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A whopping 25 features in this year’s 10% Cinema
Cleveland International Film Festival begins March 19
Well, cinephiles, it is that time once again, as the days get longer, the blizzards a little less severe, and Tower City turns into a phantasmagoria of filmgoers. It is time for the 38th annual Cleveland International Film Festival, from March 19 to 30.
This year’s theme is “The Home for Stories,” which could be the theme any year, really. That’s all the festival ever is, an epicenter of storytelling, both fictional and true to life. This year will be no different, as the festival brings a whopping 25 feature-length presentations in their 10% Cinema, a collection of LGBT stories from around the world.
Since you can’t tell the players without a program, here is an alphabetical listing of the 10% Cinema offerings with brief synopses and screening dates and times. Tickets can be purchased in advance at www.clevelandfilm.org or by calling the box office at 877-3043456 (FILM). Tickets are $12 for Cleveland Film Society members, and $14 for the general public.
Also, on March 24, the Cleveland Foundation is footing the bill for your tickets, so try to book early, as every film that day is likely to sell out.
The first film, alphabetically, at least, is 52 Tuesdays by Sophie Hyde, an Australian coming-of-age film about dealing with your own sexuality while your mother transitions to being a man. Billie, who is 16, goes to live with her father so her mother can have some space while she goes from being Jane to James, but she has a hard time fitting in and ends up in a bizarre love triangle (apologies to New Order) with two of her friends at school. As she and her mother move apart physically and emotionally, they become closer in spirit, both trying to find themselves.
52 Tuesdays will play on Thursday, March 20 at 1:50 pm and Friday, March 21 at 7:35 pm.
Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth
Next up is Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth, a profile of the author and activist by British filmmaker Pratibha Parmar, herself a well-known activist in lesbian and feminist circles.
Honestly, what can one say about this film? It’s Alice Walker, whose The Color Purple remains one of the most important novels of the last century or so. Go see it. It plays March 26 through March 28, with showings at 4:15 pm on Wednesday, 9:30 am on Thursday, and 7 pm on Friday. If you don’t go, Whoopi Goldberg will be sad.
Before You Know It
One of the most important issues facing the LGBT community across the board is that of our elders. With the increasing numbers of people coming out, a sort of gay baby boom effect is occurring with a larger number of LGBT seniors trying to maneuver their way through old age. Before You Know It follows three disparate men as they navigate their golden years with style. This American documentary by PJ Raval reminds us that none of us are getting any younger, but older is wiser and, like fine wine and good cheese, we get better with age.
Before You Know It shows at 6:20 pm on Friday, March 28 and 2:30 pm on Saturday, March 29.
Born to Fly
Next is Catherine Gund’s Born to Fly, a look at the career of experimental choreographer and dancer Elizabeth Streb, who demands everything from herself and her dancers, from slamming into Plexiglas to 30-foot falls to a mat. Bodies can break, but so can the boundaries of mediocrity in art.
Born to Fly shows March 28 to 30, with screenings on Friday at 6 pm, Satruday at 9:35 am and Sunday at 5:30 pm.
The Case Against 8
Ben Cotner and Ryan White’s The Case Against 8 examines the lawsuit that brought down California’s Prop. 8, the state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage challenged by liberal attorney David Boies and conservative lawyer Ted Olson, the opposing counsel in Bush v. Gore, now allies in the battle for marriage equality. The documentary does not focus on the attorneys or the legal wrangling, however; it centers, justifiably, on the couples who wanted to get married because they love each other.
The Case Against 8 plays on Friday, March 21 at 6:10 pm and Saturday, March 22 at 4:20 pm.
Picture it: New York City, before Stonewall. A fallen opera divo opens a dance club-entertainment venue where people walk around in towels and get to have sex a lot. This is Continental, Malcolm Ingram’s documentary about Steve Ostrow, the founder of the Continental Baths, which gave us Bette Midler, Barry Manilow, sexual liberation and sexually transmitted infections. The film interviews Ostrow himself, along with his staff from the bathhouse, and, as the Divine Miss M herself said, mud will be flung tonight!
Continental plays on Thursday, March 20 at 9:35 pm and Friday, March 21 at 1:50 pm.
The Dog is another documentary, about a curious moment in New York City history, one committed to film history in the movie Dog Day Afternoon. The man at the center of that film’s events, John Wojtowicz, sits down with filmmakers Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren to talk about his life, the events that led to the infamous bank robbery, and New York City in the early days of the LGBT liberation movement. The directors also spoke to his lovers, friends and family to create a real-to-life portrait of a man known better for his fictionalized portrayal by Al Pacino.
Wojtowicz died in 2006, but will live on through Pacino and The Dog, which shows on Thursday, March 27 at 11:30 am and Saturday, March 29 at 9:35 pm.
Nejc Gazvoda’s Dual follows Danish woman Iben and Slovenian Tina, who meet when Iben’s flight is canceled and Tina drives her and other passengers to a hotel. They don’t speak each others’ languages, but they both speak English, which is famous for double meanings. Are they telling each other their deepest truths, or admitting them to themselves? Are they brave or foolish? Can anything come from this temporary, beautiful interlude?
Dual screens on March 27 at 11:20 am and March 29 at 8:45 pm.
Back to New York again for Five Dances, Alan Brown’s lyrical look at a young dancer who is all but homeless, appalled and appealed to by the advances of a fellow dancer, and running from an alcoholic mother in the Midwest who wants him to solve all her problems. The beauty of dance and of the heart join together, but both can be broken by a single misstep.
Five Dances will be shown on Thursdya, March 20 at 7:40 pm and Saturday, March 22 at 4:30 pm. The Saturday screening will be held at Playhouse Square’s Hanna Theater.
Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia
The bitchiest intellectual in American history takes center stage in Nicholas Wrathall’s Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia. He was threatened on national television by William F. Buckley and insulted numerous presidents, as well as putting out one of the first American novels with blatant homosexual content, so it’s only fitting that a documentary about him features interviews with the late Christopher Hitchens, former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev and rock star Sting.
Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia screens on Friday, March 21 at 9:30 am and Saturday, March 22 at 6:40 pm. In addition, it will be shown at Oberlin’s Apollo Theater on Thursday, March 20 at 7 pm.
Gay men should be able to relate to this women’s comedy. You know when you’re walking through Pride, and you see a really cute guy about twenty feet away, but when he’s ten feet away you realize he’s a really sporty lesbian?
That’s kind of what happens in Michelle Ehlen’s Heterosexual Jill. Jill has an affair with Jamie, who she thought was a man when they first met. She eventually breaks it off, since she’s, you know, heterosexual. And then, just to prove she’s totally not a lesbian, she asks Jamie to date her again. How could this be anything but a good thing?
Heterosexual Jill will tickle your funnybone on March 26 at 8:45 pm and March 27 at 2 pm.\
Kidnapped for Christ
Usually, when one hears the phrase “holy shit,” it’s an expression of surprise. In the documentary Kidnapped for Christ, it’s a bit more literal. Film student Kate S. Logan thought shooting some footage of interviews with students at Escuela Caribe in the Dominican Republic, which is ostensibly a rehab for troubled teens, would be uplifting--until she found out that it is a brutal work camp that specializes in “ex-gay” therapy for the children of wealthy evangelicals. The documentary follows David, one “student” at the “school” who was dragged out of his bedroom at home by strangers and taken there, all while being told by his parents that they love him. Now he and his friends are looking for justice.
It will be shown on Thursday, March 20 at 4:05 pm and Friday, March 21 at 12:20 pm.
The Last One
First there was Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt. Now there is The Last One, Nadine C. Licostie’s documentary about the Names Project AIDS Quilt, focusing on the people who make it and fight against the apathy that has enveloped the disease, the mistaken impression that the AIDS crisis is over. The title refers to the last panel of the quilt, carefully kept all these years, which will be added on the day that a cure is found.
The Last One screens on March 26 at 6:15 pm and March 27 at 12:15 pm.
Lesbiana–A Parallel Revolution
Myriam Fougère’s LesbianaA Parallel Revolution follows the filmmaker as she visits the many wonderful women she met during her travels in the 1980s, those fighting injustice from inside and those finding their own safe spaces away from it all, connecting through art, academia and activism.
It will be shown on Tuesday, March 25 at 8 pm, and on Wednesday, March 26 at 12:15 pm.
Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine
Michelle Josue revisits the hate crime that changed the way the nation looks at LGBT people in Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine, perhaps the first real examination of the young man behind the news story, after whom the federal hate crime legislation was named. With family photos, videos and diary entries, along with his parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard, Josue brings back a life so tragically cut short in 1998.
Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine plays on Saturday and Sunday, March 29 and 30, at 5 pm and 2:15 pm, respectively.
The New Black
Yoruba Richen’s The New Black delves deep into the intersection of race and sexual orientation, focusing on the fight for marriage equality in Maryland in 2012. It was there, for perhaps the first time, that the African American community tipped the scales in favor of LGBT equality in a major way after decades of being used as pawns by the religious right through their manipulation of black churches. The film focuses on African American LGBT people, religious leaders and politicians on both sides of the issue to examine how anti-gay activists tried to play both sides against one another by redefining marriage as not being a civil rights issue. As history has now shown, President Obama and the NAACP helped win hearts and minds, but this film shows many of the hearts and minds that needed to be won, and the people they love that needed them to be won.
The New Black plays March 26 at 2:20 pm, March 27 at 5:50 pm, and at Shaker Square Cinemas on Friday, March 28 at 9 pm.
One: A Story of Love and Equality
One: A Story of Love and Equality follows a married lesbian couple from New York as they traveled across North Carolina in 2012, talking to people about Amendment One, a ban on same-sex marriages and civil unions that was on the ballot that year. They spoke to advocates of marriage equality and those seeking to keep “traditional” marriage, creating a portrait of people doing what they thought was right, regardless of which side of the debate they were on.
One: A Story of Love and Equality plays on March 22, 23 and 24 at 12:30 pm, 9:20 pm and 11:30 am, respectively.
Reaching for the Moon
Away from the documentaries, and from the United States, for a moment, with Reaching for the Moon, by Brazilian director Bruno Barretto. The docudrama recreates the relationship between Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares and American poet Elizabeth Bishop in the 1950s and ’60s. Bishop’s demons drove her to Brazil to visit her friend Mary, but falling in love with Mary’s girlfriend Lota kept her there for years, even while her reliance on alcohol threatened to destroy the happiness she found there.
Reaching for the Moon screens on March 22 at 8:40 pm and March 23 at 11:15 am.
The Rugby Player
Back to the documentaries with Scott Gracheff’s The Rugby Player, a look at Mark Bingham and his mother Alice Hoagland. If Bingham’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he was one of the passengers on United Flight 93, the plane that crashed into a field on September 11, 2001. It is believed that passengers, almost certainly including the brawny Bingham, stormed the cockpit and ended the terrorists’ threat at the cost of their own lives. Bingham was openly gay, and his mother, in addition to crusading for greater airline security, also carries on her son’s memory by championing marriage equality.
The Rugby Player will be shown on March 23 at 7:15 pm and March 24 at 3:20 pm.
See You Next Tuesday
Runner-Up for Best Title of 10% Cinema 2014 is Drew Tobia’s See You Next Tuesday. If you don’t get the joke, I’m not explaining it. Mona, a pregnant cashier at a seedy Brooklyn supermarket, is staying (too long) with her sister Jordan and her girlfriend Sylvie, while their mother goes to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. As everything in Mona’s life goes careening out of control, it all crashes together repeatedly in a dark comedy full of emotional wreckage.
See You Next Tuesday screens on Thursday, March 20 at 9:30 pm and Friday, March 21 at 4 pm.
Stranger by the Lake
Alain Guiraudie brings back the spirit of the French New Wave with Stranger by the Lake, a brooding, erotic thriller set in rural France. Franck spots Michael at the nude beach, but Michael has a lover. When Franck spies on a tryst between Michael and his amour, Michael returns alone. This presents an opportunity for Franck to be with Michael, but it might also be leading to Franck’s untimely demise.
Stranger by the Lake shows on Friday, March 21 at 8:50 pm, and Sunday, March 23 at 1:35 pm.
Chris Mason Johnson’s Test takes us to San Francisco in the 1980s, as a plague begins to spread through the gay community. Frankie, a dance troupe understudy, becomes increasingly worried about the epidemic and fears quarantine when he begins hearing about a test for the disease. Lead dancer Todd, however, despite having the brains to back up his good looks, seems unaffected by it all. With dance numbers and intimate moments, Test presents another look at a dark time in the LGBT community’s history.
It screens on March 27, 28 and 29 at 3:50 pm, 1:55 pm and 7:30 pm respectively.
The frontier town of Trinidad, Colorado has the distinction of being the site of one of the first successful gender reassignment surgeries in 1969. Now, it is the “Sex-Change Capital of the World,” and the subject of documentary film Trinidad by PJ Raval and Jay Hodges. The film focuses on three women: Dr. Marci Bowers, replacing surgical pioneer Dr. Stanley Biber, who is retiring; Sabrina Marcus, who works at recovery center Morning Glow, and Dr. Laura Ellis, who assists Marcus.
Trinidad plays Friday, March 28 at 9:45 pm and Saturday, March 29 at 12:30 pm.
Valencia is the adaptation of Michelle Tea’s autobiographical novel, with a different queer director tackling 20 selected chapters as a separate short film each. From Tea’s lesbian punk days, the gay scene in 1990s San Francisco, kink and drugs and all-around craziness, this might be the eccentric masterpiece of this year’s 10% Cinema.
Valencia, directed by just about everybody, plays on Thursday, March 27 at 9:40 pm, Friday, March 28 at 3:55 pm, and Saturday, March 29 at 9:15 am.
Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf?
And the winner for best title of a 10% Cinema selection is Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf? by Anna Margarita Albelo. I could simply say it has Janina Gavankar in it (she played Papi on The L Word), and every woman who reads this would go see it, but it looks to be an absolutely entrancing comedy. Anna is finishing up a screenplay for a post-feminist take on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? when Katia has a close encounter of the breast kind with Anna. So, of course, Anna concocts a plot to court her by casting her as the lead in the film. Life might imitate art, however, if the actors can’t save themselves from the same fates that Edward Albee’s characters suffer. Or is that art imitating life imitating art? It’s a metatextual romp complete with dancing vaginas.
Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf? will play on Friday, March 28 at 8:10 pm, and on Saturday, March 29 at 1:35 pm.
Two sets of short films
There will also be two programs of 10% Cinema short films. The first is on March 23 at 4:10 pm, the second on March 27 at 7:45 pm.
For a full listing of festival offerings, or to buy tickets or just poke around and look at pretty pictures, go to www.clevelandfilm.org.
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