Watchmen will be getting some competition this weekend in southern California, as Outfest presents its annual Fusion: The Los Angeles LGBT People of Color Film Festival. Now in its sixth year, Fusion claims to be “the only multi-racial, gender-inclusive film festival of its kind.”
While this year’s Fusion will include feature films, notably I Can’t Think Straight and the premiere of Pedro (previously reviewed here), many more short films will be screened. Movie Dearest’s friends at Rousso/Fisher PR were kind enough to send several of them for me to view in advance of the fest.
The best of the bunch is writer-director Brian Harris Krinsky’s Dish. The premise is deceptively simple: two gay teenagers spend their time texting each other about the usual teen pre-occupations: their classmates, self-image concerns, and sex. One of them, Louie (Jeff Martin), is older and sexually experienced while the other, 15-year old Israel (the refreshingly real Matthew Monge), is still a virgin.
Israel has more romantic — and hygienic — standards regarding sex, but temptation rears its head when he gets the opportunity to hang with his longtime-crush Ricky, whose parents are conveniently away from home. I won’t reveal what happens, but suffice to say that Dish packs more sexually-graphic dialogue, coming-of-age drama, wisdom and heart into 15 minutes than most two-hour movies do.
Also worthwhile is the very funny Queerer Than Thou, directed by Ramses Rodstein. A satirical take on gender and queer-identity politics, it’s thoroughly enjoyable despite the acting limitations of its seemingly non-professional cast.
More serious and hard-hitting is the opening night gala short The Young and Evil. Well-directed by Julian Breece, it follows a rebellious young black man, Karel (a brave performance by Vaughn Lowery), who is hell-bent on bottoming for unprotected sex with as many men as possible. At least he’s honest about his desire to become HIV+, since he confesses it to his suitably-shocked STD counselor.
Karel’s (death) wish may come true when he meets local — and infected — AIDS counselor Naaman (Mark Berry). Produced with support from The Brotherhood Crusade of Los Angeles, The Young and Evil will hopefully have the desired effect of curbing HIV infections among those who see it.
Also being shown as part of Fusion’s opening night gala is Dino Dinco’s El Abuelo. It is adapted from a performance piece by Texas-based poet Joe Jimenez, who also stars. A paean to mastering the art of ironing in order to attract the love of another man, Jimenez’s words and “homeboy” appearance certainly do hold one’s attention.
With only a three-minute running time, El Abuelo is arguably too short. But then maybe that’s Dinco’s and his fellow Fusion short-filmmakers’ intent: to leave the audience wanting more.
UPDATE: Dino Dinco discusses the making of El Abuelo in his director's diary.
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.