This weekend I went to Outfest and I just have to ask: Why so grumpy? You’re in your 24th year of a successful film festival designed to educate and enlighten! You are doing wonderful and exciting things here…and yet the people I encountered this weekend seemed bored or irritated. It wasn’t just me either – I heard several people grumbling about the same thing as we left the DGA. A suggestion of something to keep in mind: as with any fest, or any job for that matter, what you are doing is bigger than you. If someone has a negative experience with even just a few people, it is going to reflect poorly on everyone. It may not be fair, but it’s a fact. If you want people to come to your festival, don’t make it an unpleasant affair. I don’t think I really need to expand on the rudeness I encountered, but I will say I am really disappointed at the way I was treated. I am here to support you and your films. Remember that before you grab me by the elbow to turn me around or ignore me when I ask you a question.
ANYWAY, on to the films:
I didn’t get to see the Saturday screening of Fat Girls, as it was oversold. There were quite a few people with and without tickets who were turned away at the door, which makes me even more excited to finally see this film. (It’s like Fat Girls is playing hard to get, and you just know I love the thrill of the chase!) I managed to get a ticket to Friday night’s screening, so you’ll have to wait until next week to hear what I think about Ash Christian’s debut. And I know you’re just dying to.
With Sunday came a special SAGIndie sponsored screening of Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema (which is also airing this weekend on IFC). My date went into the screening not very keen on the idea of this documentary, not because they have a problem with the subject matter, but because they didn’t think it would interest them that much. They emerged with a different attitude and, consequently, would not shut up already about how they remember what a big deal it was when Ellen Degeneres came out.
The documentary itself is rather simply made and carries a sort of "Gay Cinema 101" format, but remains quite intriguing. It includes interviews with homosexual heavyweight helmers like John Waters, Gus Van Sant, Todd Haynes and the incomparable Christine Vachon. Interviews are coupled with some very fascinating clips from both landmark and largely forgotten or extremely underground gay films from a 1947 Kenneth Anger film to Brokeback Mountain. The film also features a time line of events significant to the mainstream acceptance of GLBT culture, and a section highlights "subconsciously homosexual media" from the 70s, including Sonny and Cher and The Brady Bunch. (Really? The Brady Bunch seemed gay? I never noticed!)
I was particularly interested in the coverage of several breakout films that dealt with the advent of AIDS. Now, I was much too young to be aware of the initial impact AIDS had, as I was an infant in the mid 80s. We share our birthday, in fact (along with the first sexual reassignment operation and Matthew Shephard.) To me, these extremely low-budget films are especially intriguing for two reasons: partly because this has happened in my lifetime and also because we had never before seen a community of people band together to create awareness of and fight an epidemic like we did with AIDS just 20 years ago. Expanding on the latter, when that same group of people feel like their experiences should be shared in their own voices, coupled with the increasing access to cameras, they have the motivation to create some really compelling films.
I’m going to recommend this to anyone reading this, whether or not you think you’re interested in independent queer cinema. At the end of the day it’s just an entertaining film history documentary, and films by, for and about the homosexual community are only going to become bigger. People whose stories have been ignored by or hidden from the mainstream still have a voice and will find a way to be heard. And that’s a great thing.