Actress-filmmaker Cheryl Dunye and producer Alexandra Juhasz will be present at the REDCAT in downtown Los Angeles for a screening of Dunye’s 1996 feature The Watermelon Woman on Monday, May 11, at 8:30 pm. The film will be screened in Beta SP. A fundraiser for the restoration of The Watermelon Woman will be held earlier that day (6:00-7:30 pm) at the Phyllis Stein Art, also in downtown LA. (More information below.)
Called both a “saucy, daring, insidiously smart debut” (The Boston Phoenix) and “flotsam floating down a sewer” (Christian right-winger Jesse Helms) The Watermelon Woman is, according to the REDCAT press release, “the first-ever theatrical feature directed by an African American [actually born in Liberia] lesbian.” The film tells the story of Cheryl (Dunye), who becomes fascinated with a fictitious 1930s actress and blues singer named Fae Richards—a character stuck in “Mammy” roles in movies directed by a Dorothy Arzner type.
The REDCAT release adds that “as part of the production, New York photographer Zoe Leonard shot cleverly constructed still images of Fae Richards and in the process (re)invented a history running counter to the invisibility of black women in early Hollywood and black lesbians in general.”
The Watermelon Woman won the Berlin Film Festival’s Teddy Award (for films featuring gay/lesbian/etc. characters) and the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival’s best narrative feature award.
Also in the Watermelon Woman cast: Guinevere Turner, Valarie Walker, Lisa Marie Bronson, Camille Paglia, Sarah Schulman
The following mini-bios and fundraising information are from the REDCAT release:
Cheryl Dunye, a native of Liberia, holds an MFA from Rutgers University. Her first short was Wild Thing: A Poem by Sapphire (1989). Her debut feature, The Watermelon Woman was awarded the Teddy Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. Her second feature, HBO Films Stranger Inside (2001) garnered her an Independent Spirit Award nomination for best director. Her third feature film, Miramax’s My Baby’s Daddy (2004) was a box office success. Her other works have premiered at film festivals and museums worldwide. Dunye served on the boards of Outfest, the DGA, and the IFP. She has been honored with a Community Vision Award from National Center for Lesbian Rights, a Creative Excellence Award from Women in Film and Television, and a Fusion Award from Outfest and was selected as one of the 2008 PowerUp Top Ten Women in Showbiz. http://www.cheryldunye.com/
Alexandra Juhasz, Professor of Media Studies, Pitzer College, teaches video production and film and video theory. She has a Ph.D. in Cinema Studies from NYU and has taught courses at NYU, Swarthmore College, Bryn Mawr College, Claremont Graduate University, and Pitzer College. Juhasz has written multiple articles on feminist and AIDS documentary. Her current work is on and about YouTube and other more radical uses of digital media. She produced The Watermelon Woman, as well as nearly fifteen educational documentaries on feminist issues like teenage sexuality, AIDS, and sex education. She is the author of AIDS TV: Identity, Community and Alternative Video (1996), Women of Vision (2001) and F is for Phony: Fake Documentary and Truth’s Undoing (2006, edited with Jess Lerner). www.aljean.wordpress.com
The quintessential lesbian icon, Guinevere Turner started her career in Rose Troche’s Go Fish (which she also co-wrote) (1994), and has appeared in a number of productions since, such as Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy (1997) and Dogma (1999), Tony Vitale’s Kiss Me, Guido (1997), Q. Allan Brocka’s Rick and Steve the Happiest Gay Couple in the World (1999), Jamie Babbit’s Itty Bitty Titty Committee (2007), Angie Powers and Elizabeth Stark’s Little Mutinies (2008) and (as Gabby Deveaux) in four episodes of the L Word (2004-2009). A true Renaissance woman, she has also collaborated to a number of screenplays, including Mary Harron’s American Psycho (2000) and The Notorious Bettie Page (2005), and written two episodes of The L Word. She has directed a series of short films: Spare Me (2001), Hummer (2003), Hung (2005), Quiet Please (2008) and Late (2008).
Curated by Bérénice Reynaud and co-presented with Kristin Pepe/Outfest.
Funded in part with generous support from Wendy Keys and Donald Pels.
Fundraiser for the restoration of the print of The Watermelon Woman
PHYLLIS STEIN ART in Downtown LA
207 West 5th Street, Los Angeles CA 90013
Shuttle service will be provided from REDCAT to the fundraiser and back.
The fundraiser will include a reception, a “Watermelon Woman” burlesque by Malaika Millions, and special guest appearances by members of the original Watermelon Woman cast and crew.
For more information about the Outfest Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation, please visit: http://www.outfest.org/legacy
REDCAT is located in downtown Los Angeles, corner of W. 2nd St. & S. Hope St., inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex. Tickets may be purchased by calling 213.237.2800 or at the REDCAT website or in person at our Box Office on the corner of 2nd and Hope Streets (30 minutes free parking w/ validation). Box Office Hours: Tue-Sat | noon–6 pm & two hours prior to curtain. $9 [students $7, CalArts $5]
Photos: Courtesy of Cheryl Dunye
108 films from 40 countries will compete in Documenta Madrid 2009.
• 108 documentaries selected from among the 1000 films presented to the competition will participate in the Competitive Sections, which have a strong Spanish representation.
• Chema Rodríguez has two films in the Official Section, with his full-length Coyote and his short film Triste Borracha.
• The Spanish-Dutch director Sonia Herman Dolz, the Mexican Juan Carlos Rulfo, the Chilean Ignacio Agüero Piwonka return to the festival to compete for the Award for Best Full-length Film.
Madrid, 14 abril -’09
In its 6th year, DOCUMENTA MADRID furthers its commitment to the Competitive Sections, which are made up entirely of films previously unreleased in Spain for the first time in its history. Of the 1078 documentaries received to participate in the competition, 108 have been selected. By category, they will compete in: 54 films in the Original Documentary Section (22 full-length films and 32 short films); 32 in the Documentary Reporting Section and 22 in the National Competition (11 full-length films and 11 short films).
The 108 films from 40 different countries making up the Competitive Sections are just one part of the documentaries to be screened at the festival, which will also offer numerous others in its Parallel Sections. This venture into the different realities of all over the world will feature a strong Spanish representation – 30 films in competition, plus four that will be screened out of competition as part of the Official Section, the figures for which have increased significantly as far as participation is concerned. In addition, there will be a diversity of countries represented in the films in competition from abroad, with a solid European presence (France, Italy, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Belgium, Greece, Poland, and Finland, among others); North and South American (United States, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Bolivia, Cuba, Venezuela, Uruguay and Paraguay), as well as others (India, Japan, the Philippines, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel).
Juan Carlos Rulfo and Sonia H. Dolz’s most recent films will be competing
As part of the festival’s sixth competition, there are a several remarkable films made by directors with already-established careers competing for awards in different categories of the competition, the monetary prize-winnings of which amount to 73,000 euros.
Chema Rodriguez, who won a Special Mention at the Festival of Malaga for his full-length film Estrellas de la linea (2006) about a group of women prostitutes fighting for a dignified life, returns this time to this marginalized world with his short film Triste Borracha, which will compete in the National Competition. This is the story of Marina, a 70-year old ex-prostitute who has the happiest day of her life when she learns she will finally sing in the National Theater of Guatemala. The director will also participate in the Reporting section with his full-length film Coyote, the story of three undocumented Central Americans and the smuggler who guides them from Guatemala to the US border. The film was screened in the Panorama section of the Berlin Festival.
Other Spanish productions included in the National Short Film Section are: Soledad, a Spanish-Argentinean co-production by Ricardo íscar, co-director (with Nacho Martín) of the short film El cerco (2005), a film awarded Best European Short Film at the Berlin Film Festival in 2006; Ventrada, a portrait of the probably only paraplegic shepherd in the world, by the Catalonian director Óscar Pérez, whose short film If the Camera Blows Up (2008) will also be projected in the Parallel Section Documentary and Comedy. The Oblique Laugh; and El pequeño Elogio de la Distancia, by the director from Leon Felipe Vega, the director of, among other acclaimed films, Mujeres en el Parque (2007), for which he received the latest Luis Buñuel Award for Film one month ago from the Mayor of Madrid.
In addition, Javier Aguirre will compete in the National Competition Section in the full-length film category with Sol, which he already showed an extract of at the festival two years ago. This documentary, as part of his experimental work, is a genuine visual tour de force filmed over forty years with images of the customs at Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, which build up into a history of the capital with rare truthfulness. As part of the Reporting Competitive Section, there will also be a film directed by his daughter, Arantxa Aguirre, called Un ballet para el siglo XXI, which analyses the precarious situation that dancers in Maurice Béjart’s great dance company found themselves in after his death in 2007. The director of photography was José Luis López Linares, who already competed himself with Un instante en la vida ajena at the first festival, and was on the jury of full-length films in the second.
In the same line, with dance as its subject matter, the Spanish-born director residing in Holland, Sonia Herman Dolz, who was on the Jury in 2007 and whose work was featured in a retrospective, shows the creation of a choreography in her most recent film, Blanco. One of the international films competing in the Original Full-length Film category, it shows the first spark of inspiration between the Dutch choreographer Conny Janssen and her dancers, in a process that is usually hidden but whose secrets Dolz manages to reveal to the viewer thanks to her unique skill of gaining entrance to the private lives of her characters.
Another one of the Jury members in the 2007 festival was the Mexican documentary-maker Juan Carlos Rulfo, the director of the full-length film En el Hoyo (2006), and his fellow countryman Carlos Hagerman, This time they delve into the lives of families that have left in search of a better life, risking their lives, in Los que se Quedan. This full-length film, which is competing with the previous one in the Original Documentary Film Section, inquires into the everyday nature of absence generated by migration, nostalgia, identity and memory, the capacity for fulfilling one’s dreams and the mysterious nature of love.
In this same section, the latest film by the visionary Chinese director Wang Bing will also be competing. His various “river-films” uniquely reflect the decadence of the Communist regime in present-day China, as in A l’ouest des Rails and Crude Oil, the latter of which was screened as part of the Noche en Blanco (White Nights) program. L’argent du Charbon deals with the adventures of drivers constantly transporting coal along the route connecting Shanxi to the port of Tianjin.
Another jury member at the 2006 festival, the Chilean Ignacio Agüero Piwonka, presents his latest film in the Reporting category of the competition: El Diario de Agustín, in which documentaries, eyewitness testimony and characters go about tearing apart three cover-ups carried out by a newspaper during the Chilean dictatorship for the purpose of hiding brutal violations of human rights.
In this same category, a film with backing from such executive producers as George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh and Julia Ormond will also participate: Playground, directed by Libby Spears, which shows the existence of child prostitution and sexual trafficking of minors in the First World, and specifically in the USA.
Two key figures in contemporary American art are featured in two films competing for the Award for Best Report and Best Original Documentary, respectively: The Art of Failure: Chuck Conelly Not for Sale by Jeff Stimmel, which accurately depicts the character of the painter played by Nick Nolte in the episode directed by Scorsese Life Lessons in the collective film New York Stories (1989). Chuck Conelly, the enigmatic artist from the 1980s featured in museums and galleries and known for his unmeasured affection for alcohol and women, appears in this documentary as a shadow of himself, signing his work with a pseudonym so as to introduce himself once again onto the art market. For their part, Tom Donahue and Paul Hasegawa-Overacker’s Guest of Cindy Sherman describes the private life of one of the most highly-paid photographers on the international scene, who is known for keeping her private life and creative process under close guard.
Lastly, another one of the films to be screened in the Reporting Competitive Section is the latest film by the Mexican director Nicolás Echevarría, the director of Cabeza de Vaca (1991), a chronicle of the student massacre in the Plaza de Tlatelolco called Memorial del 68, which gives an overall and broad look at the conflicts dealt with in the Series Echando la Vista Atras: Mayo del 68′ at last years’s DOCUMENTA MADRID.
LGBT movies in Chicago
Via David Hudson’s The Daily, who got it via Ed M. Koziarski’s brief piece in The Chicago Reader:
Queer Cinema 101 is a five-week film series showcasing gay-themed films picked by gay film critics. The weekly series kicks off Monday, April 13 at Chicago’s GLBT Center on Halsted (website) and continues through Monday, May 11.
The five films are:
- The Celluloid Closet (1995, above, k.d. lang sings “Secret Love”), hosted by Richard Knight Jr., Cinema Writer, Windy City Times, Monday, April 13; round table discussion afterward the screening
- Velvet Goldmine (1996), hosted by Hank Sartin, Film section Editor and Critic, Time Out Chicago, screens Monday, April 20
- The Killing of Sister George (1968), hosted by Charlie Shoquist, Film Critic, Gay Chicago Magazine , screens Monday, April 27
- Parting Glances (1986), hosted by Gregg Shapiro, Film Critic, Chicago Free Press, screens Monday, May 4
- Victor Victoria (1982), hosted by Jonathan Lewis, Editor and Film Critic, Gay Chicago Magazine, screens Monday, May 11; screening followed by a round-table discussion
In Haaretz.com, Cnaan Liphshiz discusses the reactions to Toronto-based filmmaker John Greyson’s refusal to attend the 2009 Tel Aviv International LGBT film festival, which runs June 23-27. Below are a couple of brief quotes from Liphshiz’s piece:
“’What Greyson has done is an act of violence both against Israeli gays as well as [gay] Palestinians, for whom this festival is a rare ray of light,’ said Yair Hochner, the festival’s Israeli-born organizer and an internationally-acclaimed director. Greyson told Anglo File this week: ‘With ongoing violations by Israel of Palestinian human rights and given the specific content of my film, screening it in Israel would be hypocrisy.’ The film, Fig Trees, deals with a Canadian AIDS patient’s refusal to take drugs until they were made available in South Africa.”
“In his letter, Greyson, 49, cited the ‘cultural boycott’ that ‘worked in South Africa’s case, and led directly to sweeping changes.’ He wrote to Hochner: ‘I yearn for [the time] when we can together attend screenings – in both Tel Aviv and Ramallah.’
“Noting Hamas’ popularity in the West Bank and Gaza, Hochner replied to Greyson: ‘I hope so, but your dream is very far away,’ adding, ‘Like the terrorists and like the Israeli army, you have decided to blow up a bridge instead of building one.'”
Fucking Different Tel Aviv opened the 2008 edition of the Tel Aviv LGBT Film Festival
In his article, Liphshiz states that homosexuality is a crime in the Palestinian territories, with sodomy carrying a ten-year jail term. I haven’t heard of any cultural boycott against any country in which their gay population suffers ongoing violations of their human rights. Perhaps because that would encompass most of the world – including Israel.
Here are a few quotes from the Tel Aviv LGBT festival’s About page:
“The second festival was bigger and took place at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque on June 13-18, 2007. We had larger theaters this time (120 and 370 seats) and received a 20,000 NIS support from the Tel Aviv city hall. Despite the small budget and the fact that other festivals receive financial support between 100,000 and 500,000 NIS, we were able to create a well rounded and respected program which included a retrospective of acclaimed director Bruce La Bruce, a concert with actor/musician Jay Brannan (Shortbus) and other distinguished guests from Germany and Canada.”
“Most every democracy currently has a LGBT film festival; it should be inconceivable for Israel not to enjoy the basic freedom to exhibit queer films. However the above described political climate directly affects our opportunities in gaining local financial support. We have repeatedly come up against obvious cases of homophobia in our search for media partners. Fashion companies, beverage, travel, beauty and their likes are reluctant to cooperate with us in fear of a boycott by religious groups.
“With your support we hope to make the festival one of the most talked about cultural events of the year. An event that will send a clear message to the Tel Aviv city hall, the ministry of culture and all business and their partners, that they should support and invest in us and stop succumbing to religious and rightwing terror.
“Despite a free and liberal vibe in Tel Aviv, the LGBT community has to constantly face vicious campaigns by members of the Knesset that throw preposterous accusations our way, that we cause earthquakes and should be treated in the same way they deal with bird flu, that LGBT internet sites of news, entertainment and dating are pornographic and should be censored and prohibited.”
That’s why – misguided cultural boycotts or no – it’s crucial to support such film festivals everywhere.
Written by Sacha Baron Cohen and directed by Dan Mazer, Brüno stars Cohen as a flamboyant Austrian fashionista who, in his desire to become “the biggest Austrian celebrity since Hitler,” decides to launch himself in the United States, adopting an African baby (à la Madonna) in the process while trying to pass for straight.
As a result of several sex scenes, Brüno has been slapped with an NC-17 rating in the US. I don’t believe anyone was surprised. Its distributor, Universal, will now have to trim the sex bits in order to get the mockumentary an R rating. Apparently, one sequence involves anal intercourse, the sort of stuff that drives the MPAA censors wild. That and the other soon-to-be-cut moments will most likely be included in the DVD release.
Note: The above trailer is restricted.
Brüno opens in the U.S. on July 10.