Full coverage of the Seattle Gay and Lesbian film festival can be found here.
It’s been awhile since I’ve been this steamed about a movie, so bear with me for a little while and we’ll get to it. I take no pleasure in the last review of the post, but I think it needs to be said.
I started today watching the 5:00pm screening. Off Road (Fuoristrada) is a short documentary about Beatrice, a transgender woman in Italy. There’s nothing really special about this woman. She’s a mechanic, she loves off road Jeeping, she married a woman, and emotionally adopted that woman’s son. She tells us that she could get married to a woman because she still has the right parts, even though she has a gigantic pair of breasts and identifies as a woman. They go shopping for tacky dresses together. There is nothing really special about her, with barely enough to fill a 68-minute documentary.
Which started me thinking. We’re talking about a woman who lives a normal, middle-lower class lifestyle who used to be a man. She goes off-roading with people who knew her as a man. She’s part of an off-roading team. And, yet, I don’t think there’s enough content to fill a documentary. Maybe this is a sign of the times. Have we come so far that transgendered people can be considered boring? Or, everyday? Or, mundane? I get why these documentaries still need to be made. People need to be able to see their lives reflected on screen. Still, the biggest drama of the movie – that of Beatrice’s estranged daughter – is short shrifted because of non-participation of the daughter. The estrangement is mainly due to Beatrice having gotten a woman pregnant when she was too young, and her wife cheated with another man due to estrangement.
Off Road is nice if you want to see how a normal everyday TG woman lives, but there’s not much to it beyond that. Still, a nice but unexciting documentary doesn’t get my blood going. Especially because the movie made me think about how far I’ve come, if not society, with regards to normalizing queer sexuality and gender.
With Off Road on the mind, the next screening was the Trans Shorts program. Before we get into the Trans Shorts program, I would love to highlight that Three Dollar Bill Cinema also has a weekend-long Trans film festival every May called Translations. It has its own series of films and shorts programs, but it isn’t nearly as extensive as SLGFF. But, when you design a trans shorts program into a queer film festival, and you only have one, you fit in as many genres as you can. Trans shorts differed from Boys and Girls Shorts in one significant way: much more non-fiction. This isn’t bad, but it’s interesting that Boys Shorts is all fiction and Girls Shorts only had one non-fiction while Trans shorts was 1/3 documentary, and another couple of animated confessionals.
The highlight was Flying Solo: A Transgendered Woman Fights Discrimination. Coming in at only 8 minutes, Robina Asti’s 92-years-and-counting life is extremely remarkable. She was a Navy pilot, was vice president of a mutual fund when she transitioned, found a guy to legally marry, and fought for social security benefits for her and all women…and won. The other highlight was Black is Blue, which abuses the documentary format to explore trans identity and issues in a fictionalized manner. The post-ending segments where the actors and actresses describe their understanding of the characters in the situations was the best part of the short.
The late screening I didn’t see, because I had seen it at SIFF, was The Way He Looks, about a blind teenager coming out to his best friend. A lot of other people fell in love with it. I was jaded and wanted something darker and less romanticized.
Instead of The Way He Looks, I saw the Seattle-filmed Never. Rarely have I been so angry at a film. We talk a lot about how films focus on middle-class white hetero males and anybody who doesn’t fit into that definition becomes a side character. Well, Never is that film. Never presents itself like a humorless correctional to Chasing Amy, and hits many of the same notes as Chasing Amy did. In 1997, it was nice to see an integration of queer sexuality into hetero mainstream-ish film, even if it did get some notes wrong. Alyssa Jones, the resident lesbian with a dirty past, took a back seat to the straight white Holden MacNeil as they became friends and intimates. In 2013, watching a movie about a lesbian who can’t get over her past relationship take a back seat to a straight white male who can’t figure out what the fuck he wants is far less endearing.
Never is written by a straight white man about straight white man-boy problems, and it uses women as props without even realizing what it is doing. The main character is Denim, probably named because he’s supposed to be a pair of pants for all other straight white men to fit into. He is brought to a bar by his co-worker, Meghan, who has the hots for him. Meghan is hardly defined outside of her desire for Denim. At the bar, he falls in love with the singer/pianist/one-woman-show Nikki, a lesbian who broke up with her past girlfriend. Nikki, being the secondary main character, is hardly defined outside of her past relationship and her current friendship with Denim. Nikki isn’t given any friends of her own outside of Denim. She barely interacts with her housemates. She doesn’t have a lesbian circle of friends. Nikki is solely defined as Denim’s friend and also as some other woman’s ex-girlfriend, even when her third of the movie starts.
I feel like a bit of a hypocrite for saying this, but we don’t need lesbians to be solely defined by their relationships. It’s 2013, people. Us queers are fully fleshed out human beings. We don’t need you heterosexual people to be around just to make us happy or complete. Just stop. At least Chasing Amy gave Alyssa a complicated past and made her life just as complicated as Holden’s. Never doesn’t even give Nikki that respect. It’s a straight white man’s world, and everything circles around them, including this film.
5:00 – Purple Skies – India, Feminist, Lesbian.
7:00 – Lesbian Centerpiece – Appropriate Behavior, the trailer scene makes it look like a Girls-esque lesbian dry comedy and is quite amusing.
Gay program – Tough Love Shorts – Love, Loss, and Healing…with graphic sexuality
9:15 – Trans program – Something Must Break – a punky, queery, trans-y I dunno what but it looks AMAZING.
Gay program – Queens & Cowboys: A Straight Year on the Gay Rodeo – Drag queens and gay cowboys; denim and leather. Need I say more?