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Six films in the 10% Cinema, and six more to see
One would think that after 35 years, it would be difficult to devise new taglines for the Cleveland International Film Festival. That is three and a half decades of magic shadows flickering in darkened rooms, entrancing and enthralling hundreds of thousands of people, a daunting enough task without also having to create a clever catchphrase.
This year, however, the film festival has outdone themselves with their snappy tag--four pieces making an overarching whole, or just the final piece on its own, really personify the festival and its history.
“Hero. Lover. Rebel. Be part of the story.”
Ah, the elegance of that quotation. As if someone were telling a disaffected youth in a Truffaut film, “You cannot sit on the fence. It does not matter what role you take for yourself, as long as you take a role.”
Beyond that, imagine the number of LGBT films that have played over the last 35 years at the festival. That is a shocking mountain of boy-meets-boy, girl-loses-girl, boy-becomes-girl films, far more than hit the mainstream theaters in that same time frame.
This year, the 10% Cinema sidebar is back, although with only six films. Thankfully, another six quasi-queer films snuck out and are hiding in the rest of the festival schedule, along with two programs of LGBT shorts, all running from March 24 to April 3 at the Tower City Cinemas.
Of course, a quantitative analysis of the films is all well and good, but what is really important is, what are they about?
First up is 3, a German film from the director of Run Lola Run, the film that introduced Franka Potente to the world and answered the question: How many times can a film run through the same events and still be enthralling?
Director Tom Tykwer again deconstructs traditional narrative structures in this movie, showing through split-screens and an intricate, almost farcical set of missed connections, what happens when a couple each find new love in Berlin’s intellectual circles. Hanna hosts a talk show, while her partner Simon is an engineer. She begins an affair with Adam, a geneticist, while Simon begins seeing Adam while recuperating from having a tumor removed. Categories and boundaries are left behind as Tykwer analyses modern romance.
3 will be shown on Friday and Saturday, April 1 and 2 at 6:45 pm and 4:15 pm, respectively.
For 80 Days
In For 80 Days, it is not new love that stands boldly in the spotlight, but an old love rekindled. Axun, a 70-year-old Basque woman living an ordinary life with her husband, takes it upon herself to visit her suddenly comatose ex-son-in-law in the hospital. In the next bed is another coma patient, whose sister Maite visits him every day.
When Axun and Maite realize that, not only do they know each other, but almost became lovers half a century earlier, they begin seeing each other, but Axun cannot keep her lies straight and her husband starts to fall apart without her constant presence.
For 80 Days has screenings on Friday, March 25 at 7:15 pm and Saturday, March 26 at 1:45 pm.
A Marine Story
Ned Farr once again casts his wife, Dreya Weber, as a lesbian for the next 10% Cinema film. Last outing (if you will excuse the pun), she was a gymnast questioning her sexual orientation in the aptly-titled The Gymnast. This go-round, she is a Marine discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the equally-aptly-named A Marine Story.
Weber plays Alex, who is discharged after her commanding officers hear of her “lesbian tendencies.” Back home, drifting aimlessly, she beats the crap out of some would-be robbers at a store, including a sullen young woman named Saffron who is sentenced by the judge to either join the military or go to jail. Alex offers to train Saffron to prepare her for boot camp, and the rest is the film.
A Marine Story gets three showings, at 2:15 pm on Thursday, March 31, at 9:30 pm on Saturday, April 2, and on the last day of the festival, Sunday, April 3 at 2:05 pm.
The Stranger in Us
Raphael Barker from the film Shortbus returns to the lavender screen in The Stranger in Us, playing on Wednesday, March 30 at 2:15 pm, Thursday, March 31 at 11:30 am, and at 6:50 pm on Saturday, April 2.
Barker plays Anthony, who moves to San Francisco to shack up with his partner Steven, who rapidly turns from loving to violent. The gentle poet goes wandering the city, where he meets Gavin, a young homeless hustler who becomes his protector, a younger father figure to the small-town naïf whose exposure to abuse has been minimal.
As he learns to navigate the city, both physically and emotionally, he gathers the strength he’ll need to take charge of his own life.
Magical Realism, one of the fundamental stylistic forces of Latin American literature, comes to the fore in the Peruvian film Undertow, directed by Javier Fuentes-León.
Miguel is married, with a child on the way, when Santiago, a mysterious wanderer, arrives in town. Santiago draws the suspicion of the townsfolk since he does not attend church, but Miguel is drawn to him. He heads out on the pretense of fixing his fishing nets, but sneaks off to make love to Santiago again and again.
The sea, unlike Santiago, is a cruel mistress, and the outsider is swept out to sea and drowns. Love, however, cannot be killed as easily, and his spirit appears to Miguel--and only Miguel. They can be together, but can Miguel condemn Santiago to wandering forever, or will he sacrifice his happiness to bring Santiago peace?
Undertow shows on Friday, March 25 at 9:30 pm and Saturday, March 26 at 6:05 pm.
We Were Here
What is certain to be the most emotional of the 10% Cinema films is We Were Here, a documentary by David Weissman dealing with personal recollections of life before and during the AIDS epidemic from five people who lived in San Francisco.
Their stories start in the 1970s, when San Francisco was free, and beautiful, and happy. Then the dark cloud descended, and the torrent of AIDS broke upon them, leaving them huddling together for comfort, or pulling apart in fear. It was the age of paranoia, the time of ACT UP, when the brave stood up and fought and the scared retreated back into their closets.
It was a time that created the LGBT community that surrounds us today, as surely as Stonewall or any other event.
We Were Here plays on Saturday, March 26 at 7:35 pm and Sunday, March 27 at 5:50 pm.
10% Cinema Shorts
The first program of 10% Cinema Shorts, featuring a trio of films by Alain Hain and a quartet of other films, will have one screening on Saturday, March 26 at 9:30 pm, while the second program, with five completely different shorts, will be on Friday, April 1 at 9:20 pm.
That brings us to the marginally-queer selections of the festival, or the 5% Cinema, if you will. Although, of course, if one follows Kinsey’s studies, it would actually be the 80% Cinema. Regardless of what you want to call it, the following films could probably have gone in the 10% Cinema, but didn’t. See them anyway.
The first is Dressed, a documentary about Columbus native Nary Manivong, who left behind a childhood of gangs, abuse and drugs in Columbus to pursue his dream of a career in fashion design in New York City. It’s fashion! The young Laotian-American unveiled his first collection at Fashion Week 2005, earning him a stop on Women’s Wear Daily’s 12 Designers to Watch list. With a designer who might just be a hipster (it’s so hard to tell these days) but is so pleasing on the eyes, who can complain?
Dressed (which also features the definitely-gay Siman Doonan) plays on Wednesday, March 30 at 7:15 pm and Thursday, March 31 at 9 pm. The March 30 screening is at the Capitol Theater at West 65th and Detroit Avenue, with a pre-film reception at newly-opened XYZ the Tavern (on the opposite corner from the theater) at 5:30 pm.
Next up is Little Sparrows, an Australian weepie about Susan, a matriarch who just discovered that her cancer has come back. She unveils this fact at Christmas dinner, which her three daughters are attending, including the youngest, Christine, a med student who just came out of the closet. Each of the daughters get their own chapter dealing with their lives and their relationship with their mother.
Little Sparrows will be eating up your Kleenex budget on Wednesday, March 30 at 6:45 pm and Friday, April 1 at 11:50 am.
For a complete change of pace, the next film is PressPausePlay, a documentary on the sea-change in art and culture caused by the digital revolution. With techno-artistic luminaries like Moby (who is bisexual) and Robyn (who makes music for gay people to dance to), this film has plenty of LGBT cred. It will play on Wednesday, March 30 at 9:40 pm, Saturday, April 2 at 9:15 am, and Sunday, April 3 at 4:15 pm.
Secrets of the Tribe
In the Amazon rainforest is a notorious tribe, the Yanomami. They are polymorphously perverse, run around naked and will have sex with just about anything, including holes in trees, according to anthropologists. The question is, are those anthropologists presenting the truth, or does their cultural upbringing blind them to what’s really going on? And given the amount of abuse the Yanomami have suffered at the hands of outsiders, why don’t they just shoot everyone with poison darts?
These are just a few of the questions in Secrets of the Tribe, a documentary about the Yanomami and their tenuous relationship with the anthropologists who paint them as violent savages, while having sex with their boys and bringing their girls back to New Jersey.
Secrets of the Tribe will be shown on Wednesday, March 30 at 6:50 pm and Thursday, March 31 at 2:10 pm.
!Women Art Revolution
Lynn Hershman Leeson’s !Women Art Revolution is an epic documentary examining 40 years of female artists, blending activism, art and changing social mores into one powerful potion. The film includes interviews with some of the biggest names in feminist art, including Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro, with archival footage that Hershman Leeson has been collecting for four decades, waiting for a timely moment to release it.
Taken as a duo with PressPausePlay, it could be an incredibly intriguing examination of the changing face of the art world, especially given Hershman Leeson’s own artistic metamorphosis, and the emphasis in her work on new technologies and their impacts on life’s interactions with consumerism, surveillance and living with a real world/virtual world dichotomy.
!Women Art Revolution plays on Sunday, March 27 at 7 pm and on Tuesday, March 29 at 4:45 pm.
You Think You’re the Prettiest . . .
Finally, and probably most tangentially, there is You Think You’re the Prettiest . . . (But You’re the Sluttiest), a Chilean film by Che Sandoval. The movie follows the misadventures of perennially horny 19-year-old Javier, who simultaneously suffers from ennui and premature ejaculation. When his best friend hooks up with the girl Javier wants, he goes on a meandering journey around the city, where, among other colorful characters, he meets a cruiser who Javier pays to go away. That sounds like comedy gold!
You Think . . . will be shown on Friday and Saturday, March 25 and 26 at 4:50 pm and 10:45 pm respectively.
For more information, to purchase tickets or passes or to see the schedule of the 35th annual Cleveland International Film Festival, go to www.clevelandfilm.org.
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