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EVENINGS OUT

 


May 30 , 2014

Evenings Out

Death and life in small-town America

The specter of LGBT people ending their own lives looms over the history of the last century.

For most of the last century, gay men and lesbians in films always died by the end of the picture. The man who helped win World War II by breaking the Nazi Enigma cipher, Alan Turing, killed himself rather than live with the horrible depression he faced after undergoing chemical castration following his arrest on charges relating to his sexual orientation.

Even now, as court after court strikes marriage bans and television fills with positive gay portrayals, LGBT youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide, and four to six times more likely than their heterosexual, gender normative peers to injure, poison or overdose themselves. A quarter of transgender youth have reported making suicide attempts.

While it is terrifying that suicide seems like a viable option to so many LGBT youth, what is even worse for those left behind are the questions, the uncertainty. Why did they do it? Why couldn�t they find help? How did it get so bad that suicide seemed the only thing left?

That�s the issue at the heart of Aaron Douglas Johnston�s Bumblefuck, U.S.A., available digitally on June 3, with a DVD release later in the month. Johnston�s cousin Matt killed himself when he was 24, after coming out of the closet in their small Iowa town.

Johnston combines a scripted story with actual interviews of lesbian and gay people in the area where he lives, creating both a film within a film and a startlingly seamless examination of the effects of suicide, on those who attempt it and fail and those left behind.

Alexa (co-writer Cat Smits) comes to Iowa from her native Amsterdam to deal with the suicide of her gay friend Matt. She intends to interview locals about the gay experience in small town America, but she doesn�t expect to fall in love.

She expects even less that she would fall in love with Jennifer (Heidi M. Sallows), a brash and bold artist.

There are road bumps, certainly, and those of a particularly sensitive nature should be warned that there is an attempted rape that might serve as an emotional trigger, but the most important element to the film are the residents of Bumblefuck telling their own stories, whether they attempted suicide, or just dealt with the homophobia surrounding them. It�s very moving.

Johnston�s tribute to his cousin, and his attempt to find meaning in the tragic decision of a 24-year-old to end his life, is an incredibly solid first effort. He has gone on to direct a short and two more features. One of these also features Cat Smits, the other uses non-professional actors from Iowa. Johnston is definitely one to watch going forward.

The performances are natural (for the most part) and engaging, and Johnston keeps it very real. It is not a film of artifice; it is, instead, one of genuine emotion and understandable reaction.

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This material is copyrighted by the Gay People�s Chronicle. Permission is given to repost no more than the headline, byline, and one or two paragraphs, with the full name of the Gay People�s Chronicle and a link to the full article on our website. Reproduction of the entire article is prohibited without specific written permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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