I find that in the beginning of summer something very curious happens to me. The nights get shorter and my lip gets sweatier and I know that I am experiencing a strong urge to see a really gay movie. So if you also have this rather uncontrollable hankering to sit in on a gay experience, don’t make the mistake of going to your local theatre. As it turns out, 17 Again is not about Matthew Perry morphing into a young lesbian. And unfortunately, the ending of Obsessed does not involve Beyonce seducing Ali Larter in her unfinished attic. Don’t worry, there is a film festival designed just for you: Inside/Out (May 14-24). The festival is about to celebrate its 19th year of LGBT cinema, and while it may offer its fair share of typical homodrama (and by that I mean movies with titles like Steam and The Back Room) it will also be screening more than 100 other fascinating and fantastic options.
When it comes to gay film, I fully believe that documentaries are the best option. For one, they star actual gay people. Two, they tend to showcase a more diverse cast of gay characters than any episode of Will & Grace. And three, the content is insane! I say this literally; last year there was an entire documentary about an insane lesbian obsessed with 80s pop icon Tiffany.
If you are a fan of sports but not so much of homophobia, you should certainly check out Training Rules. It’s subtle, funny and more than often off-putting. The film focuses on the unfortunate motto held by Pennsylvania State University women’s basketball coach Rene Portland – “no drinking, no drugs, no lesbians.” Rene’s inspiring coaching methods don’t simply stop there; she also excels in threatening, blackmail, and harassment. To the incredible dismay of many, she managed to rack up dozens of coaching awards even while bullying any and all lesbians off the team. But, as one player succinctly states, “does she actually expect to win a national title without a lesbian on her team?” Ha, very good point. And also, a very fine film. For a nicer, more accepting world of sports, check out Doin’ It On the Ice, a short documentary that follows a lively and proud gay curling league. Although they are not caught literally “doin’ it” on the ice, they certainly provide a reason to watch actual curling.
It’s possible that you may be thinking all of these films simply aren’t hip enough. Well, you’d be wrong. Sunny, the winner of Project Runway Canada, and Marco from Degrassi were both at the launch party. Inside/Out is not immune to the swells of pop culture, which might be why one can smell a little bit of Sean Penn in the air. I’ve always enjoyed Sean Penn, even at his most serious – like half of his movies and all of his commercials about Hurricane Katrina. That whiff is most potent around the screening of The Times of Harvey Milk, the 1984 Oscar winning documentary about the openly gay politician. If you liked Milk, you’ll like this doc even more. Emile Hirsch isn’t in it, but the fashions certainly are. Scott Ferguson, the Executive Director of Programming at the festival, saw the film in its initial release in 1980s Toronto and enjoyed it even in bellbottoms.
Sean Penn also shows up, this time literally, in the alternative-documentary The Beaver Trilogy. Although the title suggests some lesbian action, the film is actually about a hysterical Utah-based talent show headlined by an Olivia Newton-John drag impersonator named “Groovin’ Gary.” If that pitch isn’t ample evidence that you will laugh, then I will mention that it also features Sean Penn in drag.
If you are interested in a different kind of documentary, I would suggest John Greyson’s Fig Trees as it a fusion between experimental film, pop culture and La Boheme to cleverly make a point and bring awareness about the AIDS pandemic in Africa. However, if you are not a fan of Gertrude Stein, operas or AIDS, then I would suggest the following narrative films:
Sex My Life, about Iranian transsexuals; Bi The Way, a bisexual road film; Dykes on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown; a series of shorts that was described as “lesbian cats going at it;” Ask Not and Seeds of Summer, both about the gay aspect of the armed forces in American and Israel, respectively.
One of the most hyped up films, described as “an over the top comedy,” Baby Love broke box office records in France by bringing mainstream attention to the difficulties of trying to have a child as a gay man in modern day France. Though there is very little that is sexy about this film, it does a star a cute girl with a dykey haircut and has a comedic elegance.
When I think of Barrie, Ontario, I usually think of sixteen-year-olds buying 24s of Coors Light, which might be why I was disappointed in To Each Her Own. Maybe the lesbian community of Barrie is better heard of than seen. Bernard and Doris is also not really worth the price of admission, as it was lame when it played on television for free last year.
The closing night gala features The Fish Child, which I thought would have been the perfect Spanish lesbian flick for me. Except that the main characters weren’t really children, they were at least twenty. Set in Argentina, the film has an indie Lost and Delirious feel to it, with the addition of murder, mystery and class divisions. The main character looks like Tegan & Sara combined together.
So if you’re in some heat and you feel the need to cool off in a dark theatre, avoid watching Wolverine. I recently discovered it is not about a butch Canadian dyke, but in fact about a Canadian man with mutton chops and knives sticking out of his knuckles. So avoid any more film confusion and stick with The Inside/Out Film Festival. The swarms of hot, drunk gays at the launch party weren’t just there for the booze, or the wrestling masks at the silent auction.