow Soprano), then falls for Mano (Maurice Compte). The end result is that Jack finds himself out in the cold twice over: The INS is on to the sham nature of his marriage to a woman, but will not recognize a genuine marriage between two men.

In the fictional North Gateway High School, location of most of the action in G.B.F. (June 9, 7:30 p.m.), there are three cliques: the music and drama crowd, led by Caprice (Xosha Roquemore); the squeaky clean girls, led by ‘Shley (Andrea Bowen; the name is short for “Ashley” and no one in the film seems to notice how ridiculous it sounds); and the rich and glamorous crowd led by Fawcett (Sasha Pieterse; it’s no accident that her name alludes to Farrah Fawcett). The title character, Tanner (Michael J. Willett), has a perfect life in the closet, until he’s outed against his will. But it’s not all bad: Instead of being harassed, the female cliques compete to adopt him as a sort of fashion accessory. G.B.F. is not a deep movie, but the plot moves quickly, there are plenty of laughs, and it’s a pleasant fantasy, even if it doesn’t correspond to anyone’s real experience. | Sarah Boslaugh

QFest St. Louis will be held in Webster University’s Winifred Moore Auditorium, 470 E. Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves. Tickets are $12 general admission; $10 for students and Cinema St. Louis members with valid, current photo IDs; and free for Webster students. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets (search for QFest), and further information is available from the QFest webpage.

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