Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival turns 16
The Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival celebrates its latest, "sweet 16" edition, which opens Friday, Oct. 14, at the Egyptian, and continues through Oct. 23 with screenings at Pacific Place, the Admiral, Central Cinema, Northwest Film Forum and Harvard Exit.
Special to The Seattle Times
Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film FestivalMore than 160 films (including shorts) will be screened Oct. 14-23 various venues. Melissa Manchester performs opening night at the Egyptian. Individual tickets are $7-$35; festival passes, $90-$200. For additional information: 206-323-4274 or www.threedollarbillcinema.org.
When the late Vito Russo visited Seattle in 1982 and 1990, his three-hour film-and-lecture show, "The Celluloid Closet," planted the seeds for what would eventually become the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
"Vito made festivals happen," said Jason Plourde, programming director for Three Dollar Bill Cinema and the festival's latest, "sweet 16" edition.
Rachael Brister is executive director for the festival, which opens Friday at the Egyptian and continues through Oct. 23 with screenings at Pacific Place, the Admiral, Central Cinema, Northwest Film Forum and Harvard Exit.
Closing night takes place at Cinerama, where "Vito," an excellent new documentary about Russo, will have its West Coast premiere. It covers his years as a gay activist, the transformation of "The Celluloid Closet" (which became a 1981 book and a 1995 film) and Russo's death from AIDS shortly after his last Seattle visit.
Vito's show painstakingly demonstrated how Hollywood dealt with gay themes in movies as different as "Rebecca," "Red River," "Pillow Talk" and "Ben-Hur." He also called attention to the homophobic stereotypes that afflicted such seemingly harmless exploitation pictures as "Vanishing Point."
What would Russo have made of this festival's opening-night film, "Dirty Girl," which relies quite heavily on gay stereotypes? The hero is a chubby closet case named Clarke, his companion is the absolutely fabulous Danielle, and they've "borrowed" a car to take them from stuffy Oklahoma to liberating California.
The year is 1987, the Reagan era of "just say no," when even such slickly packaged multiplex movies as "Footloose" and "Dirty Dancing" managed to suggest that sensuality will not be denied.
My guess is that Russo would have enjoyed the subtext and applauded the chemistry between Jeremy Dozier (as Clarke) and Juno Temple (as Danielle), while wondering why the script had to take itself so seriously.
Equally over-the-top is a flashy musical, "Leave It On the Floor," that turns Los Angeles' underground drag-ball scene into the setting for a story about a kid who's been rejected by his family. Typical of the self-conscious dialogue: "I'm living in a movie where I get all the best lines."
A documentary about fear of rejection, "Wish Me Away," tells the story of Cheley Wright, a country-music star who relied on a "spiritual adviser" to get her through a media blitz that included coming out on "Oprah" and via a Random House book.
One of the festival's most moving documentaries, "We Were Here," is made up mostly of interviews with AIDS survivors. While it doesn't address the reasons why they continue to live while their friends and lovers died, one confesses that "I was terrible at anonymous sex."
"We Were Here" is being screened as part of the festival's spotlight series, HIV@30, which calls attention to the fact that widespread awareness of AIDS began 30 years ago. Also part of the series: the feature-length "Heart Breaks Open" and a collection of shorts, "Still Around," which has been described as "a video AIDS quilt."
"Heart Breaks Open" was shot entirely in Seattle and features several Seattle locations as themselves, including The Cuff, Purr, Mom's Pharmacy, the Joey Ray Apartments, Gay City and Lifelong AIDS Alliance.
As usual, there will be a singalong to a Hollywood movie ("The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas"), plus such lower-budget imitations as "Attack of the Musicals," "Cupcake: A Zombie Lesbian Musical" and "Slut — the Musical."
India's emerging gay community is treated in "I Am." "Kawa" deals almost conventionally with a middle-aged Maori leader who must choose between his wife and his male lover. More daring is the German-language love-triangle drama "3," which was shown earlier this year at the Seattle International Film Festival.
John Hartl: firstname.lastname@example.org
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