'Gay Cure' & Gus Van Sant + Gay Murders & Anti-Gay Bigotry in Holy Land: London Gay Film Festival

Love and Other Disasters Matthew Rhys

The 2008 London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival kicked off last night, March 27, with a screening of Alek Keshishian's romantic comedy Love and Other Disasters (which will screen again on Sat., March 29), starring Brittany Murphy, Matthew Rhys, Catherine Tate, Stephanie Beacham, Dawn French, and Richard Wilson.

Among the highlights of London's L&G film festival on Friday and Saturday are:

Marco Simon Puccioni's Riparo - Anis tra di noi / Shelter, starring Maria de Medeiros and Antonia Liskova as two women who, following a trip to North Africa, find a young Moroccan stowaway (Mounir Ouadi) in the trunk of their car. Social and personal issues come to the surface as the trio attempt to find a balance in their relationship.

Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park follows a teenager whose life is turned upside down after he gets himself involved in an accidental death. Van Sant's psychological drama won the Special 60th Anniversary Award at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.

In Sam Zalutsky's You Belong to Me, “a new tenant realizes his new landlady is not quite the harmless eccentric she first appeared to be.” Daniel Sauli and Patti D'Arbanbville star.

Nia Dinata's Love for Share is described as a “timely political drama exploring the lives of three Jakartan women in polygamist households, including that of a country girl who falls in love with another of her husband's wives.”

“Days Like These” comprises “a series of shorts chronicling a life growing up gay, and all the heartbreaks that can come with it.” Among the shorts are Jamie Travis' The Saddest Boy in the World, Randy Caspersen's Dolls, and Ronny Hirschmann's Shotgun (above).

Juan Flahn's Chuecatown / Boystown is a dark comedy about a series of murders in a gay neighborhood in Madrid. Variety's Dennis Harvey enjoyed the comedy, but didn't care for the grizzly depiction of the murders. In the cast: Rosa Maria Sarda, Carlos Fuentes, Pepon Nieto, and Eduard Soto.

François Ozon's Angel is “a sumptuous feast of period camp in his tale of the rise and fall of an impetuous romantic novelist in the early 20th century.” The film stars Romola Garai, Sam Neill, and Ozon's frequent collaborator, veteran actress Charlotte Rampling.

“Triple X Selects - The Best of Lezploitation.” The title and the above photo say it all.

April 1

Mala Noche (1985) was Gus Van Sant's first feature film. Its stream-of-consciousness narrative may be off-putting to some, but Tim Streeter's performance as a Portland man madly in lust-cum-love with a Mexican immigrant (Doug Cooeyate) should impress just about everyone.

Todd Haynes' all-star homage to Bob Dylan, I'm Not There, was considered innovative by some, tedious by others. Others yet found it both innovative and tedious. 2008 Academy Award-nominee and 2007 Venice Film Festival winner Cate Blanchett (pictured) is one of the many Bob Dylans in the film.

Directed by Ferzan Ozpetek, Saturno Contro / Saturn in Opposition received 5 nominations (including 1 win) for the Italian Film Academy's David di Donatello. The story of a group of sophisticated Romans who band together when one of them is taken ill, the film stars David di Donatello nominee Margherita Buy, Stefano Accorsi, Ennio Fantastichini, David di Donatello best supporting actress winner Ambra Angiolini, and Pierfrancesco Favino.

Hidden in the seclusion of a botanical garden in rural China, two young women fall tenderly in love. But their plans for a shared future put their fragile existence under threat.” That's Däi Sijie's The Chinese Botanist's Daughter, starring Mylène Jampanoi and Li Xiaoran.

The “Obsessions” program features a series of shorts about, well, obsessions, including Michael Palmieri's Sing Me Spanish Techno (“Classy music video featuring the music of the New Pornographers and a drag queen who pulls”), Matthias vom Schemm's My Little Boy (“In Berlin 1933, a gay photographer has a chance to flee but refuses to acknowledge what's happening”), David Quantic's Dish – which sounds like a horror flick (“Gay men talk frankly about their Oprah obsession”), Sidney Karger's Daddy (“a gay man discovers he is pregnant”), and André Hereford's The Naked-Boy Business, vol. 1 (above, “Can straight boys tell you what a beautiful man looks like? Vox pops and Peter Berlin styled poser”).

Two documentaries: Michael Jacoby's feature Ten More Good Years and Cynthia Wade's short Freeheld. The former deals with “the challenges facing the ageing Stonewall generation” while the latter revolves around “a lesbian policewoman whose dying wish is to see her pension go to her girlfriend.” Ironically, Freeheld's Oscar 2008 win was announced by US military servicemen – who, if attracted to others of their sex, can't tell anyone about it.

More details at the festival's website

Derek is described as “Isaac Julien's homage to the late Derek Jarman using unseen interviews and a dazzling range of archive material.” The film also features Tilda Swinton. Julien and others involved in the project are expected to attend the screening.

In Shamim Sarif's The World Unseen, “the paths of two contrasting Indian women cross in 1950s South Africa in a love story contemplating community, responsibility, and personal freedom with a daring and warm heart.” In the cast: Lisa Ray, Sheetal Sheth, and Parvin Dabas.

XXY, Lucía Puenzo's story of a “intersex” (hermaphrodite) teenager was Argentina's submission for the 2007 best foreign-language film Academy Award. In the cast, Inés Efron and the excellent Ricardo Darín.

Mulholland Dr., David Lynch's trippy dive into the dark side of Los Angeles is one of the best films of the early 21st century. Naomi Watts – in what amounts to a dual role – delivers a mesmerizing performance. Though Mulholland Dr. is not technically a horror film, its final sequence is one of the most disturbing I've ever seen.

More details/schedules at the festival's website

London Gay and Lesbian Film Festival 2008 movies (image: Robert Gant and Chad Allen look for some good old 'gay cure' in Robert Cary's 'Save Me' movie)

April 6: Robert Cary's Save Me, screening on Sunday, April 6, 2008, at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, is described as “a moving and complex drama set in Genesis House, a hospice for gay men seeking the way of the Lord and a cure for their homosexuality.” The way of the Lord, however, turns out to feature many more twists and turns than any of those involved anticipated. In the Save Me cast: Chad Allen, Robert Gant, and Judith Light.

Below are listed a few more London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival April 6 screenings.

'25 Cent Preview': Rent boys bond in San Francisco

In Cyrus Amini's 25 Cent Preview, “a handsome rent boy and his partner in crime share a night of hustling and communion in and around San Francisco's Tenderloin district.” Featuring Merlin Gaspers and Dorian Brockington, 25 Cent Preview won the Grand Jury Prize at Los Angeles' 2007 Outfest.

'Polymath, or the Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman': Sex and the 'ordinary, dull' sci-fi writer

Fred Barney Taylor's documentary Polymath, or the Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman revolves around science-fiction writer Samuel R. Delany, mixing literary criticism “with tales of the author's considerable sexual exploits.”

Delany claims to have had sex with 50,000 men, even while referring to himself as “the world's most ordinary, dull, Black faggot.” But then again, it does sound pretty dull to be entering numbers on a calculator while having sex. How else could this guy be able to keep track of all his sex partners? And here's wondering if Delany will be sent to some rehab for anti-gay bigots for using the “word faggot.”

'Bangkok Love Story': Handsome hired killer falls in love with equally handsome target

In Poj Arnon's Bangkok Love Story, “a young male assassin falls for the target he has been contracted to kill, as a high-octane gangster thriller becomes a complex story of obsessive love.” Bangkok Love Story features Ratanaballang Tohssawat, Chaiwat Thongsaeng, and Wiradit Srimalai.

Robert Gant and Chad Allen Save Me movie photo: London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

April 7

Described as a gay version of a John Hughes flick, Russell P. Marleau's The Curiosity of Chance revolves around a new – and openly gay – kid at school, appropriately named Chance Marquis, who does his best to survive the usual bullies and the overall conformity. In the cast: Tad Hilgenbrink, Brett Chuckerman, and Aldevina Da Silva.

In the Israeli drama Tied Hands, “a young man dying of AIDS sends his mother to find marijuana to alleviate his pain. This seemingly simple task becomes a painfully complex and increasingly desperate search.” Directed by Dan Wolman, and starring Israeli acting legend Gila Almagor, Ido Tadmor, and Neli Tagar.

Persona (1965) is one my favorite Ingmar Bergman films. The story follows two women, a nurse and her nervous-breakdown'ed patient, who slowly end up meshing their personalities. Though perhaps more than a bit self-indulgent – Bergman unnecessarily keeps reminding us that we're watching a moviePersona is a profound and quite disturbing look into the human psyche. Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson star.

“Tense documentary following the organisers of a week-long World Pride event in Jerusalem, and the campaign of personal intimidation and institutional non-co-operation they face as a result of opposition to the event.” That's Nitzan Gilady's Jerusalem Is Proud to Present, which shows that radical Christians, Muslims, and Jews have at least one characteristic in common: Bigotry. See, there's hope for the world.

Following the screening, Rabbi Mark Solomon will take part in a onstage discussion.

April 8

In Alfred Schirokauer and Reinhold Schünzel's 1927 silent comedy Der Himmel auf Erden / Heaven on Earth, Schünzel plays a moralistic city councilor who “is forced by his brother's will to take a legacy of 500,000 marks on condition that he takes over the running of notorious nightclub Heaven on Earth. Initial disdain gives way to an appearance in full drag.” Sounds a bit like La Cage aux folles? With Charlotte Ander, Adele Sandrock, Paul Morgan, and none other than S.Z. Sakall.

Documentary double bill: Daniele Salaris' The Beirut Apt. (above) and Bram Vergeer's 7 Years. “In The Beirut Apt, LGBT people describe their struggle to live authentically in Lebanon. 7 Years brings to light gay life in Kenya.”

“Significant Fragments” is described as a collection of “key fragments of gay representation from the silent era include Stan Laurel pursued by [an] amorous cowboy, wildly sissy boxers and Chaplin smooching with a girl dressed as a boy.”

The featured shorts are: D.W. Griffith's The Old Actor (1912), with a pre-superstardom Mary Pickford; Charles Chaplin's Behind the Screen (1916), with Chaplin and frequent leading lady Edna Purviance; a five-minute extract from Wilhelm Prager's The Way to Strength and Beauty; Ralph Ceder's The Soilers (1923), with Stan Laurel; and a five-minute extract from Adrian Brunel's Battling Bruisers: Some Boxing Buffoonery (1926).

Piano accompaniment by Costas Fotopoulos.

More details/schedules at the festival's website

April 9

“Three flatmates become suspicious of their tenant in Rent, No Utilities [45 min.], a stylish thriller in the tradition of Shallow Grave, while single people everywhere come under treat in Speed Dating [above, 30 min.].” Those are two medium-length films by Gregor Buchkremer.

In Nelson George's Life Support, “Ana Wallace risks her own health to raise AIDS awareness whilst negotiating a stormy relationship with her daughter Kelly. Meanwhile Kelly's friend Amere is a young gay man caught at the sharp end of the disease.” In the cast: Emmy-nominated and Golden Globe-winner Queen Latifah, Rachel Nicks, Evan Ross, Wendall Pierce, and Tracey Ellis Ross.

“A brutal ferry captain embarks on an aggressive campaign to preserve traditional village ways when he discovers that a local gay fisherman is involved in sexual liaisons with foreign workers.” That's Santiago Otheguy's La León, set in a remote area of northern Argentina. In the cast: Jorge Román, Daniel Valenzuela, and José Muñoz.

In Jacques Nolot's Avant que j'oublie / Before I Forget, “a writer with HIV contemplates his life and past loves.” In the cast: Nolot, Marc Rioufol, and Jean-Paul Dubois. (Nolot's Peindre ou faire l'amour was quite well received at Cannes in 2005.)

More details/schedules at the festival's website

April 10

In Christophe Honoré's Chansons d'Amour / Love Songs “a young threesome pace the streets of Paris, collars upturned, singing of love in this Umbrellas of Cherbourg-inspired musical-comedy-drama.” In the cast: Louis Garrel, Ludivine Sagnier, and Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet.

“When Scot's mother dies her brother, one half of a straight-laced gay couple, takes him in but no-one is quite prepared for taking care of a sissy boy. Heart-warming drama.” That's Laurie Lynd's Canadian drama Breakfast with Scot. In the cast: Cameron Ansell, Thomas Cavanagh, and Noah Bernett.

The “Tearoom” series is comprised of four sex-related shorts: William E. Jones' Tearoom (above), which uses “found footage [apparently from 1961] of police surveillance at a cottage” (screened silent), and Film Montages (for Peter Roehr), described as “formal repetitions of extracts from 70s porn, homage to a gay experimental filmmaker”; Damien Manivel's Viril (“avant-garde choreographed pieces of great physical virtuosity about masculinity, gesture, vulnerability”); and Charles Lum's Sex Manic (“the law and a blowjob”).

“In the still moments between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, three women from different generations search for each other in Rotterdam's empty streets.” That's Angelina Maccarone's Vivere, which stars Hannelore Elsner, Esther Zimmering, and Kim Schnitzer. As per Anna Dunwoodie's commentary, Vivere “combines a cleverly constructed plot with the honest depiction of female sexuality and relationships.”

More details/schedules at the festival's website

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