SW GAY & LESBIAN
It’s About Respecting
Others’ Choices in Diversity
2nd Annual SW Gay & Lesbian FF strikes a chord for equality
BY SHIRL A. STEWARD
|Scene from Girl Play custody of filmmakers http://www.goffkellam.com/girlplay/|
he SW Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which ran from September 9-12, 2004 at Albuquerque, New Mexico area theatres, was a real eye opener for me. It wasn’t because of the subject matter of any of the films. I came there thinking I’d see a lot of home made films by a bunch of neophytes trying to say their all for a cause. What I actually saw was quite different. Every film that I had the pleasure of viewing was very professionally done in every sense. So I was proved wrong. I learned that focusing on a ‘cause’ one truly believes in can drive one to incredible heights of achievement. Bravo, filmmakers of SWGLFF!
Unfortunately, these wonderful films did not get the attention they truly deserved. Attendance was somewhat down this year. That made me sad. Albuquerque is not a city known for acceptance of the unique and different. The fest’s most popular venue was a charming old theatre which had closed down also. Without this theatre as a showcasing home venue, it’s possible less people knew about it. Nonetheless, for a festival only in their second year, it has done an amazing job at gathering the very best films in GLBT themes from across the world for a Southwest premiere.
“The Festival strives to present in cinematic expression the extremes, the diversity, the uniqueness and the many struggles inherent within the gay, lesbian, bi- and transgender community. Our goal was to bring in films to showcase that would show New Mexicans a different perspective of the gay community that they don't see on TV or in mainstream movies," says director Robert Appicciafoco.
To achieve this they searched the world over to find only the best of the best. Their carefully selected slate of 31 award-winning diversity and gay-themed films came from all over the globe including Thailand, Australia, Italy, Russia, the U.K. and several other European countries. For many of the films it was their Southwest premiere. Last year the festival, produced by the nonprofit organization Closet Cinema, had its debut with only 9 films and 7 shorts. The event was expanded to four days this year with double the amount shown at their festival debut.
There may have been no private lounge for filmmakers to gather but organizers certainly put their best into providing lavish parties through the generous donations of sponsors such like Pride Magazine and Here! TV. I felt very much “made at home” and accepted for who I was amongst this great group of participants and filmmakers. It was easy to see that their fight to express their own uniqueness of diversity leant to an air of greater acceptance of all others’ uniqueness as well.
Opening night was given a great launching with Lee Friedlander’s GIRL PLAY, a lesbian film but with a universal message about making the right choices despite the presence of blinding passion. Co-screenwriters, Robin Greenspan and Lacie Harmon play themselves in a clever remake of their original stage play REAL GIRLS. The centerpiece screening showcased was Franco Zeffirelli’s CALLAS FOREVER about Maria Callas’ attempt to make an operatic comeback with the help of her manager, Larry Kelly, brilliantly played by the versatile Jeremy Irons. The final showing on closing night was a comedy by Richard Day, STRAIGHT-JACKET, a very funny spoof on Hollywood life in the 1950’s. Its comic story line is set against the all too real life drama behind the scenes of the blatant discrimination prevalent against gays and others in the blacklisting that occurred in major studios in the 50’s. Among other notable screenings were, Ekachai Uekrongtham’s BEAUTIFUL BOXER, made in Thailand, which tells the story of one man’s determination to be kickboxing champion and still, acknowledge his own right to identity by living his life as a woman, and beginning filmmakers, Goodyear and York’s FREEDOM TO MARRY which documents the historic event that allowed same sex marriage but was later rescinded.
SWGFF’s showpiece Southwest Premiere screening was one home-grown right in the heart of rural New Mexico. Matt Sneddon’s documentary, THE TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES OF DELMAS HOWE, is the story of Delmas Howe, an artist whose work, explicitly depicting gay male nudes, has been labeled everything from one extreme of controversial to the other. In NYC and LA his nudes were readily accepted but it was a much different story when he returned to his home town of Truth or Consequences tired and worn out by the death of his partner, MacKenzie Pope and the Church who banned them both from even entering the building after Pope contracted AIDS. He was angry at an outrageous, mixed-up valued society.
His home town, critically hailed as ‘town at the end of nowhere”, had a very strange mix of inhabitants . . . queers and cowboys, eccentrics and fundamentalists share a rather ‘pot ready to boil’ kind of coexistence. Enter Delmas Howe and his Stations . . . and the pot overturned. In Stations: A Gay Passion Howe had found some peace and a place to express his anger. The twelve-art series of paintings was inspired by the traditional Catholic Stations of the Cross which depicting male suffering. Howe takes the passion one step further by applying it to gay males suffering persecutions because of their being gay.
“It is something that makes most straight people very uncomfortable. It does not matter whether they understand the symbolism or not. The Stations is what it is, very simply, it’s Howe’s expression of rage on behalf of his peers dead from the ‘supposedly’ gay man’s disease AIDS, shunned and left without support, to die in pain. Those who can see past the shock of male nudity and bleeding flesh images, see the genius in his work.” says producer M. Jackson Ellis, “Dalmas now says his rage is spent. He’s done the series and the film. Howe is ready to return to a peaceful life painting wildflowers in the seclusion of his home.”
Festival Director, Roberto Appicciafoco said of the festival, “I’m a bit disappointed with the drop in attendance this year but am encouraged overall. We were showing a lot more films and were a bit overconfident in thinking we didn’t need to advertise beyond the community. We won’t make that mistake again. I am looking to the possibilities in the future. I’m very excited that our event has become more city wide. We have expanded our venues to three which enabled us to show a much wider selection of films and permitted us to reach out internationally and to documentaries as well.”
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