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‘Radical’ Lesbian Comedy Tops SXSW+ Eclectic London LGBT Movies

Itty Bitty Titty Committee SXSW Film FestivalItty Bitty Titty Committee with Nicole Vicius and Melonie Diaz: “Radical” lesbian comedy was this year’s SXSW Film Festival Best Narrative Feature winner.

SXSW Film Festival Awards: ‘Radical’ lesbian comedy tops

The winners at the 2007 SXSW Film Festival, held in Austin, Texas, were announced on March 14. Jamie Babbit’s Itty Bitty Titty Committee, about a young woman who becomes involved in the radical lesbian group CIA (Clits in Action), took the Best Narrative Feature award. Next, Itty Bitty Titty Committee will be screened at the opening night gala of London’s 21st Lesbian & Gay Film Festival.

The Special Jury awards in the Best Narrative Feature category went to two films:

  • Ronald Bronstein’s Frownland, “about a door-to-door coupon salesman who eats popcorn & eggs off the folded-out door of his kitchen oven.”
  • Ry Russo-Young’s Orphans, in which two estranged sisters reunite after the death of their parents only to discover they still have loads of personal issues to resolve.

‘Billy the Kid’: The Documentary

Additionally, Jennifer Venditti’s Billy the Kid, a look at a quirky 15-year-old’s coming of age in a small Maine town, was chosen as the Best Feature Documentary.

Runners-up were Michael Jacobs’ Audience of One and Harris Fishman’s Cat Dancers.

Audience of One tells the story of a Pentecostal minister who, after receiving a vision from God, sets out to make a science-fiction movie based on the biblical tale of Joseph, while Cat Dancers shows how the lives of Ron and Joy Holiday, “the world’s first exotic cat entertainers in the 1960s,” were impacted when a third party – “dashing young Chuck Lizza” – joined the act.

Ronald Bronstein bio

Best SXSW Film Festival bio:

Ronald Bronstein has spent the last seven years three floors below street level in the dingy projection booth of the Museum of Modern Art in nyc. There, deprived of both sunlight and fresh circulating oxygen, he has screened and watched an average of 600 movies a year. This is his first time making one.

The 2007 SXSW Film Festival runs March 9-17. Below is the list of this year’s winners.

2007 SXSW Film Festival Awards

Jury Awards

Narrative Feature: Itty Bitty Titty Committee, director: Jamie Babbit.

Special Jury Award: Frownland, director: Ronald Bronstein.

Special Jury Award: Orphans, director: Ry Russo-Young.

Documentary Feature: Billy the Kid, director: Jennifer Venditti.

Special Jury Award: Cat Dancers, director: Harris Fishman.

Special Jury Award: Audience of One, director: Michael Jacobs.

REEL Shorts: Pop Foul, director: Moon Molson.

Special Jury Award: Clear Cut, Simple, director: Vineet Dewan.

Animated Shorts: Tragic Story with a Happy Ending, director: Regina Pessoa.

Special Jury Award: One Rat Short, director: Alex Weil.

Experimental Shorts: 27,000 Days, director: Naveen Singh.

Special Jury Award: The Lonely Lights. The Color of Lemons., director: Benjamin M. Piety.

Music Videos: Thom Yorke, “Harrowdown Hill,” director: Chel White.

Special Jury Award: Constantines, “Working Full-Time,” director: Drew Lightfoot.

Texas High School Competition: Murder for 9 Points, director: Brandon Day.

Special Jury Award: Daily Routine, director: Adela Escobar.

Audience Awards

Narrative Feature: Skills Like This, director: Monty Miranda.

Documentary Feature: Run Granny Run, director: Marlo Poras.

Emerging Visions: The Price of Sugar, director: Bill Haney.

SXSW Film Festival website.

Nicole Vicius and Melonie Diaz Itty Bitty Titty Committee image: SXSW Film Festival.

21st London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival

The 21st London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival will take place from March 21-April 4, 2007.

Among the scheduled films are:

Jamie Babbit’s Itty Bitty Titty Committee (right) will be the opening night gala presentation. Babbit’s comedy revolves around the romantic and political entanglements of a plastic surgeon’s assistant and the leader of activist group Clits in Action (CIA). Itty Bitty Titty Committee stars Melonie Diaz, Nicole Vicius, and Carly Pope.

John Cameron Mitchell’s (horrors!) sexually explicit Shortbus (top), set in New York City’s nightclubs and other nightlife venues, caused a sensation at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Pratibha Parmar’s Nina’s Heavenly Delights (left) tells the story of a young woman who, following the death of her father, returns to Glasgow where she becomes involved with her brother’s girlfriend. The film stars Shelley Conn, Laura Fraser, and Ronni Jhutti.

Christopher Larkin’s 1974 drama A Very Natural Thing follows a priest-turned-teacher who falls in love with a businessman. This little-seen, ultra low-budget production has its moments, but there’s both too much and not enough sex – the sexual encounters are supposed to titillate, but they are never arousing; as a result, the sex scenes end up being pretty dull. That said, A Very Natural Thing is worth watching because it offers a glimpse into gay New York five years after Stonewall, and several years before the AIDS explosion.

Jack Hazan’s 1974 documentary A Bigger Splash will be screened to commemorate David Hockney’s upcoming 70th birthday. In his description of the film, Brian Robinson explains that “director Jack Hazan and his crew followed David Hockney and his circle between 1971 and 1973. Meet Ossie Clark and his wife (Celia Birtwell), art dealer Kasmin, the beautiful boyfriend Peter Schlesinger and the assistant Mo McDermott. Hazan seems to have had total access to Hockney in London and Los Angeles. We see Hockney at work on some of his best-known paintings and the film also includes a controversial scene of two men making love which led to Hazan being threatened with prosecution. A Bigger Splash ran for over a year on its first UK release but has since unfairly disappeared from view.”

In what is described as a “rare onstage interview,” Hazan will talk about the film after the screening.

Guy Maddin’s balletic Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary (2002, right) is one of the festival’s most curious entries. The description reads: “A collaboration with the Winnipeg Royal Ballet, Guy Maddin’s silent interpretation of the classic gothic, bodice-ripping tale is a dazzling dance of beauty and darkness. Filmed in black and white with monochromatic effects, this homage to silent horror magically transports us into a dream-like fantasy world of the lustful vampires and fair maidens of yesteryear.”

The 74-minute Canadian film stars Wei-Qiang Zhang, Tara Birtwhistle, and Dave Moroni.

The closing night gala presentation will be a modern take on Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (above). Directed by Duncan Roy, the moral fable – transferred to 21st-century Manhattan – stars David Gallagher (as the beautiful but soulless Dorian), Noah Segan, Christian Camargo, and Aleksa Palladino.

Among the European entries are Franck Guérin’s Un Jour d’été / A Summer Tale (left), about two close friends, one of whom unexpectedly dies; Pernille Fischer Christensen’s En Soap / A Soap, in which a soon-to-be transsexual waits for permission to switch genders; and Tudor Giurgiu’s Legaturi Bolnavicioase / Love Sick, a drama set in Budapest.

The world film selection is remarkably eclectic. It includes Ashish Sawhny’s Happy Hookers, about three (male) prostitutes in Mumbai; Eytan Fox’s The Bubble (the title refers to Tel Aviv), in which an Israeli man (Ohad Knoller) falls in love with a Palestinian; and Alexis Dos Santos’ Glue – Historia adolescente en medio de la nada (literally, “Glue – Adolescent Tale in the Middle of Nowhere”), a coming-of-age story set in inhospitable Patagonia.

But as far as I’m concerned, the festival’s highlight is the rarely seen 1964 French drama, Les Amitiés particulières / This Special Friendship / Special Friendships. Based on Roger Peyrefitte’s autobiographical novel, Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost’s beautiful, touching screenplay follows the intimate relationship that develops between two adolescents at a boys’ boarding school run by Jesuits.

Sadly, it’s the type of tale about intolerance and budding sexuality that, more than 40 years later, would still give apoplectic fits to religious nuts and to the sexually demented p.c. crowd (who would accuse the older boy of being a sexual predator). The subtle directorial job was performed by Jean Delannoy, probably best known for the 1946 drama La Symphonie pastorale.

Les Amitiés particulières stars Francis Lacombrade, Didier Haudepin, and an excellent Michel Bouquet.

M. Delannoy, by the way, will turn 100 next Jan. 12.

3 comments

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3 comments

Boyd -

Hey André,

It was sort of part of my top ten list, in a special category called “should-be-part-of-the-list-but-can’t-be” because it was commissioned as a TV film by ARTE, the French-German cultural channel, and never screened commercially in theatres in its country of origin (which it would need to do to qualify for my list).

It was part of the Official Competition in Rotterdam in 2006 and is currently making the festival rounds. It has won quite a few awards as well, including several Best First Feature prizes. Though any opportunity to see it is of course more than welcome, it is a shame that it is “stuck” in the Gay/Lesbian circuit, because it is not really (only) about that.

In any case, it is already out on DVD in the UK as “One Day in Summer”, and I’m quite sure it’ll find its way to audiences in the US through a gay DVD distributor (again, sadly, but at least some people will get to see it).

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Andre -

Hey Boyd,

Unfortunately, I won’t be in London for the festival. Here’s hoping that at least some of those titles will pop up at the various film festivals here in Los Angeles.

“Un jour d’ete” sounds particularly intriguing. I’ll keep my eyes open for it.

Do you have it in your top-ten list for ’06? I remember looking at your list a while back, but I can’t recall the exact titles. Gotta check it out again.

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Boyd -

Wow! That’s quite a line-up. I’d recommend Shortbus, A Soap, The Bubble, Glue, Love Sick and especially Un jour d’été… that was one of my favourite films of 2006; I think I have seen it about 5-6 times now and every time I keep noticing different stuff; try looking at the film from different perspectives: the mother of the friend, the father, the mayor, the sister… there are a thousand little stories tucked just underneath the surface, waiting to be picked up by alert members of the audience. Check it out!

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