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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 10, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 23
The Gay films of SIFF 2011, part III
Arts & Entertainment
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The Gay films of SIFF 2011, part III

by Herb Krohn - SGN Contributing Writer

The Seattle International Film Festival continues through this Sunday, June 12. Here is SGN's continuing look at the festival's prominent LGBT-oriented films.

For more film reviews as well as a schedule of upcoming films of Gay interest, visit www.sgn.org. Information and tickets can be found at www.siff.net as well as the SIFF box office on the second floor of Pacific Place, and SIFF Cinema at Seattle Center on Mercer Street.

Absent
Rating: Average
Genre: Suspense Drama
Saturday, June 11, 1:30 p.m., Harvard Exit

A manipulative teenager cons his way into spending the night with his swimming coach. A seemingly evil intent is conveyed, especially by the music, but it never really leads to anything of significance in the plot. Billed as a 'Hitchcockian' drama, this film delivers suspense at first, but it is ultimately a big letdown when nothing happens. What does occur at the second plot point certainly never reaches anywhere near what the suspense has hinted the audience should expect. After the situation is radically altered, the teacher begins having second thoughts about his relationship with the student. Was what could have happened exactly what the apparently now-questioning teacher actually desired? Certainly more was expected than delivered in this offbeat Gay suspense film, and the only factors saving the movie are the solid performances and decent production values.

Blinding
Rating: Poor
Genre: Experimental Documentary
Canada

Unusual graphics using an almost rotoscopic cinematography technique are utilized to present three intermixed interviews with a blind writer, an Air Force pilot, and a Lesbian cop. While it is clear that a lot of thought and effort went into producing this colorful visual spectacle, it simply does not work with the subject matter. The film lacks a clear vision of intent and just fails to come together and engage the audience in whatever point the filmmaker was trying to get across. There is never a hook to convey why these characters are related to each other in this film, nor why it would be of substantive interest to the viewer.

Do You See Colors When You Close Your Eyes?
Rating: Very Good
Genre: Road Trip Romance
USA

After the death of one member of a Gay interracial couple, the surviving partner gets together with his deceased lover's Gay twin brother and they decided to embark on a road trip together which the couple had previously planned out to visit together before his death. As they travel to each of these beautiful places (filmed entirely in Washington state), they spread portions of his ashes at each of these locations. At first it seems that they are using each other to fill the emotional gap in each other's lives left by their beloved departed family member, but it evolves to a deeper purpose as they come to know each other. Poignant as well as strained, and told through flashbacks in time, it is nonetheless a well-made film with believable performances and solid productions values (which seems to be a rarity for independent films made in this area, especially Gay films). It is really great to see a locally produced Gay film of high quality.

Romeos
Rating: EXCEPTIONALLY OUTSTANDING
Genre: Coming of Age-Romance/Trans and Gender Identity
Germany (Subtitled)
Friday, June 10, 4 p.m., Pacific Place

By far the best film of LGBT interest screened so far at this year's SIFF, this is a cutting-edge portrayal of contemporary issues facing individuals who are Trans, as well as a multi-gender romantic drama. Miri/Lukas (played by Rick Okon) is a young adult who is transitioning from female to male, although at the very beginning this is not quite clear to the audience. In Germany, everyone must enter either the military or national civilian service at a certain age, so Lukas is moving into a residence hall for national service. An error has been made by the staff in placing him in the female dorm when he is clearly male (or is he still a she?), and the staff refuses initially to redress this problem.

The plot thickens as one of the other women living there is Miri's former Lesbian best friend (or maybe former lover?) and the only one who knows the truth. Lukas clearly does not want to come out as Trans, yet seeks to gain acceptance among the males, especially an attractive closeted Gay male who seems to have taken a liking to him. So Lukas goes to extreme lengths to keep his female gender hidden deep in the closet while he continues toward transition, and we the audience watch in anticipation of the other shoe dropping and everything to come flying outward. This is an extremely complex and provocative masterpiece of LGBT cinema that realistically examines Transism (anti-Trans sentiment) in the Gay and Lesbian community while craftily exposing the myriad issues faced on a daily basis by those who live out similar experiences.

What is even more remarkable about this tour de force of LGBT cinematic excellence is the way in which director Sabine Bernardi conveys this screenplay without resorting to use of old clichés or the usual worn-out negative stereotypes so common in American cinema (compare this film with 2011 SIFF entry Gun Hill Road). Even more amazing is the brilliant and exceptionally realistic and captivating performance of lead actor Okon, who conveys the complexity of this character with such definitive realism (aided by fantastic artistic special effects and makeup) that the audience is left wondering if in reality Okon is male, female, or in transition. It is so wonderfully refreshing to see LGBT cinema at its absolute best in a contemporary feature that addresses gender and sexual identity and the resulting cultural matters in a modernistic, 21st-century way! If you miss the last SIFF screening, this film will have a commercial release through Strand soon after the festival circuit ends later in the year, and will be released on DVD even if it is not shown in theaters. Shout-out to Seattle's Three Dollar Bill Cinema: you should select this one for your 2011 film festival!

Hot Coffee
Rating: Outstanding
Genre: Documentary
Saturday, June 11, 11 a.m., and Sunday, June 12, 9 p.m., Harvard Exit

Everyone remembers the case of the woman who spilled coffee on herself and sued McDonalds for millions of dollars. Was it just another frivolous lawsuit? Not quite! The truth of this case is far different that what has been spun by those of arrogant, indifferent, and greedy special interests in the falsehood of selling 'tort reform' to an unaware American public. The goal is to limit the rights of individuals and severely weaken the civil justice system in our country and to tilt it in favor of large corporations that engage in willful misconduct. This is a must-see film for anyone who cares about preserving the right to redress in court if you are wronged, injured, or maimed by the wrongful or negligent conduct of big business. Don't miss this film!

Tabloid
Rating: Excellent
Genre: Documentary
Saturday, June 11, 3:45 p.m., Admiral

Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris returns to the big screen with another new work. This time it is a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction tale involving a case that was highly covered by tabloid publications. The story is about a former Wyoming beauty queen named Joyce McKinney who allegedly kidnapped and raped her Mormon ex-fiancé in the 1970s and became known as the woman who cloned her pet dog in the 1980s. Told in a stylish tabloid format, Morris uses interviews with those involved as well as tabloid reporters in the U.S. and England (where the alleged kidnapping and rape occurred) who have knowledge of some the points he seeks to convey, including the anti-Gay hostility of the Mormon church. It is an interesting, enjoyable documentary which is light-hearted yet also demonstrates how tabloid journalism can sway a story in the minds of the public and the damage it can do. A well-done, finely structured documentary that should not be missed!

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The Gay films of SIFF 2011, part III
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