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Film festival’s LGBT features have a strong domestic showing
A good film can inform. It can uplift. It can move the audience effortlessly between tears and laughter, between mindless ecstasy and deep, meaningful introspection.
In short, watching great cinema, you can “be carried away,” which is the theme for the 36th annual Cleveland International Film Festival at Tower City Cinemas.
As is always the case, the fine programmers at the Cleveland International Film Festival have put together a massive collection of some of the finest cinema, but of special interest is the 10% Cinema, this year comprised of a dozen films specifically for the LGBT community and its allies, along with two programs of short films.
Seven of them, including two out of the three documentaries, are from the United States. It’s nice to see domestic independent films so strongly represented this year. In some years, it seems like speaking a Scandinavian language is a prerequisite for being gay in today’s society, but this year’s foreign selections include films from Iceland, France, Sweden, Belgium and Canada, although it is debatable whether Canada counts as a foreign country. After all, they speak English (for the most part) and their border guards are far more welcoming than ours on the return trip.
Ticket sales to the public begin at 11 am on March 9.
August, by Eldar Rapaport, is a classic love triangle set in Los Angeles. Jonathan and Raul are in the process of moving in together when Jonathan’s ex-boyfriend Troy returns from Barcelona, having abandoned Jonathan to pursue his architectural career. Will Jonathan be able to resist Troy’s charms? Will Raul, who is in a green-card marriage to one of Jonathan’s closest friends, be able to fend off Troy’s invasion? Only watching this film will answer those questions.
August plays on Tuesday, March 27 at 5:20 pm and Wednesday, March 28 at 9:30 pm.
Gun Hill Road
Esai Morales and Judy Reyes play an estranged husband and wife dealing with Morales’ return from a three-year stint in prison and raising their transgender teen Michael (Harmony Santana) in Gun Hill Road, directed by Rashaad Ernesto Green.
In a time when news reports of teen suicides and bullying are seemingly omnipresent, Gun Hill Road is a startlingly on-point selection for the festival, and will screen on Friday and Saturday, March 30 and 31 at 8:50 pm and 11:10 am, respectively.
Jamie and Jessie are Not Together
Light-hearted lesbian drama
with a bit of Bollywood flair combine to form Jamie and Jessie
are Not Together, a cute story of
unrequited love. Jessie loves Jamie,
her best friend and roommate, but Jamie
is oblivious and dating Rhonda. But with
Jamie’s impending move to
The film screens on March 24 and 25 at 1 pm and 2:05 pm respectively.
After three domestic productions in a row, it was inevitable to come across a film from a strange, exotic foreign land. And while Iceland is a European country, it gave the world Björk, and you cannot get much more exotic or foreign than a woman in a dress that appears to be made out of a comatose swan.
Jitters by Baldwin Zophoníasson is a coming-of-age tale revolving around Gabriel, who gets some play from his roommate Markus while studying English in Manchester. When he returns home, he reassumes his role as confidante for his circle of friends, all while trying to keep his mother from finding out about his feelings for Markus. Tragedy strikes, and the tight-knit group of teens have to rethink their priorities.
Jitters will have three showings from Friday to Sunday, March 23 to 25. Friday’s screening is at 2 pm, Saturday will be 9:25 pm, and Sunday is 9:15 am, so go to sleep early the night before if you plan to make that showing.
Swedish director Alexandra-Therese Keining turns in Kiss Me, a familial cluster-fuck that examines what would happen if the Brady Bunch went pseudo-incestuous. Elizabeth and Lasse, two 60-something professionals with children from their previous marriages, are about to be wed. When Lasse’s daughter Mia and her fiancé Tim are thrust together with Elizabeth’s daughter Frida, Tim may be shoved aside as Mia’s simple life comes unraveled by her sudden and passionate feelings for Frida.
Kiss Me will play on Thursday, March 29 at 1:50 pm and on Friday, March 30 at 6:30 pm.
Leave It on the Floor
Audiences then travel to a strange, exotic land where colorful plumage and complex dances combine to produce the Canadian Paris is Burning, although hopefully with fewer tragic endings. Sheldon Larry’s Leave It on the Floor examines the house ball scene in Los Angeles, where Brad meets Carter and stumbles into a house ball. Brad becomes the center of attention and the object of desire, but Queef Latina, the mother of the House of Eminence, is suspicious of his motives. Song and dance ensue in this binational musical, which plays on Friday, March 30 at 4:10 pm and Saturday, March 31 at 8 pm.
Love Free or Die
Next up is more serious fare, a documentary about Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first openly gay bishop ordained by the Episcopal Church. The filmmakers followed Robinson from his 2008 civil union to the 2009 Episcopal General Assembly for the film Love Free or Die, directed by Macky Alston, and paint a warm picture of man whose love for God and his fellow humans proved time and again to be stronger than the homophobia and hate flung at him.
The documentary will have three showings, on March 23 at 5:15 pm, on March 24 at 7 pm, and March 25 at 9:40 am.
Michael Akers’ Morgan is an examination of tragedy, recovery and risk-taking, following the title character, a champion bicyclist who becomes a paraplegic after a horrible accident during a race. While supported by his mother and his best friend Lane, he only begins to truly recover when he meets Dean, a sexy man who can overlook his disability to become his lover. Morgan begins to take his physical therapy more seriously, and decides to enter a wheelchair race on the course that cost him the use of his legs, but his increasingly risky decisions put him at odds with his family and Dean.
Morgan will be screened on March 23 at 10 pm, and Saturday, March 24 at 11 am.
North Sea Texas
Back over the pond to
North Sea Texas will show on March 31 at 4:20 pm and the following day, April 1, at 12:10 pm.
Because no collection of LGBT films is complete without a reworking of the Bard, Alan Brown gives us Private Romeo, an updated Romeo and Juliet set in a military academy. Eight cadets are left behind to work on their studies when the rest of the school goes off on exercises, and a classroom reading of Shakespeare’s play about doomed, forbidden love begins to take over their lives.
Less magical and more realistic than Were the World Mine, which took on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Brown calls Romeo and Juliet “a relevant story about sexual identity and desire pitted against society and its institutions; about personal freedom and rights versus authority,” and the classically-trained young actors in Private Romeo turn their school into a Montague and Capulet war zone.
The film will play on Friday, March 23 at 7:20 pm and Saturday, March 24 at 3:40 pm.
Céline Sciamma directs the French film Tomboy, in which Laure takes moving to a new suburb as an opportunity to remake herself as Mikael.
Mikael and his sister Jeanne are left to their own devices for the remainder of the summer as their mother undergoes bed rest for a difficult pregnancy, but as the school year approaches, so does the horrible realization than Mikael will be unveiled as Laure once the teacher calls roll.
Tomboy will be screened on Wednesday, March 28 at 5:20 pm and on Thursday, March 29 at 7:35 pm.
The last of the feature films playing the 10% Cinema is Vito by Jeffrey Schwarz, the biography of Vito Russo, author of The Celluloid Closet. From his introduction to the drag world as a high school student until his death from AIDS-related complications in 1990, Russo’s life was the struggle for LGBT rights.
He palled around with Lily Tomlin and Bette Midler, he helped found the Gay Activists Alliance, GLAAD and ACT UP. He was a force to be reckoned with, and Schwarz tells his story. If you missed author Michael Schiavi’s appearance at Liberation UCC in support of his book Celluloid Activist: The Life and Times of Vito Russo, do not miss this film. And if you saw Schiavi, do not miss this film.
Vito shows on Wednesday, March 28 at 7:20 pm and Thursday, March 29 at 5:20 pm.
The 10% Shorts Program 1 will be screened on Sunday, March 25 at 9:25 pm, and Program 2 will be on Thursday, March 29 at the same time. Both feature seven short films; Program 1 has three from Australia and four from the United States, while Program 2 has five from America, one from Japan and one from Ireland.
Full festival listings, box office and descriptions of the short films are all available at www.clevelandfilm.org.
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