The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/screens/2001-08-24/82764/

Fun for the Whole Family

The 14th Annual Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival

August 24, 2001, Screens

There may be more movies at the 14th Annual Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival than ever before, but aGLIFF remains what it's always been: an event that transcends its ostensible purpose. "People from out of town come in and ask me why we don't have a gay ghetto," such as New York's Chelsea or San Francisco's Castro District, says Scott Dinger, the artistic director of the Festival. "There's the bars, and past that, what is there? I feel that aGLIFF acts as a big community event." It's one that has steadily outgrown its two-week mandate. aGLIFF has metamorphosized into an essentially year-round event with monthly screenings, an Academy Awards presentation, the new and successful My Gay Movie contest in which amateur filmmakers take central stage, the annual summer Sing-a-Long at the Paramount Theatre, and the Gay Youth Media Project, to mention a few extensions of the Festival. But for now, try wrapping your mind around the multitude of films that will be shown in the next two weeks. As a starting point to help you navigate through the 168 titles featured this year, we've highlighted five movies and recommended a dozen others. All films will be screened at the Arbor 7 Theatre, 10000 Research, unless otherwise noted.

Adventures of Felix: Traveling Light

D: Oliver Ducastel and Jacques Martineau.

(France,1999, 97 min.)

After losing his dull job in his dull town in northern France, Felix decides it's time to split -- all the way across the country. He says goodbye to his boyfriend and searches for the father he has never known but who lives in Marseilles. Felix is Arab and HIV-positive, but on his eventful trek across France -- often on foot -- he meets the kind of characters who eventually constitute a little family of his own.

It may be tempting for American viewers to wonder whether Adventures of Felix is the new fantasy from French filmmakers Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau (Jeanne and the Perfect Guy). For us, it's more than a little weird when someone makes a movie about a gay man but doesn't draw attention to the fact that the protagonist is gay. In fact, that Felix is gay doesn't even seem to faze anyone at all.

All Felix wants to do is reach Marseilles, but without being too obvious about it, Ducastel and Martineau make the point that the journey is the destination. Felix bumps into a restless 17-year-old art student with whom he goes clubbing, he's the only witness to some racially motivated violence that makes the national news, and an elderly lady pokes him with her cane one morning while he's sleeping on his park bench (she needs help carrying her groceries home). Mathilde, as it turns out, is as rabid a fan of The Glorious Valley, a trenchant soap opera, as Felix is, and they sit there one morning as Felix takes his medication, chortling together at the show's peccadilloes. In the funniest leg of his mission, Felix helps out a woman with three children who eye him, alternately, as a little playtoy and a morbid stranger.

Out of these random predicaments, the filmmakers have fashioned an entirely compelling and revealing story that, curiously, doesn't seem frantically concerned with its ostensible subject, the obstacles an HIV-positive Arab faces in modern France. By the time Felix reaches Marseilles, it seems appropriate to have forgotten exactly why he was so worried about getting there. (Thursday, Aug. 30, 7:20pm)

Julie Johnson: Quantum Leap

D: Bob Gosse. (USA, 2000, 99 min.)

Director Bob Gosse laughs as he recalls that his lead actresses, Lili Taylor and Courtney Love, were both "oddly amused" that Julie Johnson was a movie that this self-described "heterosexual knucklehead from Long Island" wanted to make.

However, Gosse remained firm in his belief that the story of Julie Johnson has universal appeal. "While the movie does have the theme of a same-sex relationship, I think it's about more than that," he explains. "I think the movie's same-sex relationship just amplifies the idea of intolerance in the face of people trying to pursue that which makes them happy."

In this case, what makes the character of Julie Johnson happy is theoretical physics. Indie film regular Lili Taylor plays the title character -- a Hoboken, New Jersey, housewife and mother who decides to follow up on a mailbox flier about getting her GED. At first, Julie's pursuit is simply a response to the vague sense of dormancy she feels in her life. With her best friend Claire (Courtney Love) by her side, Julie screws up her courage to attend night classes and soon discovers the reason for her fascination with all those issues of Scientific American she hides in the kitchen cupboards. Under the tutelage of her instructor (played by the ever-professorial Spalding Gray), it soon becomes evident that Julie is a closet math-and-science whiz. Julie's new interests come at high personal costs, yet gal-pal Claire stands by her, and gradually the two also begin to explore new sexual equations.

"The strength of the material drew in the actors," says Gosse, whose script is an adaptation of a play by Wendy Hammond, who also helped co-adapt the material via e-mail exchanges. "Lili and I are kind of like-minded, independent-film, New York mafia members, so we knew each other going into it." Love, in addition to the work had to do on her accent ("Courtney talks like she's from Malibu, sort of Valley Girl speak," says Gosse), would also "go to the mall in Paramus, New Jersey, in a floppy hat and glasses and just observe people. In designing Claire, we let her be a little outrageous with her wardrobe, because she's sort of a sparkplug character. But we had to reel her in occasionally and remind her that this character can't afford Versace."

"We had two weeks of rehearsal with just the three of us," adds Gosse. "Courtney comes at the material from her stomach and instincts. Lili's a lot more structured and methodical. Working with the two of them definitely got me in touch with my feminine side." (Sunday, Sept. 2, 7pm. Bob Gosse will be in attendance.)

Poles Apart: Minus Zero/No Limit

D: Greg Stiever. (USA, 2000, 86 min.)

It's not like Ann Bancroft doesn't already have a cram-packed résumé. This first woman to reach the North Pole (with Will Steger in 1986) led a four-woman team, the American Women's Expedition (A.W.E.), to the South Pole to earn a similar distinction (1993). Having shot the many miles of documentary footage to prove it, she may add another credit: filmmaker. And no, this is not that Anne Bancroft, so get that snow-white vision of "The Graduate With Sled Dogs" out of your head. (For that matter, get sled dogs out of your head, since the South Pole expedition team didn't take any.) This particular Bancroft is a comely, rugged lass whose decades of globetrotting have taken her to the ends of the Earth and human endurance. And that's only the half of it. As the film attests, the trek didn't begin and end on the ice. Initial funding for the expedition proved difficult (sexism certainly factored in), and the group's debts were paid off only last year. Amid debt-retiring duties, Bancroft worked to release a book and collaborated with Poles Apart director Greg Stiever. "Most footage was shot by [AWE team member] Sunniva [Sorby] and myself," Bancroft says. Stunning, considering that the four-woman crew was out on the minus-40-degree ice, alone, for months, dragging sleds easily twice their body weight, without the help of dog or man. "It was hard to be a participant and creator," Bancroft relates of her dual roles. "Often, it was difficult to even pick the camera up," she recalls, confessing that it often happened only "out of the sheer will to bring the story back." Since the documentary was shot, Bancroft has returned to Antarctica and continues to push envelopes. A.W.E. "taught about the economic barriers that women still face," she says. And she is still going to the ends of the earth to blow those limitations away. (Sunday, Sept. 2, 4:45pm. Ann Bancroft will be in attendance.)

Stray Dogs: Appalachian Gothic

D: Catherine Crouch. (USA, 2001, 97 min.)

A dyed-in-the-wool modern Gothic that recalls the best of Tennessee Williams with its sultry, Southern mise-en-scène and featuring enough skeletons in the proverbial closet to logjam the House of Usher, director Catherine Crouch's stunning feature film debut is as poignant and affecting as a clutch of honeysuckle cascading from a corpse's rictus grin. Indie stalwart Guinevere Turner (Go Fish, American Psycho) is cast as weary Appalachian mother Darla Carter, whose world is spun into disarray when she discovers she's pregnant again by her thuggish, abusive husband. Having already lost three female infants in a row, she's convinced of the existence of the Carter Mountain Curse and desperate to get away from both the man who has made her life a living hell and the possibility of one more dead child.

Stray Dogs' unique and gorgeous eye for period details -- it's set in 1958 -- is pure Appalachiana, but it's the inspired casting of Turner along with Ryan Kelley and Zach Gray (as Carter's two young sons) that really shakes the screen.

"These kid[s' characters] are both the products of a very dysfunctional family," says Crouch, "and they're both trying to cope as best they can. ... I like these poor people because I think it's more universal for the audience, their problems, more so than just having, say, a bunch of young people in New York trying to find a date or something. That kind of filmmaking just isn't interesting to me."

Crouch's film was adapted from the stage play of the same name (by Julie Jensen) but had its location transposed from Utah to the Appalachian Mountains, an area of the country that the Southern-born Crouch is intimately familiar with.

"It was difficult to do but very important to me. Originally the play was set in Mormon Utah. I'm from Sea Island off the coast of South Carolina and went to school in Charleston. My mother's family is all from Hendersonville in the Appalachian Mountains -- but not from Appalachia -- and so I knew those people and that area. As I mentioned, the play was Mormon, but it didn't necessarily have to be that -- it just had to be set in a repressive environment. When you go to Appalachia, you have the Church of God, which is really repressive, and so I moved the setting to there. It's so important to get that look right, too, because so many åSouthern' films are made in that same California desert these days."

Crouch cites Elia Kazan's Southern-fried Gothics such as Baby Doll and A Streetcar Named Desire as a direct influence on Stray Dogs' look and feel, and the same cloying, humid lunacy that permeates Kazan's films is frequently echoed in Crouch's film.

"Stray Dogs is very much a hard drama, and a tragedy," adds Crouch. "Usually in gay and lesbian film festivals you have a lot of fun and fluffy fare, but I hope that people realize it's important to tell all kinds of stories, and not just the softer, easier ones." (Monday, Sept. 3, 9:15pm)

All Over the Guy

D: Julie Davis. (USA, 2001, 94 min.)

Or: When Jackie Met Brett, but Was Too Nervous to Ask Him Out, so Instead She Set Up Her Gay Best Friend Tom With His Gay Best Friend Eli. Both couples begin dating, but not without setting off tempers, childhood neuroses, alcohol addictions, and obsessions with Planet of the Apes action figures. All Over the Guy is a little too clever-talk-clippy, but it's also a fine assemblage of appealing actors (Adam Goldberg and Sasha Alexander as boy-meets-girl; Richard Ruccolo and writer/producer/star Dan Bucatinsky as boy-meets-boy). The story arc suffers from too many mini-climaxes, and the action drags whenever things get too down in the mouth, but All Over the Guy serves as an affectionate and fun, if unambitious, opening-night kickoff to the festival. Leave the tougher stuff for later: All Over the Guy's all-around charming. (Co-star, writer, and producer Dan Bucatinsky will be in attendance. Opening Night Film: Friday, Aug. 24, 7:30pm, Paramount Theatre; Afterparty: 9pm, GSD&M)

Bombay Eunuch

D: Alexandra Shiva. (USA, 2001, 71 min.)

Eunuchs? In this day and age? Well, yes. Shiva's exquisite and heartbreaking documentary uncovers the continued existence of the eunuch class in modern Bombay, of all places, and reveals that far from being a historical aberration, the eunuch is still feared and even worshipped in India's outlying regions. Men who willingly undergo ritual castration and then frequently end up as penniless objects of scorn and mockery, the eunuchs band together to survive, increasingly relics in a world whose Westernization and globalization have conspired to pass them by. No matter that in the more receptive country villages they are sought out for their blessings and feared for their curses -- the genderless eunuchs are slowly vanishing from the present into the past. Shiva's moving documentary highlights their plight with a mixture of probing, exclusive interview footage and sociopolitical anthropology. (Sunday, Sept. 2, 12:15pm)

Brother Born Again

D: Julia Pimsleur. (USA, 2000, 76 min.)

When Julia Pimsleur, a Jewish bisexual New Yorker, heads off to remote Alaska to try to reason with her estranged brother Marc, who has found solace in a small community of born-again Christians called The Farm, she doesn't harbor a lot of illusions about making him less obstinate. Still, she wants him to accept her; Marc has to look in his Bible to see if that's okay. Despite its loquaciousness, Brother Born Again pits secular humanism and rabid evangelism, those old warhorses, against one another to fascinating effect. Julia, who also directs the documentary, has captured the intimate passions behind this centuries-old debate. (Saturday, Aug. 25, 4:45pm)

Friends and Family

D: Kristen Coury. (USA, 2000, 90 min.)

This gangland romp has its silly moments (a biff! pow! fight scene, Meshach Taylor with titanic shoulder pads and Bronson Pinchot accent), but it's also sweet and terribly fun. During an unexpected parental visit, NYC lovers (Greg Lauren and Christopher Gartin) hide a secret: They're Mafia muscle, employed by an aging don (Tony Lo Bianco). Can our heroes successfully masquerade as Manhattan caterers, planning a swank dinner party -- even after drag queens and a gun-toting militia crash it? The divine Edward Hibbert (Gil Chesters on TV's Frasier) steals the show as a society writer teaching Jersey wiseguys to "pass" as swishy waiters (with the help of "Leaping Lizards, It's Liberace!"). Broadly comic, but with heart to match. (Actor Thomas James will be in attendance. Saturday, Aug. 25, 9:45pm; Saturday, Sept. 1, 1:45pm)

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

D: John Cameron Mitchell. (USA, 2000, 88 min.)

That's Inch, baby, not Itch, and you'd be angry too if that's all you had to show from a botched East German sex change operation. First an off-Broadway musical and now a feature film, Hedwig's life story is rife with bittersweet bouts of cruel irony: from the American GI who marries her, then dumps her in a trailer park in Kansas, to the boy who worships her, then steals her songs and makes them hits. This Star Is Born tale of an "internationally ignored" diva is set to an original soundtrack (including Girls Against Boys and Bob Mould) and features animation by Emily Hubley (sister of Yo La Tengo's Georgia and daughter of the Mister Magoo Hubleys). Gleefully pilfering from Rocky Horror, Sandra Bernhard's Without You I'm Nothing, and Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, this veritable velvet goldmine was a big winner at Sundance, taking this year's Audience Award and Best Director prizes. (Saturday, Aug. 25, 7:30pm)

I Am Not What You Want

D: Kit Hung. (Hong Kong, 2001, 48 min.)

This budget-conscious, shot-on-video drama adds up to more than the sum of its parts: coming-out woes, family dysfunction, hidden attraction, and the requisite "falling in love" montage (accompanied by a Cantopop tune, owing to the Hong Kong setting). The story may be a bit on the pedestrian side -- two college roommates realize their feelings for each other -- but it is warmly acted. (Musician-turned-actor Chet Lam is a particular find, with an understated, natural camera presence.) The technical limitations of the medium are often apparent, but director/photographer/editor/writer Kit Hung demonstrates a facility with depth-of-field composition, cross-cutting, and other techniques that would appear more elegant on film. (Sunday, Sept. 2, 2:15pm)

On the Bus

D: Dustin Lance Black. (USA, 2001, 111 min.)

"Get on the bus and get outta your head, baby" might as well be the tagline for this über-gay romp through the lives and fractured psyches of six young men off to see the Wizard, or, at the very least, to get their love jones on at Nevada's annual festival de debauche, Burning Man. There's chubby and unloved Damon; porndog Jason; hottie du jour Charles; Olympic Swede Jimmy; Billy, the smart Jew; and Lance, camera operator and all-around quipster. Think of MTV's Road Rules sans the rules part and you get the idea. From San Francisco to the casinos of Reno, and from the Black Rock Desert to a dystopian utopia, the six young men fight, fuck, and frolic their way into your, uh, "heart." Black's digital video camera work at times leaves much to be desired, but the bitchy tales told out of sex-ed class more than make up for the visual distractions. More fun than riding bareback in a tub of greased monkeys -- not that we'd know anything about that -- On the Bus is a campy, wacky, and altogether illuminating trip. Homo's Odyssey, indeed. (Director Dustin Lance Black will be in attendance. Wednesday, Aug. 29, 9:30pm; Saturday, Sept. 1, 4pm)

Queen of the Whole Wide World

D: Roger Hyde. (USA, 2001, 82 min.)

To become Queen of the Whole Wide World, contestants must pretend to be from a foreign country, spoof that country in outrageous drag, wear a swimsuit while hiding what's not supposed to be seen, prove they have talent, and raise lots of money in the fight against AIDS. At points in this often entertaining documentary, it seems as if these brave L.A. souls -- Miss France, Miss Norway, and Miss Mexico ("Kay Sedia") among them -- are expected to do all of those things at once as they devise their outfits and personas and then leap onstage. Occasionally marred by earnest sentiment that seems out of place with the camp on display, Queen of the Whole Wide World is nonetheless an entertaining foray into "international" dragdom. (Saturday, Aug. 25, 2:15pm; Thursday, Aug. 30, 5:30pm)

Scout's Honor

D: Tom Shepard. (USA, 2001, 57 min.)

"You're there, you know, you can, you must," says Dave Rice in Tom Shepard's documentary, Scout's Honor. He's talking about why he, a straight man with a 50-year association with the Boy Scouts of America, decided to challenge the organization when a fellow scout leader was expelled because of his homosexuality. Scout's Honor details the experiences of Rice and 12-year-old Boy Scout Steven Cozza -- who becomes the centerpiece of this even-tempered documentary -- along with two gay men whose expulsion from the Scouts drove them to take their cases to two state courts, and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court. The film elicits awe for those who took on the 91-year-old institution, while painfully revealing the lengths to which "good people" will go to perpetuate ignorance in the name of family values. (Sunday, Sept. 2, 4:30pm)

Southern Comfort

D: Kate Davis. (USA, 2000, 90 min.)

"This is bubba country," explains Robert Eads, the subject of Southern Comfort, Kate Davis' documentary portrait of a dying transsexual, as he drives through his rural Georgia town and recounts, with amusement, the time he was asked to join a local organization with ties to the KKK. Davis' film follows Eads over the course of a year and offers an intimate look at the triumphs and challenges experienced by him and his close-knit "chosen family" of transsexual friends as he slowly succumbs to terminal ovarian cancer. The film is a testament to the strength of Ead's character, surviving at the very periphery of rural society and filling his final days with as much love and companionship as possible. Unfortunately, Davis' awkward camerawork and overexploration of petty jealousies between these friends push the film uncomfortably close, at certain moments, to the aesthetic employed by Sally Jessy Raphael and company (think "My Redneck Neighbor Is Really a Woman!"). The film is a unique story, nonetheless, and rises above its weaknesses to bring this touching portrait of marginalized and misunderstood individuals into the mainstream. (Friday, Aug. 31, 7:30pm)

Trembling Before G-d

D: Sandi Simcha DuBowski. (USA, 2000, 90 min.)

This documentary shines light on a little-explored dimension of the international debate regarding homosexuality and religion. In this country, at least, this fractious debate is usually associated with Christian sects and their practitioners. But what of gays among Orthodox and Hassidic Jews? In these more traditional and literal branches of Judaism, homosexuality is condemned as a Biblical abomination. Filmed over the course of five years in Brooklyn, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, and London, Trembling Before G-d looks at the isolated lives of a number of Jews who have come out as gay. Their strategies for coping with and rationalizing the contradiction in their lives varies. Implicitly, the movie makes the viewer -- if not its subjects -- wonder if their religious belief can ever be reconciled with an intolerant religion. (Sunday, Aug. 26, 7pm)

Short Programs

This year the festival boasts no fewer than 20 separate programs devoted to short films -- that's programs; we're not even counting how many actual films that adds up to. Some of our favorites: "4 p.m.," a tightly constructed, polished 35mm bedroom farce about a one-night stand with political consequences. At 15 minutes, it still feels fully realized. For the less tastefully inclined, the "Rick & Steve" animated shorts examine the erotic and satirical potential of LEGOs. For example, Episode 2 packs into eight minutes this and more: RuPaul, a stop-motion circle jerk, and the return of Chuck, an HIV-positive smartass "paralyzed from the left testicle down." No sacred cows here. In the slight but fun "Boychick," a Britney-esque singer helps a teenage mensch bust a move on his dream dude. The music is part klezmer, part Backstreet, the parodic choreography eerily perfect. For the more seriously minded, there's "Rebel Rebel," about an unconventional love between a confused teenager and her emotionally stunted, middle-aged second cousin. ("4 pm": Saturday, Aug. 25, 8pm; Sunday, Aug. 26, 4:30pm; Saturday, Sept. 1, 2:15pm; Wednesday, Sept. 5, 9:30pm. "Rick & Steve the Happiest Gay Couple in All the World": Monday, Sept. 3, 7:15pm. "Boychick": Tuesday, Aug. 28, 9:45pm; Monday, Sept. 3, 4:30pm. "Rebel Rebel": Sunday, Aug. 26, 3:15pm)

Copyright © 2019 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.

The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/screens/2001-08-24/82764/

Fun for the Whole Family

The 14th Annual Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival

August 24, 2001, Screens

There may be more movies at the 14th Annual Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival than ever before, but aGLIFF remains what it's always been: an event that transcends its ostensible purpose. "People from out of town come in and ask me why we don't have a gay ghetto," such as New York's Chelsea or San Francisco's Castro District, says Scott Dinger, the artistic director of the Festival. "There's the bars, and past that, what is there? I feel that aGLIFF acts as a big community event." It's one that has steadily outgrown its two-week mandate. aGLIFF has metamorphosized into an essentially year-round event with monthly screenings, an Academy Awards presentation, the new and successful My Gay Movie contest in which amateur filmmakers take central stage, the annual summer Sing-a-Long at the Paramount Theatre, and the Gay Youth Media Project, to mention a few extensions of the Festival. But for now, try wrapping your mind around the multitude of films that will be shown in the next two weeks. As a starting point to help you navigate through the 168 titles featured this year, we've highlighted five movies and recommended a dozen others. All films will be screened at the Arbor 7 Theatre, 10000 Research, unless otherwise noted.

Adventures of Felix: Traveling Light

D: Oliver Ducastel and Jacques Martineau.

(France,1999, 97 min.)

After losing his dull job in his dull town in northern France, Felix decides it's time to split -- all the way across the country. He says goodbye to his boyfriend and searches for the father he has never known but who lives in Marseilles. Felix is Arab and HIV-positive, but on his eventful trek across France -- often on foot -- he meets the kind of characters who eventually constitute a little family of his own.

It may be tempting for American viewers to wonder whether Adventures of Felix is the new fantasy from French filmmakers Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau (Jeanne and the Perfect Guy). For us, it's more than a little weird when someone makes a movie about a gay man but doesn't draw attention to the fact that the protagonist is gay. In fact, that Felix is gay doesn't even seem to faze anyone at all.

All Felix wants to do is reach Marseilles, but without being too obvious about it, Ducastel and Martineau make the point that the journey is the destination. Felix bumps into a restless 17-year-old art student with whom he goes clubbing, he's the only witness to some racially motivated violence that makes the national news, and an elderly lady pokes him with her cane one morning while he's sleeping on his park bench (she needs help carrying her groceries home). Mathilde, as it turns out, is as rabid a fan of The Glorious Valley, a trenchant soap opera, as Felix is, and they sit there one morning as Felix takes his medication, chortling together at the show's peccadilloes. In the funniest leg of his mission, Felix helps out a woman with three children who eye him, alternately, as a little playtoy and a morbid stranger.

Out of these random predicaments, the filmmakers have fashioned an entirely compelling and revealing story that, curiously, doesn't seem frantically concerned with its ostensible subject, the obstacles an HIV-positive Arab faces in modern France. By the time Felix reaches Marseilles, it seems appropriate to have forgotten exactly why he was so worried about getting there. (Thursday, Aug. 30, 7:20pm)

Julie Johnson: Quantum Leap

D: Bob Gosse. (USA, 2000, 99 min.)

Director Bob Gosse laughs as he recalls that his lead actresses, Lili Taylor and Courtney Love, were both "oddly amused" that Julie Johnson was a movie that this self-described "heterosexual knucklehead from Long Island" wanted to make.

However, Gosse remained firm in his belief that the story of Julie Johnson has universal appeal. "While the movie does have the theme of a same-sex relationship, I think it's about more than that," he explains. "I think the movie's same-sex relationship just amplifies the idea of intolerance in the face of people trying to pursue that which makes them happy."

In this case, what makes the character of Julie Johnson happy is theoretical physics. Indie film regular Lili Taylor plays the title character -- a Hoboken, New Jersey, housewife and mother who decides to follow up on a mailbox flier about getting her GED. At first, Julie's pursuit is simply a response to the vague sense of dormancy she feels in her life. With her best friend Claire (Courtney Love) by her side, Julie screws up her courage to attend night classes and soon discovers the reason for her fascination with all those issues of Scientific American she hides in the kitchen cupboards. Under the tutelage of her instructor (played by the ever-professorial Spalding Gray), it soon becomes evident that Julie is a closet math-and-science whiz. Julie's new interests come at high personal costs, yet gal-pal Claire stands by her, and gradually the two also begin to explore new sexual equations.

"The strength of the material drew in the actors," says Gosse, whose script is an adaptation of a play by Wendy Hammond, who also helped co-adapt the material via e-mail exchanges. "Lili and I are kind of like-minded, independent-film, New York mafia members, so we knew each other going into it." Love, in addition to the work had to do on her accent ("Courtney talks like she's from Malibu, sort of Valley Girl speak," says Gosse), would also "go to the mall in Paramus, New Jersey, in a floppy hat and glasses and just observe people. In designing Claire, we let her be a little outrageous with her wardrobe, because she's sort of a sparkplug character. But we had to reel her in occasionally and remind her that this character can't afford Versace."

"We had two weeks of rehearsal with just the three of us," adds Gosse. "Courtney comes at the material from her stomach and instincts. Lili's a lot more structured and methodical. Working with the two of them definitely got me in touch with my feminine side." (Sunday, Sept. 2, 7pm. Bob Gosse will be in attendance.)

Poles Apart: Minus Zero/No Limit

D: Greg Stiever. (USA, 2000, 86 min.)

It's not like Ann Bancroft doesn't already have a cram-packed résumé. This first woman to reach the North Pole (with Will Steger in 1986) led a four-woman team, the American Women's Expedition (A.W.E.), to the South Pole to earn a similar distinction (1993). Having shot the many miles of documentary footage to prove it, she may add another credit: filmmaker. And no, this is not that Anne Bancroft, so get that snow-white vision of "The Graduate With Sled Dogs" out of your head. (For that matter, get sled dogs out of your head, since the South Pole expedition team didn't take any.) This particular Bancroft is a comely, rugged lass whose decades of globetrotting have taken her to the ends of the Earth and human endurance. And that's only the half of it. As the film attests, the trek didn't begin and end on the ice. Initial funding for the expedition proved difficult (sexism certainly factored in), and the group's debts were paid off only last year. Amid debt-retiring duties, Bancroft worked to release a book and collaborated with Poles Apart director Greg Stiever. "Most footage was shot by [AWE team member] Sunniva [Sorby] and myself," Bancroft says. Stunning, considering that the four-woman crew was out on the minus-40-degree ice, alone, for months, dragging sleds easily twice their body weight, without the help of dog or man. "It was hard to be a participant and creator," Bancroft relates of her dual roles. "Often, it was difficult to even pick the camera up," she recalls, confessing that it often happened only "out of the sheer will to bring the story back." Since the documentary was shot, Bancroft has returned to Antarctica and continues to push envelopes. A.W.E. "taught about the economic barriers that women still face," she says. And she is still going to the ends of the earth to blow those limitations away. (Sunday, Sept. 2, 4:45pm. Ann Bancroft will be in attendance.)

Stray Dogs: Appalachian Gothic

D: Catherine Crouch. (USA, 2001, 97 min.)

A dyed-in-the-wool modern Gothic that recalls the best of Tennessee Williams with its sultry, Southern mise-en-scène and featuring enough skeletons in the proverbial closet to logjam the House of Usher, director Catherine Crouch's stunning feature film debut is as poignant and affecting as a clutch of honeysuckle cascading from a corpse's rictus grin. Indie stalwart Guinevere Turner (Go Fish, American Psycho) is cast as weary Appalachian mother Darla Carter, whose world is spun into disarray when she discovers she's pregnant again by her thuggish, abusive husband. Having already lost three female infants in a row, she's convinced of the existence of the Carter Mountain Curse and desperate to get away from both the man who has made her life a living hell and the possibility of one more dead child.

Stray Dogs' unique and gorgeous eye for period details -- it's set in 1958 -- is pure Appalachiana, but it's the inspired casting of Turner along with Ryan Kelley and Zach Gray (as Carter's two young sons) that really shakes the screen.

"These kid[s' characters] are both the products of a very dysfunctional family," says Crouch, "and they're both trying to cope as best they can. ... I like these poor people because I think it's more universal for the audience, their problems, more so than just having, say, a bunch of young people in New York trying to find a date or something. That kind of filmmaking just isn't interesting to me."

Crouch's film was adapted from the stage play of the same name (by Julie Jensen) but had its location transposed from Utah to the Appalachian Mountains, an area of the country that the Southern-born Crouch is intimately familiar with.

"It was difficult to do but very important to me. Originally the play was set in Mormon Utah. I'm from Sea Island off the coast of South Carolina and went to school in Charleston. My mother's family is all from Hendersonville in the Appalachian Mountains -- but not from Appalachia -- and so I knew those people and that area. As I mentioned, the play was Mormon, but it didn't necessarily have to be that -- it just had to be set in a repressive environment. When you go to Appalachia, you have the Church of God, which is really repressive, and so I moved the setting to there. It's so important to get that look right, too, because so many åSouthern' films are made in that same California desert these days."

Crouch cites Elia Kazan's Southern-fried Gothics such as Baby Doll and A Streetcar Named Desire as a direct influence on Stray Dogs' look and feel, and the same cloying, humid lunacy that permeates Kazan's films is frequently echoed in Crouch's film.

"Stray Dogs is very much a hard drama, and a tragedy," adds Crouch. "Usually in gay and lesbian film festivals you have a lot of fun and fluffy fare, but I hope that people realize it's important to tell all kinds of stories, and not just the softer, easier ones." (Monday, Sept. 3, 9:15pm)

All Over the Guy

D: Julie Davis. (USA, 2001, 94 min.)

Or: When Jackie Met Brett, but Was Too Nervous to Ask Him Out, so Instead She Set Up Her Gay Best Friend Tom With His Gay Best Friend Eli. Both couples begin dating, but not without setting off tempers, childhood neuroses, alcohol addictions, and obsessions with Planet of the Apes action figures. All Over the Guy is a little too clever-talk-clippy, but it's also a fine assemblage of appealing actors (Adam Goldberg and Sasha Alexander as boy-meets-girl; Richard Ruccolo and writer/producer/star Dan Bucatinsky as boy-meets-boy). The story arc suffers from too many mini-climaxes, and the action drags whenever things get too down in the mouth, but All Over the Guy serves as an affectionate and fun, if unambitious, opening-night kickoff to the festival. Leave the tougher stuff for later: All Over the Guy's all-around charming. (Co-star, writer, and producer Dan Bucatinsky will be in attendance. Opening Night Film: Friday, Aug. 24, 7:30pm, Paramount Theatre; Afterparty: 9pm, GSD&M)

Bombay Eunuch

D: Alexandra Shiva. (USA, 2001, 71 min.)

Eunuchs? In this day and age? Well, yes. Shiva's exquisite and heartbreaking documentary uncovers the continued existence of the eunuch class in modern Bombay, of all places, and reveals that far from being a historical aberration, the eunuch is still feared and even worshipped in India's outlying regions. Men who willingly undergo ritual castration and then frequently end up as penniless objects of scorn and mockery, the eunuchs band together to survive, increasingly relics in a world whose Westernization and globalization have conspired to pass them by. No matter that in the more receptive country villages they are sought out for their blessings and feared for their curses -- the genderless eunuchs are slowly vanishing from the present into the past. Shiva's moving documentary highlights their plight with a mixture of probing, exclusive interview footage and sociopolitical anthropology. (Sunday, Sept. 2, 12:15pm)

Brother Born Again

D: Julia Pimsleur. (USA, 2000, 76 min.)

When Julia Pimsleur, a Jewish bisexual New Yorker, heads off to remote Alaska to try to reason with her estranged brother Marc, who has found solace in a small community of born-again Christians called The Farm, she doesn't harbor a lot of illusions about making him less obstinate. Still, she wants him to accept her; Marc has to look in his Bible to see if that's okay. Despite its loquaciousness, Brother Born Again pits secular humanism and rabid evangelism, those old warhorses, against one another to fascinating effect. Julia, who also directs the documentary, has captured the intimate passions behind this centuries-old debate. (Saturday, Aug. 25, 4:45pm)

Friends and Family

D: Kristen Coury. (USA, 2000, 90 min.)

This gangland romp has its silly moments (a biff! pow! fight scene, Meshach Taylor with titanic shoulder pads and Bronson Pinchot accent), but it's also sweet and terribly fun. During an unexpected parental visit, NYC lovers (Greg Lauren and Christopher Gartin) hide a secret: They're Mafia muscle, employed by an aging don (Tony Lo Bianco). Can our heroes successfully masquerade as Manhattan caterers, planning a swank dinner party -- even after drag queens and a gun-toting militia crash it? The divine Edward Hibbert (Gil Chesters on TV's Frasier) steals the show as a society writer teaching Jersey wiseguys to "pass" as swishy waiters (with the help of "Leaping Lizards, It's Liberace!"). Broadly comic, but with heart to match. (Actor Thomas James will be in attendance. Saturday, Aug. 25, 9:45pm; Saturday, Sept. 1, 1:45pm)

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

D: John Cameron Mitchell. (USA, 2000, 88 min.)

That's Inch, baby, not Itch, and you'd be angry too if that's all you had to show from a botched East German sex change operation. First an off-Broadway musical and now a feature film, Hedwig's life story is rife with bittersweet bouts of cruel irony: from the American GI who marries her, then dumps her in a trailer park in Kansas, to the boy who worships her, then steals her songs and makes them hits. This Star Is Born tale of an "internationally ignored" diva is set to an original soundtrack (including Girls Against Boys and Bob Mould) and features animation by Emily Hubley (sister of Yo La Tengo's Georgia and daughter of the Mister Magoo Hubleys). Gleefully pilfering from Rocky Horror, Sandra Bernhard's Without You I'm Nothing, and Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, this veritable velvet goldmine was a big winner at Sundance, taking this year's Audience Award and Best Director prizes. (Saturday, Aug. 25, 7:30pm)

I Am Not What You Want

D: Kit Hung. (Hong Kong, 2001, 48 min.)

This budget-conscious, shot-on-video drama adds up to more than the sum of its parts: coming-out woes, family dysfunction, hidden attraction, and the requisite "falling in love" montage (accompanied by a Cantopop tune, owing to the Hong Kong setting). The story may be a bit on the pedestrian side -- two college roommates realize their feelings for each other -- but it is warmly acted. (Musician-turned-actor Chet Lam is a particular find, with an understated, natural camera presence.) The technical limitations of the medium are often apparent, but director/photographer/editor/writer Kit Hung demonstrates a facility with depth-of-field composition, cross-cutting, and other techniques that would appear more elegant on film. (Sunday, Sept. 2, 2:15pm)

On the Bus

D: Dustin Lance Black. (USA, 2001, 111 min.)

"Get on the bus and get outta your head, baby" might as well be the tagline for this über-gay romp through the lives and fractured psyches of six young men off to see the Wizard, or, at the very least, to get their love jones on at Nevada's annual festival de debauche, Burning Man. There's chubby and unloved Damon; porndog Jason; hottie du jour Charles; Olympic Swede Jimmy; Billy, the smart Jew; and Lance, camera operator and all-around quipster. Think of MTV's Road Rules sans the rules part and you get the idea. From San Francisco to the casinos of Reno, and from the Black Rock Desert to a dystopian utopia, the six young men fight, fuck, and frolic their way into your, uh, "heart." Black's digital video camera work at times leaves much to be desired, but the bitchy tales told out of sex-ed class more than make up for the visual distractions. More fun than riding bareback in a tub of greased monkeys -- not that we'd know anything about that -- On the Bus is a campy, wacky, and altogether illuminating trip. Homo's Odyssey, indeed. (Director Dustin Lance Black will be in attendance. Wednesday, Aug. 29, 9:30pm; Saturday, Sept. 1, 4pm)

Queen of the Whole Wide World

D: Roger Hyde. (USA, 2001, 82 min.)

To become Queen of the Whole Wide World, contestants must pretend to be from a foreign country, spoof that country in outrageous drag, wear a swimsuit while hiding what's not supposed to be seen, prove they have talent, and raise lots of money in the fight against AIDS. At points in this often entertaining documentary, it seems as if these brave L.A. souls -- Miss France, Miss Norway, and Miss Mexico ("Kay Sedia") among them -- are expected to do all of those things at once as they devise their outfits and personas and then leap onstage. Occasionally marred by earnest sentiment that seems out of place with the camp on display, Queen of the Whole Wide World is nonetheless an entertaining foray into "international" dragdom. (Saturday, Aug. 25, 2:15pm; Thursday, Aug. 30, 5:30pm)

Scout's Honor

D: Tom Shepard. (USA, 2001, 57 min.)

"You're there, you know, you can, you must," says Dave Rice in Tom Shepard's documentary, Scout's Honor. He's talking about why he, a straight man with a 50-year association with the Boy Scouts of America, decided to challenge the organization when a fellow scout leader was expelled because of his homosexuality. Scout's Honor details the experiences of Rice and 12-year-old Boy Scout Steven Cozza -- who becomes the centerpiece of this even-tempered documentary -- along with two gay men whose expulsion from the Scouts drove them to take their cases to two state courts, and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court. The film elicits awe for those who took on the 91-year-old institution, while painfully revealing the lengths to which "good people" will go to perpetuate ignorance in the name of family values. (Sunday, Sept. 2, 4:30pm)

Southern Comfort

D: Kate Davis. (USA, 2000, 90 min.)

"This is bubba country," explains Robert Eads, the subject of Southern Comfort, Kate Davis' documentary portrait of a dying transsexual, as he drives through his rural Georgia town and recounts, with amusement, the time he was asked to join a local organization with ties to the KKK. Davis' film follows Eads over the course of a year and offers an intimate look at the triumphs and challenges experienced by him and his close-knit "chosen family" of transsexual friends as he slowly succumbs to terminal ovarian cancer. The film is a testament to the strength of Ead's character, surviving at the very periphery of rural society and filling his final days with as much love and companionship as possible. Unfortunately, Davis' awkward camerawork and overexploration of petty jealousies between these friends push the film uncomfortably close, at certain moments, to the aesthetic employed by Sally Jessy Raphael and company (think "My Redneck Neighbor Is Really a Woman!"). The film is a unique story, nonetheless, and rises above its weaknesses to bring this touching portrait of marginalized and misunderstood individuals into the mainstream. (Friday, Aug. 31, 7:30pm)

Trembling Before G-d

D: Sandi Simcha DuBowski. (USA, 2000, 90 min.)

This documentary shines light on a little-explored dimension of the international debate regarding homosexuality and religion. In this country, at least, this fractious debate is usually associated with Christian sects and their practitioners. But what of gays among Orthodox and Hassidic Jews? In these more traditional and literal branches of Judaism, homosexuality is condemned as a Biblical abomination. Filmed over the course of five years in Brooklyn, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, and London, Trembling Before G-d looks at the isolated lives of a number of Jews who have come out as gay. Their strategies for coping with and rationalizing the contradiction in their lives varies. Implicitly, the movie makes the viewer -- if not its subjects -- wonder if their religious belief can ever be reconciled with an intolerant religion. (Sunday, Aug. 26, 7pm)

Short Programs

This year the festival boasts no fewer than 20 separate programs devoted to short films -- that's programs; we're not even counting how many actual films that adds up to. Some of our favorites: "4 p.m.," a tightly constructed, polished 35mm bedroom farce about a one-night stand with political consequences. At 15 minutes, it still feels fully realized. For the less tastefully inclined, the "Rick & Steve" animated shorts examine the erotic and satirical potential of LEGOs. For example, Episode 2 packs into eight minutes this and more: RuPaul, a stop-motion circle jerk, and the return of Chuck, an HIV-positive smartass "paralyzed from the left testicle down." No sacred cows here. In the slight but fun "Boychick," a Britney-esque singer helps a teenage mensch bust a move on his dream dude. The music is part klezmer, part Backstreet, the parodic choreography eerily perfect. For the more seriously minded, there's "Rebel Rebel," about an unconventional love between a confused teenager and her emotionally stunted, middle-aged second cousin. ("4 pm": Saturday, Aug. 25, 8pm; Sunday, Aug. 26, 4:30pm; Saturday, Sept. 1, 2:15pm; Wednesday, Sept. 5, 9:30pm. "Rick & Steve the Happiest Gay Couple in All the World": Monday, Sept. 3, 7:15pm. "Boychick": Tuesday, Aug. 28, 9:45pm; Monday, Sept. 3, 4:30pm. "Rebel Rebel": Sunday, Aug. 26, 3:15pm)

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