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SIFF's FIRST WEEK: GLBT cinema
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SIFF's FIRST WEEK: GLBT cinema
by Herb Krohn - SGN Contributing Writer

For a full list of LGBT SIFF films visit www.siff.net or www.sgn.org.

Baby Love
France (subtitled)
Comedy
Rating: Good

This clever comedy features a pediatrician who has determined he wants to have a child, which causes a breakup with his longtime partner. First he attempts to go through the state and adopt a child, however apparently it is not legal for Gays and Lesbians to become adoptive parents in France (who would have known?), so as soon as the inspector from the state realizes the truth, this avenue is cut off. So the doctor tries to find a surrogate mother and approaches the woman whom he recently met when he had a minor traffic collision with her vehicle. Initially she assertively rejects his offer, but when fate dictates a more intimate relationship, she agrees, provided they have a formal wedding. Soon the doctor discovers he is sterile and he needs a sperm donor, he decides the only man he can approach is his ex, for whom he still has deep feelings. Lots of plot twists and turns makes this 2009 SIFF entry an example of the advanced progress of LBGT cinema in other countries over typical similar films made in the USA.

Captive Russia/Bulgaria
Rating: Good
May 31, 9:30 p.m.,
Egyptian Theatre

It is strange that this film would be considered a film of particular interest to the LGBT community because there really is nothing Gay about this soldier's war flick, other than the fact that the captive is an attractive young man and his captor befriends him and makes a few comments about his beauty. Otherwise this film is really a parable of the futility of war and the slaughter of lambs that becomes commonplace in wartime. Set in Chechnya, a couple of lost Russian soldiers capture a rebel and hold him captive to act as a guide so they can get back to their detachment. Along the tortuous route through rebel territory, one of them develops an especially close bond with their captive before events spiral out of control. This film has an interesting plot, realistic characters and settings along with a moral purpose it is clearly trying to convey. It is a perfect example of the opportunity SIFF provides to be exposed to the issues of importance in other cultures and countries.

Chef's Special
Spain (subtitled) - Comedy
Rating: Good

A guilty pleasure of comedy about a Gay restaurateur who ends up with custody of the two children he has had no contact with in years when his ex-wife dies. Of course it has the typical plot lines in such a tale including issues that need to be addressed and resolved with his estranged rebellious children and conflicts in the kitchen of his restaurant, where he is struggling to win a major award for outstanding culinary achievement. Adding to the situation comedy is the competition he faces with one of his employees over the budding relationship with his new next-door neighbor, who is a recently retired soccer star now working as a closeted sports commentary reporter. Not to mention his estranged relationship with his bigoted parents, including a father who thrives on telling offensive anti-Gay jokes. Yes, there is a lot of seemingly negative humor centering on Gay jokes, but it really seems more in keeping with the tone of the characters doing the telling, and our lead character's comeback lines always seem to put the offender in place. It is another example of clever Gay comedic cinema coming out of Spain. Let's hope it gets a commercial release in the US.

City of Borders
USA/Israel (subtitled)
Documentary
Rating: Very Good
May 29, 4:30 p.m., May 30, 1:30 p.m.,
Pacific Place

There is an old saying that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Nowhere can this adage be more clearly demonstrated than in Jerusalem, where the center of monotheistic religions originates. Yet a small bar named Shushan which caters to the LGBT community seemingly exists as an outpost of rationalism and community which cuts through the bigotry of the three big-book religious theologies. This documentary profiles several same-sex couples, a few individuals, including an openly Gay Palestinian, and the bar's owner, who also won election to the Jerusalem City Council. What makes this film fascinating is that the religious groups - who cannot agree on nearly anything - are unanimous in their staunch opposition to even the existence of an LGBT community in the heart of their historic birthplace. Yet what is more remarkable is the unity of the members of this small LGBT community which crosses all ethnic and religious backgrounds and how they are not only able to get along with each other but even thrive as caring loving individual humans in the middle of one of the most violent volatile communities on earth. Because of this, one tiny little outpost has enabled LGBT people to meet and form a community without borders or boundaries. A must-see documentary entry in 2009 SIFF, don't miss this one!

Everything Strange and New
USA - Black Comedy
Rating: Below Average
June 4, 7 p.m., June 6, 1 p.m.
Pacific Place Cinema

Perhaps this title was chosen because an opposite one that would actually represent what this film is about would not sell many tickets. The film is a drama centering on one man's relationship with his world, his wife and children, his work, and his two co-workers. Shot in a sort of chalky pastel color tone, this film profiles the loneliness and boredom that the main character experiences in life. He married too young, and now in middle age he goes about his life without really questioning why neither he nor anyone else is very happy. The color style of the print is clearly intended to convey this emotion, and it does so well. Nonetheless, this is a fairly boring, non-absorbing drama that doesn't go very far with little action in the plot until about 70 minutes into the film, when his coworker and friend engage in straight (Bisexual) action. Perhaps our lead character is Bisexual? There isn't enough information conveyed in this story to even figure that out. So, what we end up with is a story of unhappy people who are caught up in their own little life drama without ever really going anywhere. Spend your hard-earned dollars on a different SIFF entry!

Fig Trees
Canada - Documentary
Rating: Poor

This unusual film is more of an opera than a documentary. It is a tribute to AIDS activists Tim McCaskell of Toronto and Zackie Achmat of Capetown, South Africa. Mostly operatic sequences are cut into short snippets of interviews and historical news footage of these two individuals and their battles as AIDS activists and patients. If you love opera, then you will thoroughly enjoy this production. If not, you will probably find this movie one that can easily put you to sleep. There are probably not more than 10 or 15 minutes of interview dialog in the entire 110-minute running time, as the sound often cuts off the dialog of the subjects fading into opera. It works as an art piece for a very limited audience, but falls seriously short of anything other than capturing the history of the AIDS epidemic in an artistic, operatic music compilation, complete with subtitles of the lyrics.

Humpday
USA - Comedy
Rating: Poor
June 5, 7 p.m., June 7, 1:30 p.m.,
Egyptian Theatre

Two straight guys have a reunion when one returns from an overseas journey. At a drunken party, they decide to enter The Stranger's annual "Humpday Contest" with a video film of themselves, as two straight guys, getting it on with each other. Of course, the wife of one of the characters is the foil and they proceed anyway with their plans. For some reason the filmmakers seem to be operating under the delusion that this is a unique and original plot idea. They obviously have not had much exposure to the world of porn, or they would realize that this is a very old and worn subject. While there are some clever and funny scenes in this made-in-Seattle production, it really goes nowhere new and lacks originality in both plot and dialogue. Certainly they could have come up with something clever and imaginative instead of this tripe. It's a very disappointing waste of good celluloid, and your film dollar should go elsewhere.

Raging Sun, Raging Sky
Mexico (subtitled)
Experimental
Rating: Bomb
June 1, 3 p.m., Egyptian Theatre

Several Gay guys (and at least one schizophrenic woman) spend lots of time in bathrooms, tearooms and other public places to meet each other for sex. It's a really a complete bomb, and an excruciatingly long one at 191 minutes (that's three intolerable hours plus 11 more unbearable minutes) with very little happening at a snail's pace. Of course, there are some very attractive men to look at, but nothing too graphic. The filmmakers are clearly trying to convey the loneliness of the characters and their quest to make a meaningful emotional connection with another human. However, the way they go about it in this enormous waste of perfectly good film really does nothing but perpetuate huge negative stereotypes about the mating rituals of Gay men in Mexico. This is one of the worst films of SIFF '09; don't waste your money or your time - a very long time!
SIFF's FIRST WEEK: GLBT cinema
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Upcoming SIFF films of LGBT interest
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Show Boat a triumph
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Oddwoman: Professional acting for free
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Captain Smartypants goes native in Air Smarty
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Wedding Story intimate and touching
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Anthony Bourdain, the Mick Jagger of food and travel
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RuPaul's Champion pure magic
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What was the Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court decision?
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Bare Bones' eerie and fun dancing
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New Terminator offers little salvation
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Q-Scopes by Jack Fertig
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Delightful Clowns, PNB's mixed program
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Tori Amos, Glee, Adam Lambert, Kathy Griffin
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Northwest News
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Activist confrontations
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Deep Inside Hollywood - Romeo San Vicente
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Book Marks
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The news we use
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Dyketown: Cruises, quartets and a Lesbian author
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Around the World a summer treat
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Lo Cor De La Plana celebrates Occitan language and culture
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