QFest Announces Winning Films

It was my privilege this year to serve on the Jury for QFest, Philadelphia’s 19th annual GLBTQ film festival. Along with two other judges, I was tasked with viewing the documentaries. All told, I ended up seeing about twenty films, the ones competing in our category as well as some of the feature films I mentioned in previous posts.

Our Jury for Best Documentary faced a particularly tough challenge this year, choosing among excellent films that dealt with such topics as marriage equality, gay and lesbian parenting, political change, aging in our community and surviving hate crimes. _All_ the films deserve praise, and the Jury hopes you will seek them out and learn from the wisdom and insight they offer. One of the films stood out in particular for its rich historic detail, its fine cinematography and its insight into how our understanding of equality has changed over the last sixty years. All of this embodied by the story of one woman’s life: that of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker. We were happy to award Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth, the 2013 QFest Award for Best Documentary Film.

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The full list of winners is below, courtesy of the QFest site at http://www.qfest.com/index.cfm .

QFEST ANNOUNCES THE 2013 FILM WINNERS

OFFICIAL JURY AWARDS
BEST FEATURE: Free Fall, directed by Stephan Lacant
BEDOCUMENTARY: Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth, directed by Pratibha Parmar
BEST SHORT (GAY): The Package, directed by Rafael Aidar
BEST SHORT (LESBIAN): The Kiss, directed by Filip Gieldon
FIRST TIME DIRECTOR (FEATURE): Jane Clark for Meth Head
FIRST TIME DIRECTOR (DOCUMENTARY): Marta Cunningham for Valentine Road
HONORABLE MENTION: Pamela Drynan for Where I Am

AUDIENCE AWARDS
BEST DOCUMENTARY: The New Black, directed by Yoruba Richen
BEST FEATURE: Out In the Dark, directed by Michael Mayer
BEST COMEDY: Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf, directed by Anna Margarita Albelo
BEST SHORT: Spooners, directed by Bryan R. Horch
HONORABLE MENTION: The Rugby Player, directed by Scott Gracheff

QFest Update!

@QFest #gayfilm #QFest

20130719-173634.jpg Pictured: In the Name Of…

Seeing some fun movies at QFest over these hot, hot days, including a deeply symbolic Polish film called In the Name Of… about a Polish priest running a boy’s reformatory. Also saw a first-time director’s film called Love Will Tear Us Apart. It has a great soundtrack of French pop, including a French version of These Boots Were Made for Walking.

Documentary topics at QFest have ranged from a portrait of Gore Vidal to a pair of documentaries about the trials and tribulations of gay and lesbian couples creating families. Writer Robert Drake is featured in the moving Where I Am, about how he survived a brutal attack in Ireland in 1999 and was able to forgive his attackers. The New Black chronicled marriage equality politics in Maryland, while Breaking Through showcased cutting-edge queer politicians. The Invisible Men depicts the struggle of Muslim gays seeking asylum in Tel Aviv. More documentaries about Divine and Alice Walker are on my docket for the weekend. Check out the fabulous list of documentaries at http://www.qfest.com/2013-program.cfm?c=280.

QFest Film Festival Debuts with film: GBF (Gay Best Friend)

#QFest, #GBFfilm, #gayfilm

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QFest Update 1: Opening Night Film and Party
July 11, 2013

Opening Movie: GBF (Gay Best Friend)

GBF is a rom-com that doesn’t quite live up to the tropes of its genre, but nevertheless gains momentum with zinger after zinger, delivered by the likes of Meghan Mullally, whose cameo as the mother of a closeted high schooler is A+ work in an otherwise B- film.

The plot is a young queer boy’s dream (nightmare?) come true: What happens when closeted twinkie Tanner is outed by his classmates and finds himself the target of three mean-girl queen bees, all of whom want him to becomes their new “gay best friend”? Will he end up a faddish accoutrement akin to a puppy dog in a purse? Hilarity ensues, naturally.

As one of the three mean girls ruling the local high school, actress Xosha Roquemore plays bitchy drama queen Caprice. She is a standout, ably delivering snappy one-liners with uzi-like indiscretion and statuesque ferocity. If ever there is a Grace Jones bio-pic, she needs to be on the director’s short list. NancyPanel19Actor Taylor Frey steals scenes as a closeted young Mormon horn-dog who gets more action than anyone else in this comedy, which generally talks more about sex than actually depicts it. (Incidentally, both of these actors were at the Philadelphia opening night screening, and they seemed both personable and appreciative of their moment in the spotlight. See their sexy Twitter pic at http://instagram.com/p/bpjG0tPeF0/.

I can’t say the acting chops of leads Paul Iacono and Michael J. Willet were as good. Willet’s “Tanner”, the main male lead, seems especially sketched in–a comic book nerd who is never once shown reveling in his inner-geekdom. Iacono shares some funny moments with Meghan Mullaly, who plays his sometimes-helicoptering parent. Iacono and Willet both play closeted gay teens too afraid to come out on their own terms. Best-friends-turned-frenemies, the pair suffers from lack of backbone throughout the film, and their brief romantic interlude toward the end lacks any simulacrum of real spark. Don’t expect much fortitude in either character, though both certainly manage to keep the plot moving forward. The consensus among the friends I saw the movie with was that these two were outshone by their fellow cast members, which included Evanna Lynch (better known as Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter franchise) and Andrea Bowen (who played Susan’s daughter on Desperate Housewives). And let’s not forget the school’s reigning diva, played by Sasha Pieterse. As “Fawcette”, a Farrah-like blonde, she displays the prowess of an actress of promise, coming closest among all her cast-mates to layering her character with the kind of depth that typified John Hughes’ teen movies in the 1980s–perhaps the Golden Age of teen films.

Indeed, GBF’s score borrows a LOT from that era, most notably in the music of the ’80s and early ’90s, with songs by Spandau Ballet, Erasure and Blur on the soundtrack. But unlike Hughes, who so masterfully wove the music of his era into the textual fabric of his films, thereby adding gravitas to his story lines–here the music seems mere afterthought. That’s too bad. A few quiet moments and some genuine tears would have made all the zany bitchiness far more poignant. That’s brave water to tread in a high-school comedy. But even though Director Darren Stein didn’t get it 100% right the first time around, these characters deserve revisiting in their college years–hopefully under direction that will make even more of the snappy, witty, and always clever storytelling of writer George Northy. Some genuine pathos would make the comedy stand out in sharper relief. I especially want to see what happens to Taylor Frey’s closeted Mormon, who morphs into a gung-ho gay boy by movie’s end.

The film is a fun romp worth seeing with friends. You’ll find some laughs and you may want to hit rewind a time or two to take notes on all the saucy repartee. As the kids say these days, “Whatev, bitches!”

Director: Darren Stein. So20130712-015654.jpgon to be released theatrically in LA and NYC. Distributor TBA.

Check out this video trailer on YouTube:

http://youtu.be/Z6DJSGrfNbk

 

PS–The after party…
…was a lot of fun. I met drag queen Timmy Tenderloin, and hung out with friends Rex, Javier, Mario, Thom Cardwell, @Michael Busza, @Brian Gannon. @Joe’l Ludovich, @Jhett Bond, and others at LIT ULTRA BAR in Northern Liberties. A great start to QFest! The theme was a prom night extravaganza, and it was a helluva show with drag queens, drag kings and a photo booth with a cute Mini Cooper (now only if Minnie Driver had been 20130712-031354.jpgdriving the Mini Cooper. Oh well.) Here is a gratuitous picture of Timmy Tenderloin, the drag king, at Philly’s Gay Pride Parade. I stole this off the Internet. At the party, in real life, I took Timmy’s picture weirdly distorted through an ice sculpture–wish I had it, but I took it on Timmy’s camera, not mine.

Tags: Xosha Roquemore, Taylor Frey, GBF, G.B.F., QFest, Philadelphia, Film, Gay, Queer, 80s music, 90s music, George Northy, Darrewn Stein, Timmy Tenderloin, Philadelphia Gay Calendar,

PPS–File under Extra Adorable. Taylor Frey of GBF helps kids fight obesity by teaching them dance moves from Hairspray. How freaking cute is THAT?!

http://broadwayworld.com/article/Photo-Flash-Mara-Davi-Taylor-Frey-and-More-Teach-PS-221-Students-in-Brooklyn-20130430

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Okay, enough pics, enough gossip. Go get your QFest tickets. Pronto! If you missed GBF, it shows again this weekend. http://www.qfest.com/film-details.cfm?id=14588

QFest Film Festival Debuts with film: GBF (Gay Best Friend)

#QFest, #GBFfilm, #gayfilm

20130712-015611.jpg

QFest Update 1: Opening Night Film and Party
July 11, 2013

Opening Movie: GBF (Gay Best Friend)

GBF is a rom-com that doesn’t quite live up to the tropes of its genre, but nevertheless gains momentum with zinger after zinger, delivered by the likes of Meghan Mullally, whose cameo as the mother of a closeted high schooler is A+ work in an otherwise B- film.

The plot is a young queer boy’s dream (nightmare?) come true: What happens when closeted twinkie Tanner is outed by his classmates and finds himself the target of three mean-girl queen bees, all of whom want him to becomes their new “gay best friend”? Will he end up a faddish accoutrement akin to a puppy dog in a purse? Hilarity ensues, naturally.

As one of the three mean girls ruling the local high school, actress Xosha Roquemore plays bitchy drama queen Caprice. She is a standout, ably delivering snappy one-liners with uzi-like indiscretion and statuesque ferocity. If ever there is a Grace Jones bio-pic, she needs to be on the director’s short list. NancyPanel19Actor Taylor Frey steals scenes as a closeted young Mormon horn-dog who gets more action than anyone else in this comedy, which generally talks more about sex than actually depicts it. (Incidentally, both of these actors were at the Philadelphia opening night screening, and they seemed both personable and appreciative of their moment in the spotlight. See their sexy Twitter pic at http://instagram.com/p/bpjG0tPeF0/.

I can’t say the acting chops of leads Paul Iacono and Michael J. Willet were as good. Willet’s “Tanner”, the main male lead, seems especially sketched in–a comic book nerd who is never once shown reveling in his inner-geekdom. Iacono shares some funny moments with Meghan Mullaly, who plays his sometimes-helicoptering parent. Iacono and Willet both play closeted gay teens too afraid to come out on their own terms. Best-friends-turned-frenemies, the pair suffers from lack of backbone throughout the film, and their brief romantic interlude toward the end lacks any simulacrum of real spark. Don’t expect much fortitude in either character, though both certainly manage to keep the plot moving forward. The consensus among the friends I saw the movie with was that these two were outshone by their fellow cast members, which included Evanna Lynch (better known as Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter franchise) and Andrea Bowen (who played Susan’s daughter on Desperate Housewives). And let’s not forget the school’s reigning diva, played by Sasha Pieterse. As “Fawcette”, a Farrah-like blonde, she displays the prowess of an actress of promise, coming closest among all her cast-mates to layering her character with the kind of depth that typified John Hughes’ teen movies in the 1980s–perhaps the Golden Age of teen films.

Indeed, GBF’s score borrows a LOT from that era, most notably in the music of the ’80s and early ’90s, with songs by Spandau Ballet, Erasure and Blur on the soundtrack. But unlike Hughes, who so masterfully wove the music of his era into the textual fabric of his films, thereby adding gravitas to his story lines–here the music seems mere afterthought. That’s too bad. A few quiet moments and some genuine tears would have made all the zany bitchiness far more poignant. That’s brave water to tread in a high-school comedy. But even though Director Darren Stein didn’t get it 100% right the first time around, these characters deserve revisiting in their college years–hopefully under direction that will make even more of the snappy, witty, and always clever storytelling of writer George Northy. Some genuine pathos would make the comedy stand out in sharper relief. I especially want to see what happens to Taylor Frey’s closeted Mormon, who morphs into a gung-ho gay boy by movie’s end.

The film is a fun romp worth seeing with friends. You’ll find some laughs and you may want to hit rewind a time or two to take notes on all the saucy repartee. As the kids say these days, “Whatev, bitches!”

Director: Darren Stein. So20130712-015654.jpgon to be released theatrically in LA and NYC. Distributor TBA.

Check out this video trailer on YouTube:

http://youtu.be/Z6DJSGrfNbk

 

PS–The after party…
…was a lot of fun. I met drag queen Timmy Tenderloin, and hung out with friends Rex, Javier, Mario, Thom Cardwell, @Michael Busza, @Brian Gannon. @Joe’l Ludovich, @Jhett Bond, and others at LIT ULTRA BAR in Northern Liberties. A great start to QFest! The theme was a prom night extravaganza, and it was a helluva show with drag queens, drag kings and a photo booth with a cute Mini Cooper (now only if Minnie Driver had been 20130712-031354.jpgdriving the Mini Cooper. Oh well.) Here is a gratuitous picture of Timmy Tenderloin, the drag king, at Philly’s Gay Pride Parade. I stole this off the Internet. At the party, in real life, I took Timmy’s picture weirdly distorted through an ice sculpture–wish I had it, but I took it on Timmy’s camera, not mine.

Tags: Xosha Roquemore, Taylor Frey, GBF, G.B.F., QFest, Philadelphia, Film, Gay, Queer, 80s music, 90s music, George Northy, Darrewn Stein, Timmy Tenderloin, Philadelphia Gay Calendar,

PPS–File under Extra Adorable. Taylor Frey of GBF helps kids fight obesity by teaching them dance moves from Hairspray. How freaking cute is THAT?!

http://broadwayworld.com/article/Photo-Flash-Mara-Davi-Taylor-Frey-and-More-Teach-PS-221-Students-in-Brooklyn-20130430

20130712-030634.jpg

Okay, enough pics, enough gossip. Go get your QFest tickets. Pronto! If you missed GBF, it shows again this weekend. http://www.qfest.com/film-details.cfm?id=14588

Philly in Cinema, Circa 2012

This summer the Philadelphia heatwave was only partially caused by global warming. I think a little of it had to do with all the celebrities in town. Just a few weeks ago the Golden Palace Chinese restaurant around the corner from my house stood in for NY’s Chinatown as Colin Farrell shot scenes for a new movie there.


Days ago, the bocci court three blocks away was the site of a scene with Harrison Ford in yet another upcoming film, Paranoia. Indiana Jones is here with Liam Hemsworth and several other stars, including Richard Dreyfus and Gary Oldman. Liam brought along fiancĂ©e Miley Cyrus, and they’ve been quite the loving couple around Center City. Readers of this blog know I like to hang out at the M garden bar at the Morris Hotel–in fact, I was just there last night catching up with writer-photographer Montgomery Maxton. Evidently Liam, Miley and their pooch are staying nearby, as evidenced by these photos on M’s facebook page.
The Italian Market, my neighborhood, is also frequently used in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, naturally, as the gang’s fictitious South Philly bar is supposedly located nearby.
Suffice to say, every so often I’ll turn a corner to find equipment trucks and catering vans elbowing in among the tightly packed streets as some new scene is being shot. The Philadelphia Film Office’s tax incentive program keeps paying off big time, and I love it.
Philly has a couple film festivals throughout the year, including QFest, a leading GLBTQ film festival sponsored by TLA Video. In fact, my friend Jim Tushinski was here last month for it, screening his work-in-progress bio-documentary, Dirty Poole.

So if you live in Philly like me, keep your eyes open for the stars. If you live somewhere else, keep your eyes peeled for Philadelphia on the big screen. The next time you think you’re looking at New York or Chicago, you just might be looking at the City of Brotherly Love.

More photos at: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151005390719077&set=a.10151005390654077.431669.295889004076&type=3&permPage=1