Full coverage of the Seattle Gay and Lesbian film festival can be found here.
Everybody’s life has change. Sometimes that change is slow, and sometimes it’s fast. Sometimes it is coming to yourself, and sometimes it is simply a new phase. Change is the only constant.
Today started with Alec Mapa’s transition into middle-aged life in Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy, a stand-up concert film about his journeys that led him and his partner of 12 years into adopting an African American boy from Compton. The background framing device of this stand-up film is the home life that Mapa and his partner have created, opening with breaking the waffle iron and closing with a reading of a bedtime story. Everything between is stand-up. This is not a documentary about fatherhood, OK?
For those who don’t know, Alec Mapa is most famous for being in the TV serieses Ugly Betty, and Half and Half. Also, he was in the movie Connie & Carla, but nobody saw that movie. This performance, or at least this edit of the performance, is a bit haphazard and non-linear, going back and forth along his timeline with little regard for cohesion. One moment he’s retelling a recent story, the next he’s talking about the adoption process, and then a digression into Anderson Cooper. It’s a stand-up routine, and the stories obviously should be structured for rhythm, but it just would have been just that much better to have the routine be a little bit more orderly in the story progressions. Still, the routine is frequently funny and keeps moving along.
52 Tuesdays is built around life’s transitions. Billie’s a high school teenager who is discovering sex and intimacy when her mother decides to come out as a he. Her mother sends Billie off to live with her father for a year, restricting visitation to only be between 4:00-10:00 every Tuesday for the next year. Filmed over the course of 52 actual Tuesdays, Billie discovers herself and comes to terms with her mother as her mother continues the process of transitioning.
The audacious technique, where the film production crew only gave the cast the script of that week, pays off when ts obvious that the actors don’t know the twists and turns their lives will take over the course of the year. Del Herbert-Jane as James and Tilda Cobham-Harvey as Billie turn in powerhouse performances as a mother and daughter who butt heads in manners that mix common rebellion with the specific rebellion of a kid with a transitioning parent. The only downside to 52 Tuesdays is that we get to watch Billie and her friends get a year older, a noticeable difference at that age, but Del Herbert-Jane doesn’t actually transition, having done that off screen. It emphasizes the idea that the film is actually about Billie coming to terms with seeing her parents as real adults, but it also deprives the film of what could have been an bold and breathless visual change from start to finish. Ultimately that downside is only a nitpick as Herbert-Jane is excellent at navigating the film’s various emotions and their absence would have been totally missed.
The theme of growing up carries into Drunktown’s Finest, about a Navajo community who have become stunted by their own identity crisis, partly fueled by alcohol. Sickboy is struggling with becoming a father at a young age, after he had grown up with an abusive father. Nizhoni is looking for her personal identity and blood relations, as she had been adopted by a white Christian family at a very young age. Felixia is a genderqueer MTF struggling with acceptance in the larger community. Together, they represent the three genders of certain myths included in the film.
Playing like a Native American cross between Leaving Las Vegas and Crash, Drunktown’s Finest is witty and intense when necessary. Writer-director Sydney Freeland obviously has much to say on how our past affects our present and future, and he’s never subtle about it. By the end, everybody’s needs and intents are laid bare, even sometimes being bluntly stated for the camera. Still, Freeland keeps the plot chugging along, wrapping up all three stories in under 100 minutes.
Film Schedule 10/17
All films from Friday-Sunday will be at the AMC Pacific Place.
7:00 – Anita’s Last Cha-Cha – A movie from the Philippines about growing up lesbian
7:15 – Centerpiece Film – Match – Patrick Stewart is a gay ballerina when Matthew Lillard comes around suspecting Stewart is his father. – Guests in Attendance
9:30 – Happy End?! – German Lesbian Road trip. – Guests in attendance
9:45 – Eat With Me – A dramady about being gay and in the closet when an old-world mother comes to live with you. To me, it sounds like Lilting only without the gay son dying before the movie starts.