QFest St. Louis 2015 | 04.19.2015 – 04.23.2015

qfest 75One thing that is sure is that the gay and lesbian filmmaking scene is thriving, and there’s an audience eager to see these films.

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We certainly live in interesting times as far as the movie business goes. With changing business models, distribution patterns, and formats (the term, “film,” is becoming more and more a term of convenience rather than a physical description), it seems like no one knows what direction the industry will take next. One thing that is sure is that the gay and lesbian filmmaking scene is thriving, and there’s an audience eager to see these films. Enter QFest St. Louis, which offers a great opportunity to catch up with a lot of films and have a good time in the process. Special bonus: lots of female directors!

QFest kicks off with a free screening of The Year We Thought About Love (04/19, 1:00 pm), a documentary by Ellen Brodsky about the members of True Colors: OUT Youth Theater. They’re a group of LGBTQ young people of color from the Boston area who use community theatre performances to spread awareness about LGBTQ lives. Theatre nerds will particularly love this one, as audition, rehearsal, and performance footage is intercut with perceptive interviews with the young cast members.

qfest 300Greg Louganis is famous for several things, one of which is winning four gold medals in Olympic diving. Another, of course, is his status as an out male athlete who has been HIV positive for several decades. Director Cheryl Furjanic includes both the good times and the bad in her documentary Back on Board: Greg Louganis (04/19, 3:15 pm), producing a portrait of a man whose extraordinary abilities and accomplishments couldn’t shield him from some hard times as well, the saddest of which may be his current financial difficulties. Furjanic has assembled an extraordinary collection of archival footage, intercut with contemporary interviews and more recent footage to present an absorbing and, in the end, typically American story of perseverance through adversity.

Watching Fina Torres’ Liz in September (04/19, 5:30 pm) is like taking a virtual trip to the Caribbean, where the sun is always shining, the water is always clear blue, and lush tropical vegetation offers an alternative to the sun and the sea. That’s an added bonus to the film’s story, which is about the meeting of minds and bodies between L-Word veteran Patricia Velasquez, the Liz of the title, a lesbian recovering from serious illness, and a straight woman (Eloisa Maturen) unexpectedly on her own for a while.

Todd and Chet are brothers whose lives have taken very different courses. Todd (Frankie Valenti, a.k.a. porn star Johnny Hazzard) lives an openly gay life in the city, while Chet (Mark Strano) has remained in the small town where they grew up, and also in the closet. They are brought back together following the death of their father (who, as we see in an early scene, was not exactly open-minded concerning alternative sexualities). That’s the setup in director Wade Gasque’s Tiger Orange (4/19, 8:00 pm), which is engaging largely because of the central performances, who bring life to a script that is too frequently on the nose.

Jeffrey Schwarz’s documentary Tab Hunter Confidential (04/20, 7:00 pm) offers an endearing, and mostly upbeat, biographical look at one of the brightest stars of the 1950s. Born Arthur Andrew Kelm in New York City, Tab Hunter received his stage name from agent Henry Willson, who helped build him into a huge Hollywood star in the all-American mold of another Willson client, Rock Hudson. Despite several near-misses, including a story in the bottom-feeding tabloid Confidential mentioning Hunter’s presence at a “limp-wristed pajama party,” Hunter managed to navigate the tricky business of living a nonconforming private life while maintaining a studio-created persona in public, and, speaking today, seems to have accepted this deception as a practical necessity in the world in which he lived.

qfest 350Gerontophilia (04/20, 9:00 pm) is a comedy by Bruce La Bruce about a beautiful young man (Pier-Gabriel Lajoie) who discovers he has an attraction to older men. A summer job as an orderly in a retirement home leads to further adventures. I wasn’t able to preview this one, but Jay Weissberg, writing in Variety, says the director shows “an uncharacteristic sweetness” in this film, as if trying to channel “the kind of warmhearted gay vibes of a John Waters.”

Have you heard of the attack of the killer lesbians? If you follow the news from NYC, you probably have. If not, you can catch up quickly by watching Blair Dorosh-Walter’s documentary Out in the Night (04/21, 7:00 pm). In 2006, seven lesbian friends were enjoying a night on the town, until they were verbally accosted by Dwayne Buckle, who threatened to, among other things, “fuck them straight.” An altercation ensued, one result of which was that Buckle was stabbed in the stomach. All seven women received prison sentences, although several have since been overturned on appeal. Out in the Night offers a detailed analysis of the case, bolstered by footage from a security camera, which suggests that the court system as well as the tabloid headlines (which described the women in terms such as a “wolf pack” and “gal gang”) got it wrong.

Queer Shorts (04/21, 9:00 pm) is a 75-minute program of seven short films from the United States, Brazil, and Venezuela. Aban + Khorshid (Darwin Serink, 15 min.) is based on the true story of two Iranian men executed for their sexual preference. Adjust-a-Dream (Jonathan Wysocki, 6 min.) offers a comic look at a gay male couple whose anxieties surface while they shop for a mattress together. Camchat (Jake Pruitt, 11 min.) offers an up-close view of one young man’s experience in the online dating scene. I Do (Felice Cabral, 21 min.) is about a man preparing to propose to his boyfriend, only to find that things don’t go as he planned. Tonight It’s Me (Dominic Haxton, 13 min.) offers an unromanticized look at the life of a gay hustler in Los Angeles, and an encounter with a transsexual client that forces him to question some of his own assumptions. You. Me. Bathroom. Sex. Now. (Francisco Lupini-Basagoiti, 18 min.) is a comedy about a man who seeks solace in a dive bar after learning that his long-time partner has been cheating on him.

Noeli, a young Dominican woman, makes her living courting the affections old, white tourists on the beaches of Las Terrenas. Then one day she encounters an older woman (played by Geraldine Chaplin) who really cares for her, and Noeli begins to regard this woman as something more than a mark as well. This conflict is sensitively explored in Sand Dollars (04/22, 7:00), directed by Laura Amelia Guzmán and Israel Cárdenas, while also offering a realistic look at life among ordinary Dominicans.

Chuck Holmes made a fortune in gay pornography, then became a major philanthropist, supporting many gay and lesbian organizations as well as political and social organizations such as the Sierra Club and Amnesty International. Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story (04/22, 9:00 pm), directed by Michael Stabile, is a documentary covering both aspects of Holmes’ life, and the sometime conflict between them. This film was not available for screening, but according to the IMDB, among those appearing in the film are John Waters, Holly Woodlawn, and Chi Chi La Rue.

If the lead character in Girls were a bisexual Iranian woman trying to navigate modern life in hipsterish Brooklyn without totally disappointing her parents, it might come out something like Appropriate Behavior (04/23, 7:00 pm), directed by and starring Desiree Akhavan (“Chandra” on Girls). Except that Shirin, Akhavan’s character in this film, is much less annoying than any of the major characters on Girls, and this film is much truer to the variety of people actually living in New York.

Belle and Sebastian’s song “There’s Too Much Love” is featured in The Way He Looks (04/23, 9:00 pm), and it’s a totally appropriate choice for this sweet teenage love story directed by Daniel Ribeiro. The plot has been featured in a million high school stories—a longtime friendship is threatened by the appearance of a third party and the subsequent rush of hormones—but the execution is heartfelt and the actors charming. The Brazilian setting and several specific elements in the story—among them that the lead character is blind, and the romance is between two guys—also helps to give it a fresh spin. | Sarah Boslaugh

All screenings for QFest St. Louis take place at the Tivoli Theatre in University City. Tickets are available from the Tivoli box office and online. Individual tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for students and Cinema St. Louis members. More information about QFest is available from the Cinema St. Louis website.

 

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