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SIFF's second week of GLBT cinema
Arts & Entertainment
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SIFF's second week of GLBT cinema
by Herb Krohn - SGN Contributing Writer

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

Apron Strings
New Zealand
Coming-of-Age Drama
Rating: Very Good

An attractive young man goes about in search of his roots in modern New Zealand. The son of a popular Indian TV cooking show host, he ends up meeting and working for his aunt, who has no idea who he is, since she is estranged from her sister. A second intertwining plot revolves around a white woman who owns a bakery and her interactions with her middle-aged alcoholic problem gambler son and her adult daughter who is pregnant with a mixed-race child. This well-made drama intersects the lines of race, ethnicity, family lines, and sexual orientation in a realistic and yet sensitive manner.

The Baby Formula
Canada
Comedy
Rating: Bomb

What can you say about a comedy that really isn't very funny? The premise has potential, however, the screenplay is a bomb. The plot centers on a mockumentary theme involving a Lesbian couple who are in the midst of having a child through artificial insemination - or is it genetically engineered semen made from the stem cells of one of them, or is it the semen from the brother of one of them? The story quickly becomes so convoluted and the filmmakers so desperate for laughs that they bring in the in-laws. On one side, we have a fundamentalist Christian mother, an alcoholic grandmother, and a father who we learn in what is supposed to be a humorous scene that has Alzheimer's disease. On the other side we have a Gay male alcoholic couple as the other partner's parents. Throw in a biological development lab, scientists, and a mockumentary filmmaker who is completely intrusive and disrespectful to the subjects. The only thing missing is the kitchen sink; we already have lots of attempts at bathroom humor, arguments between the couple, clandestine pregnancy by the other partner, and family confrontations that are supposed to be funny. This film really stinks, and not just from the fart jokes. If you want to waste your hard-earned filmgoing dollar to see what is one of the worst North American LGBT films of the year, here is your chance!

Beauties at War
France (subtitled)
Comedy
Rating: Very Good

A longstanding rivalry between sister villages - one up on the mountains and wealthy, the other down at the base and working class - which centers on the annual beauty pageant, a preliminary round which eventually leading to the Miss France contest. The upper village has won nearly all of the contests over the years, and the lower village leaders - who learn that the two towns may be merged - realize this may be their last chance at victory. When they found out that the upper town hires a professional coach, they seek out and hire a non-resident village native who now is a middle-aged bit part actor in Paris. Of course, he knows nothing about running a beauty pageant, but is willing to give it a try since he is down on his luck. He returns to his hometown and becomes involved with his high school sweetheart, and goes about trying to help his hometown win. Once the upper village gets wind of this, they pull out all the stops to try to defeat their rivals once again, going so far as to hire a beauty queen from Hungary and arrange a temporary marriage to an aging local so her entry into the contest will be legal. While the humor is more subtle throughout most of the movie, the last 20 minutes erupts in madness. It's another well done French comedic entry at SIFF 2009.

The Firm Land
Iran/France/India
(subtitled)
Satire
Rating: Average

This film has an interesting plot: in a small village, people are getting sick and dying. The village elders choose a group of men to go to the big city and get help. They provide the men with cash to pay for attorneys and instructions not to return without assistance. When they arrive in the big city, they contact a former village resident who is well connected and give him the money to hire the lawyers, of course he takes the money and never delivers. The men become frustrated and begin a search for someone who will help them, finally meeting a retired professor who advises them to contact the Government Health Ministry. What this tale becomes is a profile of greed, incompetence, and the persistence of these unsophisticated villagers to get someone from the government to respond. Using humor and satire, this is an interesting plot and a worthwhile film - while a bit slow and plodding - and we can all relate to the experiences of these provincial countrymen who are far outside their league in trying to work through the bureaucracy and their first experience in a big city.

Miao Miao
Hong Kong (subtitled)
Romantic Comedy
Rating: Average

This is the tale of a new girl in school who is an exchange student from Japan, and her interactions with her new friends. When she goes on an expedition looking for a bakery from her grandmother's past, she stumbles on a record store run by a young man and former musician who hates listening to music. What the plot really amounts to is a four-person love square involving the two schoolgirls and two musicians, one of whom is deceased. It is a film that will keep your interest and is cute and humorous as well as touching. While there is nothing really outstanding or new in this flick, it is still a worthy effort, providing the viewers with a modern youthful Asian perspective on same-sex love. High production values, solid performances, and a worthwhile screenplay combine to make this film a reasonably entertaining entry.

Patrik Age 1.5
Sweden (subtitled)
Comedy
Rating: Very Good

This Swedish SIFF entry centers on a professional Gay male couple. One partner is a pediatrician who wants to raise a family. They apply with the state, set up a nursery, and await the arrival of their adoptive child. Soon they receive a letter telling them that an infant named Patrik, who is 18 months old, will soon arrive. When a 15-year-old teenaged juvenile delinquent by the same name and who despises homosexuals arrives at their door, things don't turn out as expected. The screenplay and the performances are rock solid, the humor is well done, and the plot lines are realistic and believable (except maybe for the storybook happy ending), all resulting in an absorbing and enjoyable film experience. This is another example of the progress of other countries in producing LGBT films that are a cut above such cinema made in North America. This one is worth your film going dollar just to see what films are produced elsewhere. Yes, this one is a little bit saccharine, but who cares when you find yourself engrossed in a movie.

Rain
Bahamas
Drama
Rating: Good

Rain is the title character, a teenaged girl who leaves her remote Caribbean island to go live in Nassau with her biological mother once her grandmother and primary caregiver dies. Soon after she arrives, she learns that her mother is an AIDS-infected, crack-addicted prostitute, but that doesn't make her a bad person. Rain finds a role model in the older female school track coach who takes her under her wing to give her the support she needs. The performances in this drama are excellent, and the audience will really relate to the characters and situations. What is even more well done is the conveyance of the message about the human condition and how even Rain's mother has value, morals, and is redeemable as a caring parent. This is an unusual film that is well worth seeing, especially due to the subject matter and the nation where it was produced.

Telstar
United Kingdom
Black Comedy
Rating: Very Good

Joe Meek was an early musical production pioneer who lived in London. This film centers on approximately seven years of his life, the music he made, and how naturally gifted as recording producer he was even without any formal instruction. Meek was also Gay, mentally unstable, and clearly addicted to speed, which obviously had a significant impact on his emotional instability. This film is fascinating to see because it covers the very early growth of rock and roll as a market and demonstrates how remarkable that many of the top rock hits of that era were produced in such primitive and wildly experimental recording studios. This film does not tell a very happy tale; nonetheless it is based on factual events and conveys a part of rock and roll music history that needs to be told. See it and be amazed!

A Woman's Way
Greece (subtitled)
Drama
Rating: Excellent

Wow! This one is a very challenging film. A middle-aged man gets out of prison after many years (we learn why he was imprisoned later in the film) and goes looking for his son. Instead he ends up hooking up with Transsexual prostitute he meets in an Athens hotel. Soon he begins a relationship with her while he continues to travel around to search for his lost son and sell the property he left when he was initially incarcerated. It isn't long before he finds his son, has to face the demons of his past - including why he went to prison - and as a result things begin to spiral out of control and he is forced to re-evaluate his entire life. To tell you any more would give away this excellent film's plot. You must see it and judge it for yourself. Nonetheless, it gives the viewers lots of things to think about. Let's hope this gets an American release.
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SCUBA provocative and edgy dance
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