Palm Springs International Short Film Festival is one of the few fests devoted exclusively to shorts. Each year, the PS fest features a number of GLBT-oriented offerings. Eight such shorts were screened last week: Prora, Performance Anxiety, The Oldest Lesbian in the World!, What You Looking At?!, Pursuit, Hot in the Zipper, Hold on Tight and Absence of Love.
While all have their charms and/or positive qualities, the standouts for me were Prora, Stephane Riethauser's examination of two young men struggling with their attraction to one another while touring the massive remnants of a real-life Nazi resort; the alternately insightful and amusing Oldest Lesbian, a no-holds-barred documentary about out, 99-year old Bobbie Staff; and What You Looking At?!, in which a drag queen and an orthodox Muslim woman trapped in an elevator strive to find common ground.
Alas, none of the GLBT shorts were named as award winners at the fest's end. However, organizers deserve kudos not only for programming them but for having the cajones to run a major film festival during summer in one of the hottest cities in the US, and getting a sizable number of people to show up.
Speaking of short films, Guest House films has just released Blue Briefs, their latest DVD compilationof six gay-themed shorts. As the title implies, these are generally bittersweet tales of young men finding and, more often than not, losing love. They include Requited, a nice mix of melancholy and camp humor that features several attractive actors and asks the resonant question (especially for those of us whose first love was our straight best friend) "How do you get over something you never had?"; the truly heartbreaking We Once Were Tide, in which a lonely man on the South Coast of England is caught between his lover and duty to his terminally-ill mother; Iranian-American director Abdi Nazemian's Revolution, starring Cougar Town's Busy Philipps as the mother of a gay teenager who falls for the son of the traditional Iranian family they are working for and living with; and the amateurish but still compelling Frozen Roads, from Canada. I found the characters and/or voiceover in the collection's remaining two films -- Boys Like You and The In-Between -- irritatingly, endlessly chatty.
And speaking of other recent film festivals that showcased GLBT topics, both San Francisco's Frameline and the Los Angeles Film Festival came to a close this past Sunday. Although LAFF ended with the well-received world premiere of gay-friendly stripper extravaganza Magic Mike, the fest's second week also featured the US premiere of the potent documentary Call Me Kuchu. It details the ongoing persecution of homosexuality in ultra-conservative Uganda. The film was also screened at Frameline a few days later and won that fest's award for Best Documentary. It is absolutely not to be missed. Cloudburst, starring Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker as a lesbian couple, won Frameline's Audience Award for Best Feature while Beasts of the Southern Wild (which I acclaimed here a couple of weeks ago) won the Audience Award for Best Feature at LAFF. LAFF's Jury Award for Best Performance was shared by the cast of the gay-themed Four, which I also reviewed in my pre-LAFF coverage.
Blue Briefs: B
Call Me Kuchu: A-
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.