By Daniel Borgen, PQ Monthly
Each and every year, we eagerly await Portland’s Queer Film Festival—formerly the Gay and Lesbian Film Fest—and our love is twofold: it’s one part seeing queers of all stripes lined up and wrapped around city blocks, down 21st Avenue, then Irving Street, opening night, big-city-style. The other part is our genuine love for storytelling and cinema—it’s our chance to see our stories on the big screen; it’s also an opportunity to challenge our perspectives and learn from each other. (And this year’s schedule is so impressive on paper, imagine it in the theater.)
On with the show(s), and the lineup:
Opening night film: Eisenstein in Guanajuato. In 1931, at the height of his artistic powers, Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein travels to Mexico to shoot a new film to be titled Que Viva Mexico. Freshly rejected by Hollywood and under increasing pressure to return to Stalinist Russia, Eisenstein arrives at the city of Guanajuato. Chaperoned by his guide Palomino Cañedo, he vulnerable experiences the ties between Eros and Thanatos, sex and death, happy to create their effects in cinema, troubled to suffer them in life. Peter Greenaway’s film explores the mind of a creative genius facing the desires and fears of love, sex and death through ten passionate days that helped shape the rest of the career of one of the greatest masters of Cinema.
Closing night film: Out to Win, a doc that examines the lives of queer athletes. The film features sports icons like Jason Collins, Brittney Griner, Billie Jean King, John Amaechi, Martina Navratilova, Billy Bean, David Kopay, Billy Bean, Conner Mertens and many amazing journalists, activists, emerging young athletes, fans and sports professionals about their experiences and the past and present state of things for professional gay and lesbian athletes. Conner Mertens, Billy Bean, and most likely the film’s director will be in attendance.
The rest of the lineup:
In With the New Out: How the internet became the prime destination for the best in LGBT storytelling. In the past few years, as people have begun to cut the cord on cable television and look for alternate methods of scripted entertainment, the number of web series being made available to viewers has skyrocketed. Frustrated LGBT filmmakers faced with fewer and fewer funding and distribution options have turned to the internet as a means to bring their stories to a wider audience, and the opportunities (along with budgets and production value) have grown in leaps and bounds in a very short time.
The Internet has become the best place to find diverse, well-rounded portrayals of LGBT characters. The web series featured below are the best and brightest the internet has to offer in diverse LGBT storytelling. Watch a sampling of these massively popular series, and then join the creators and stars as they share their insights and stories behind the scenes and advise aspiring creators on their own projects one-on-one. Panel/program will feature the following shows with filmmakers Kieran Turner, Tina Ward, Rick Coop and Wes Hurley in attendance: Capitol Hill, Kelsey, Producing Juliet, The Transgender Project, Wallflowers, and Where the Bears Are.
S&M Sally: When Jamie finds out her girlfriend Jill has spent time exploring S&M, her insecurities about falling behind in the bedroom push her to propose that they start going to underground clubs. Jamie decides to use the pseudonym Sally so she can stay anonymous but still look like she’s using her real name, which apparently she thinks makes her look cool. Identifying as the butch one in a traditional butch/femme couple, “Sally” assumes she will take the dominant role in their escapades, with Jill as her submissive, but Jill has ideas of her own.
Upstairs Inferno: This film documents what many consider the largest gay mass murder in U.S. History: On June 24, 1973, an arsonist set fire to the Upstairs Lounge, a gay bar located on the edge of the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana. Thirty-two people were killed and some bodies were never identified. The primary suspect was never charged with the crime. The tragedy did not stop at the loss of lives. There were also the delayed injuries: lost jobs, fear, public ridicule, and severed families. The devastation was compounded by the homophobic reactions and utter lack of concern by the general public, government, and religious leaders. The fire permanently altered lives and was the root of many lifelong struggles. Inferno brings humanity to the headlines by shining a light on the very painful effect the tragedy had on survivors, witnesses, and loved ones. Written and directed by Robert L. Camina and narrated by New York Times best-selling author, Christopher Rice.
Two 4 One: Two 4 One is a bittersweet comedic drama that sees a transgender hero in an unimaginable predicament. When Adam helps his baby-crazy ex-girlfriend Miriam artificially inseminate, they wind up in bed together— and they both get pregnant. Now Adam must reconcile his identity and gender with his biological reality, grapple with his feelings for Miriam, and try to figure out what it means to be a man.
Stories of Our Lives: Lives is a Kenyan film, created by the members of The Nest Collective, a Nairobi-based arts collective. The film is an anthology of five short films dramatizing true stories of LGBT life in Kenya, a series of five vignettes based on true stories collected for the Stories of Our Lives project: Ask Me Nicely, Each Night I Dream, Run, Duet, Athman.
Those People: On Manhattan’s gilded Upper East Side, a young painter, Charlie finds the man of his dreams in an older pianist from across the globe. If only Charlie weren’t secretly in love with his own manipulative best friend, Sebastian, who is embroiled in a financial scandal. In the wake of Sebastian’s notoriety, their tight-knit group of friends must confront the new realities of adulthood.
Guidance: Hailed as a “Grade A” comedy by the Los Angeles Times and a Critic’s Pick by The New York Times, Guidance is a riotous comedy that follows former child actor, David Gold, as he makes one bad decision after another. Recently unemployed and with nothing left to lose, he fakes his resume and gets a job as a high school guidance counselor. Quickly winning over the students with his bad behavior, David forms a friendship with Jabrielle, a teenage outcast and they hit the road as an unlikely pair of outlaws on the run. At once a touching comedy that reveals the inner child in us all, Guidance is filled with fast-paced comedic timing, witty dialogue and a winning performance from writer/director/actor Pat Mills.
Deep Run is a powerful verité portrait of trans life in rural North Carolina. Cole Ray Davis is a young trans man who uses his candid humor and steadfast, all-inclusive Christian beliefs to counter the bigotry he experiences daily.
While You Weren’t Looking: The changing landscape of post-Apartheid South African politics and lifestyles is portrayed through two central relationships a successful black real estate woman who is cheating on her white wife, and their bohemian daughter dating a gender non-confirming woman in the Khayelitsha township.
Fourth Man Out: On his 24th birthday, Adam, a small-town mechanic, decides it’s time to finally tell his friends and family that he’s gay. Will his straight-as-an-arrow best bros have his back? A lighthearted and unexpectedly subversive comedy about coming out of the blue-collar closet.
Liz in September: Every Year, Liz, a hardcore party girl and womanizer, celebrates her birthday in the Caribbean. This year is different; she is sick but hates pity and hides her terminal illness. When a young woman outsider arrives, Liz’s friends dare Liz to seduce her; but, the woman is suffering from her own recent trauma, and nothing turns out as expected.
Boy Meets Girl. Love truly transcends gender. Award-winning Boy Meets Girl is a funny, tender, sex-positive romantic comedy that explores what it means to be human, and how important it is to be true to ourselves and to each other.