North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
Like the crape myrtle blooms and desperate getaways to the beach, the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival is something of a late-summer tradition in the Triangle. With an annual attendance of approximately 10,000 people, and a mixture of searing drama, sexy and comic romps and earnest documentaries, it’s a large and bustling festival with something for everyone.
Jim Carl, Carolina Theatre senior director and director of programming for the NCGLFF, says this year’s fest is the strongest yet. “We always try to be cutting edge,” says Carl, “but this year we hit the jackpot.” While his enthusiasm is to be expected, a viewing of a dozen titles made available in advance does reveal a diverse and ambitious program, and one with a few big names for good measure.
Among the titles: the much-anticipated Little Ashes, with star-of-the-moment Robert Pattinson; Drool, a dark comedy starring Laura Harring (Mulholland Dr.); and Training Rules, a documentary about anti-gay discrimination in the Penn State women’s basketball program.
The festival kicks off Aug. 13 at 8 p.m. with a high-dollar event, A Sordid Comedy Affair, featuring Caroline Rhea (Sabrina, the Teenage Witch), Rue McClanahan (Golden Girls) and Del Shores. The festival runs through Aug. 16 at the Carolina Theatre. A pass for 10 movies is $70 in advance and $75 during the festival; individual film tickets are $8.50 with Star Members paying $6.25. Tickets for the opening night comedy show are $32-$39.
Following are reviews of films made available to the media, with favorites noted with an asterisk (*).
Claiming the Title: Gay Olympics on Trial (Precedes Training Rules)This short traces the legal challenge to the Gay Games, first held in 1982, that made its way to the Supreme Court five years later. The problem? The United States Olympic Committee claimed it had the rights to the Olympic name. However, this was less a case of intellectual property than one of discrimination. The case played out against a backdrop of changing attitudes about gays, and the film devotes much attention to the late Mary Dunlap, who led the legal defense. SE
Falling for Caroline (Part of women’s shorts program called You Know I Love the Ladies)Darcy lays it out from the start: She likes romantic films and dreams of sweeping a lucky girl off her feet. Movies are a motif throughout, beginning with Darcy and Caroline meeting cute in a video store where both want the same obscure lesbian film. The pervasive soundtrack drowns out the dialogue at times, but at least the songs are light and airy. SE
Get Happy (Part of Ain’t Nothing Dirty Goin’ On!, a program of men’s shorts)Two-time Emmy award-winning makeup artist Mark Payne is the focus of this documentary. As a teen, he performed in Las Vegas with such acts as Milton Berle and Bob Hope, captivating audiences with his unerring impersonations of Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland, Diana Ross and Barbara Streisand, before turning to makeup. His strategy for success? Get out there and get happy! BD
Remember the Eyes (Part of Quieter Than the World Tonight, a program of women’s drama shorts)This love story misses its mark with its after school special feel. Camille (Marie Roux) is a powerful martial arts student, while Kindra (Julia Decker) is a shy painter. Kindra’s timidity proves to be more than just insecurity, as Camille discovers at the film’s final twist. Perhaps if the film’s issues were explored at feature length, this short wouldn’t seem so abrupt. BD
* The Amazing Truth about Queen Raquela (Iceland, 80 min.)Lovely Raquela has a secret that isn’t obvious at first glance. She’s a ladyboy, a self-described chick with a dick. Named for a character in an old folk tale, Raquela roams the streets of Cebu City, Phillipines, looking for a good time. Her only dream is for a man to whisk her away and spoil her rotten, a fantasy that seems to come true after an encounter with a New York-based Web site devoted to ladyboys. Raquela embarks on a career that takes her to Iceland and Paris, and eventually returns full circle to the Phillipines. SE
And Then Came Lola (USA, 81 min. Rough cut review)Inspired by the German art house classic Run Lola Run, And Then Came Lola stars N.C. native Ashleigh Sumner as Lola, a commitment-phobic photographer who must deliver a set of prints as quickly as possible to her girlfriend, Casey. As in the Tom Tykwer film that provides the template, three alternate storylines ensue as one minuscule detail revises the course of events. This film, written and directed by Ellen Seidler and Megan Siler, follows an interesting premise that doesn’t quite do justice to its German counterpart. At times, the dialogue feels unnatural and the acting strained, but perhaps the kinks will be worked out for the final cut. The raunchy love scenes leave little to the imagination. BD
* Drool (USA, 86 min.)A dumpy housewife named Anora (Laura Harring), in Catoosa, Okla., is stuck in a loveless and abusive marriage and her two children, Tabby and Little Pete, don’t respect her. Her only solace is her fantasy world in which she is a “classy” lady with a Prince Charming who whispers sweet nothings to her. Anora’s miserable luck changes after she meets her bubbly and quick-witted neighbor, Imogene (Jill Marie Jones), who gives her some much-needed appreciation. This dark and parodic comedy is narrated by her daughter, Tabby, who provides a dash of irony to each scene. Written and directed by Nancy Kissam, this film packs just the right amount of clever with equal parts outrageous. This is the N.C. premiere of the film. BD
Ferron: Girl on a Road (USA, 77 min.)First, some history, according to the film’s opening titles: Ferron, commonly considered a precursor to later, more commercially successful female folkies such as Ani DiFranco and the Indigo Girls, played for 25 years and released 12 albums before signing with a major record label. The label didn’t work out, and 10 years later after her last performance, Ferron rounds up her old band members for another hurrah. The film takes the structure of the archetypal rock doc, with most screen time given to concert footage and interactions between the bandmates; noninitiates won’t learn much about her background in this film that assumes its viewers are already fans. Video of Ferron is buttressed by testimony from band members, meetings with fans and picturesque images of life on the road. SE
For My Wife (USA, 82 min.)During a fierce rainstorm, Kate Fleming asked her wife, Charlene Strong, to come to their Seattle house that had begun to flood. Trapped in the basement with water rising rapidly, Kate nearly drowned at the site and later died of her injuries. In the hospital, as Fleming fought for her life in the emergency ward, a social worker dismissed Strong’s request to see her partner, insisting that she was not next-of-kin, an indignity that would turn her into an activist. Wife looks at every step in this sad story, including Strong’s advocacy of a Washington state bill supporting same-sex benefits in domestic partnerships. The film includes grainy reenactments and photo and aural montages of news outlets reporting the incident. The film sags when including the overlong legislative floor debate (in which the bill’s opponents invoke the specter of necrophilia and bestiality), but picks up when Strong takes her message to the world. SE
Misconceptions (USA, 96 min.)Uber-religious Georgia couple Miranda (A.J. Cook) and Parker (David Sutcliffe) haven’t slept in the same bed since their son died five years ago from a rare disease, “Dietrich-Schygulla Syndrome” (which will provoke knowing laughter from devotees of German film divas). Miranda spots a TV documentary about a Dr. Sandy Price-Owens (David Moscow) who is trying to cure DSS. In the documentary, the doctor and his partner, Terry (Orlando Jones), mention their need for a surrogate mother. Miranda receives divine inspiration and decides to answer the call. A clash of cultures ensues as Terry goes to conservative Georgia. At times the characters feel more like caricatures, but this comedy is well-intentioned with its exploration of tolerance in love and religion. This is the N.C. premiere. BD
* Training Rules (USA, 87 min.)For years, Penn State women’s basketball fans knew Rene Portland as the Lady Lions coach who took her players to many NCAA tournaments, yet failed to clinch a national title. Training Rules recounts another side of Portland as a unrepentant homophobe. With her three-pronged training maxim, “no drinking, no drugs, no lesbians,” Portland ruled her team with intimidation and fear, constantly threatening to take her players’ scholarships if they didn’t conform. The majority of the film is devoted to Jennifer Harris, a player “fired” from the team on suspicion of being gay, who subsequently brought a federal lawsuit against Portland in 2006. Harris’ story is heightened by the harrowing experiences of former players dating back to 1979. SE