by Herb Krohn -
Special to the SGN
Seattle International Film Festival 2012 wraps up this weekend with some great film choices still remaining. Here is a brief guide for SGN readers attending SIFF in its last days.
Friday, June 8, 4 p.m. - Egyptian Theatre
Sunday, June 10, 2 p.m. - SIFF Cinema Uptown
This is an all-too-familiar example of the mediocrity of modern American Gay filmmaking. The intent seemed to be to create a Gay-themed film geared to a straight audience, since every bad cliché - along with the usual effeminate, wisecracking, shallow Gay male stereotypes - is utilized in this unfunny comedy. The expectations were high for this film (it was this year's feature in SIFF's annual Gay-La gala), but the result is worse than disappointing. Certainly in 2012 we should demand much more from LGBT comedic filmmaking - we have matured as a community, yet you would never know it from watching this. Production values were solid, however.
Rating: Very good
Israel/UK (partially subtitled)
Friday June 8, 9:30 p.m. - SIFF Cinema Uptown
Sunday June 10, 4 p.m. - Pacific Place
Lara and Inam were best friends and possibly more than that while growing up as teenagers in the Palestinian territories. Their lives are forever changed by a chance meeting with two Israeli soldiers when they sneak across the border into Israel one night after curfew to go to a movie. The film leads off 15 years later when they are both living in London, as Inam drops over unexpectedly, and apparently somewhat unwelcomed, to visit Lara on her birthday. Part coming-of-age tale and part psychodrama, the story plays itself out through flashbacks in time to finally reveal the full story at the conclusion.
This unique motion picture crosses many boundaries while it takes the audience deeply into the lives of the characters. Writer/Director Jonathan Sagall has created a film that will keep the audience guessing and anticipating throughout as to what really transpired in the women's mutual past and how it affects their present relationship.
The production values are strong, yet it is the excellent performances by veteran actresses Clara Khoury (Lara) and Nataly Attiya (Inam) who portray their conflicted intertwined characters with amazing realism. When the film reaches its conclusion, the final plot twist is completely unexpected, yet it resolves all the questions left in the minds of the audience. No loose threads remain in the plot, which seems entirely plausible and consistent. This is a worthwhile SIFF film to catch this year and a demonstration of the current state of Israeli filmmaking.
Here are some other still-upcoming SIFF films identified as of LGBT interest. For more information on these movies, visit www.siff.net.
The British Guide to Showing Off
Genre: Documentary fantasy
Friday, June 8, 4 p.m. - Kirkland Performance Center
Genre: Surreal comedy drama
Friday, June 8, 8:30 p.m. - AMC Pacific Place 11
Saturday, June 9, 3:30 p.m. - Kirkland Performance Center
The Crown Jewels
Genre: Mystery drama
Sunday, June 10, 4:30 p.m. - Egyptian Theatre
Genre: Romantic drama
USA (with some subtitled Spanish dialogue)
Saturday, June 9, 4 p.m. - AMC Pacific Place 11
The following films have had their final SIFF screening, but are worth looking for in future release:
Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean
Rating: Very good
Genre: Biopic/erotic drama
Was James Dean Gay? That is still a matter of great speculation and debate. Nonetheless, this very stylish, mostly black-and-white portrayal of what may or may not have been his early days as he struggled to enter the acting profession is a beautiful example of cinematic production. Sepia toning lends an aura of realism and visual richness to this erotic art film. It should be coming back soon to a theater near you.
Keep the Lights On
Genre: Erotic drama
This romantic Gay drama charts the relationship of two men over a decade, from their meeting on a phone sex line to their breakup when they realize they cannot make it work. While in many aspects it focuses on the negativity of modern urban Gay male society, including drug addiction, sexual promiscuity, and the like, it does so with a degree of intelligence and depth. However, it is unbalanced in its portrayals of the two men, with one character very deep, caring, and realistic, and the other shallow, callous, and superficial. Another fascinating aspect was the filmmakers' remarkable exploitation of the general superficiality of the Gay club and drug scenes, especially by the performance of a bodybuilder trick who appears several times in the plot. In many ways this film accurately epitomizes such dysfunctional Gay relationships, managing to do so in a way that has the audience empathizing with the characters. This is not typical Gay film fare - it is not particularly pleasant, but it does ring true to life, which makes it a worthwhile and interesting effort.
While not a Gay film, this outlandish comedy includes its share of Gay situational plot twists. What's more, the over-the-top sexual humor runs through the entire plot. From adolescent insecurity to middle-aged infidelity, this hilarious Danish film rings the bell over and over with situational gags that never stop. Two longtime middle-aged friends embark on a canoe trip they call 'tour de pussy,' which will include a stop at a one-night-a-year brothel. However, one of them insists on bringing along his essentially kidnapped nephew to prove to his pregnant girlfriend that he can be a responsible father figure. Of course, as the film progresses he proves the exact opposite. Then after the final plot point and resolution, just as the audience expects the film to wind down calmly, it twists into a hysterically funny and unexpected conclusion that not only reinforces the mentality of the lead character, but also flips the outcome on its head. This is undoubtedly the best comedy of SIFF 2012 and probably among the most hilarious films of the past few years. It appears to be slated for a late July release. Don't miss it.
Lost in Paradise
Rating: Very good
Genre: Romantic drama
This interesting film centers on a young man who arrives in Saigon from the countryside only to be robbed of his money and belongings by two male hustlers. As the film progresses, one of the hustlers later meets his victim again and takes him in, which leads to a challenging relationship drama. Parallel to the main plot is a mentally disabled man who raises a pet duckling after incubating the egg on his stomach, while living in destitution and crossing paths repeatedly with a prostitute and her greedy cruel madam and pimp. This is a fascinating film that contains many cultural subtleties that may not be understood by U.S. audiences, but nonetheless it is a sensitive work that attempts to display the human condition of love, sensitivity, and caring while contrasting it with cruelty, indifference, and greed. It does this well, and is another example of why we are so fortunate to be able to view such cinematic gems from around the world through SIFF.
My Brother the Devil
Genre: Coming-of-age drama
Gangs, guns, and Gays in the ghetto. This pretty well sums up this dark tale of a Middle Eastern family of two sons living in contemporary urban Britain. When the older brother begins to discover who he is sexually, it turns his younger brother against him with disastrous results. This storyline has been done repeatedly through the years, so there is really nothing original in the plot. On the other hand, the performances are solid and realistic throughout the film, leading the audience to empathize with the characters and their dilemmas.
North Sea Texas
Rating: Very good
Set in the 1960s, this tale of two teenagers, one whose mother is indifferent to him and more interested in her social life as a slutty accordion player, and the other who is a few years older and lives nearby with his mother and younger sister. When the first boy moves in with the second boy's family, sexual/romantic relationships develop and complications ensue. This interesting film takes the audience back to those pre-liberation days with remarkable realism and with solid performances by the entire cast. It is a well-done coming-of-age drama from Belgium, one that highlights the complexity and maturation of Gay cinema in Europe.
Remington and the Curse of the Zombadings
Genre: Extreme mystery thriller
A serial killer is preying on drag queens in a village in the Philippines. Soon we learn that a technological innovation in development that could identify Gay animals for agricultural purposes has been stolen. The 'Gay-dar' gun has a tragic defect - it not only identifies Gays, but it does so by turning them into drag zombies. So who has stolen the Gay-dar gun? The plot is complicated by a curse placed on a kid who screamed 'Homo!' at an angry drag queen in a cemetery - the curse will turn him into a 'homo' when he gets older. When that starts to happen, his mother is the village police officer charged with investigating the homicides. This farcical Gay zombie curse sci-fi flick is really over the top, but does fall short in the end. The funniest scenes center on the teenager, as he unwillingly develops homosexual traits that he cannot control. This silly midnighter does manage to entertain. It is clever and unique, yet its low budget is readily apparent.
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