Full coverage of the Seattle Gay and Lesbian film festival can be found here.
This is the first year where I haven’t picked and chosen very selectively at a lesbian and gay film festival. Normally, I’m really picky about my queer cinema, especially since queer cinema is usually littered with crap. But, surprisingly to me, this year was filled with a lot of surprises that I probably would have skipped just reading about them in the program.
My two fictional favorites of the festival were Something Must Break and Xenia, the two edgiest and angriest films that most relate to the New Queer Cinema genre. Xenia is a film from Greece pissed off about the racism and homophobia that is an acceptable part of the culture. With racist and homophobic assaults, not to mention plots that acknowledge financial hardships on the edges of society, Xenia has a lot to be pissed about, but it has a hell of a lot of fun through the rage. Something Must Break feels like an infinitely more personal film, and probably is far more polarizing. It’s bold, eccentric and and just plain strange. I’m really in love with this movie that doesn’t seem to have a distributor yet. :-/
Overall, the quality of film, even of the more traditional films, were much higher than I expected. I only had two real regrets from the festival – Never and The Dark Place – out of 8 days of programming. For any film festival, that’s an amazing record. Kathleen Mullen’s first year was a wide success, backed up by a strong year for gay film. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been back in the day to fill the roster when you had a bunch of Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss balls of cliche that littered gay cinema.
Ms. Mullen also was skilled to bring 80+ different guests (including for shorts and features, and multiple guests for some films), but the piece de resistance was having a community panel following the excellent documentary Out in the Night to address the intersection of race and queerness. The only piece that was missing was having something as landmark as a Peaches Christ midnight mass. We don’t seem to have a local drag queen who is as into film as Peaches, who participates in many of her local film festivals. Having retro screenings with iconic special guests like Tura Satana or Elvira (my ex went gaga when Elvira was around) was a great aspect of years past. The Hedwig sing-along was great, but I couldn’t help but wonder what Peaches would have brought to the pre-show.
My favorite party was also the most controversial party. Held at the Hotel Max, the party was actually in a converted parking garage and had a haphazard feeling balanced somewhere between warehouse rave and semi-thrown together. On the huge plus size, the space was large enough to not be claustrophobic, and I personally loved the warehouse aspect. It made the party feel almost illicit, which I’m all about.
The best bonus to the festival was that Clyde Petersen’s SLGFF bumper actually grew on me. At first, I was like, “That’s cheap, chintzy and a little frenetic. I’m going to hate this by the end.” But, at the end of 8 days of seeing it in front of every movie, the bumper actually grew on me more and more. This is a marked contrast to SIFF, where I started dreading their bumpers this year by the end of the first week, and people were actively reserving their seat and then sitting outside the theater until the bumpers were over. So good.
The end product for the SLGFF is that Ms. Mullen brought a great range of films that spanned the wide experiences that fall under the queer umbrella. The genderqueer or trans section had an exceptional program. The lesbians had a strong showing as well. The gay men had a slightly more middling showing, but that was in part because they had such strong competition from the lesbians and trans films. It was a very very strong festival.
As a final note before the selections, I want to give another note to two docs that are seeming to get lost in the shadow of Out in the Night: Limited Partnership, and Children 404. Limited Partnership is one of the best examples of a biopic doc that I have ever seen. The editing and research is top notch. Even if you don’t care about the history of gay marriage and immigration rights, this is one to watch just for the editing. Children 404 is just a fascinating and important film. It doesn’t have a CTA feeling to it, so much as it is just really angry at the injustice of queer kids in Russia. It’s not an exemplary piece of documentary filmmaking, but it is a great topic with much interest.
The Jury and Audience winners are as follows:
Best Short: Disaster Preparedness
dir: Melissa Finnell
Most Innovative Short: Unicorn
dir: Rodrigo Bellot
Best Doc: Out in the Night
dir: Blair Dorosh-Walther
Doc, Honorable Mention: Kumu Hina
dir: Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson
Best Feature: Appropriate Behavior
dir: Desiree Akhavan
Feature, Honorable Mention: Drunktown’s Finest
dir: Sydney Freeland
Best Feature: The Way He Looks
dir: Daniel Ribiero
Best Doc: Out in the Night
dir: Blair Dorosh-Walther
Best Gay Short: Maikaru
dir: Amanda Harryman
Best Lesbian Short: Nancy from East Side Clover
dir: Gregorio Davila
Best Trans Short: Beyond the Mirror’s Gaze
dir: Iris Moore