Southern California has been host to three major film festivals within the past month. Both the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival included a healthy smattering of GLBT-themed movies, while Outfest 2009 featured nothing but.
Disproving the myth that longer is always better, each of the gay-themed films I screened from the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival (held June 23 to 29) was a mini gem. Ranging in length from 8 to 30 minutes, they originated in a variety of countries including Hungary, Netherlands, South Korea, the UK and, of course, the USA.
These excellent shorts included Protect Me From What I Want, a super-sexy tale of the growing attraction between a conflicted Muslim man and a working-class Brit; Claiming the Title: Gay Olympics on Trial, a fascinating and timely account of the Supreme Court battle between the founders of what are now known as the Gay Games and the US Olympics Committee over use of the word “Olympics”; Wig, a very funny yet heartfelt look at a man’s unwillingness to part with his recently-deceased mother’s hairpiece; and Boy Meets Boy, which artfully depicts two teenagers overcoming their social differences and falling in love.
However, the two best films among them were The Queen, a delightful comedy that makes great use of its dry-cleaner setting about a young man lusting over the prom queen’s boyfriend, and Laszlo Nemes’ beautifully spare The Counterpart, a wartime drama that packs a haunting emotional wallop. Watch for all of these shorts online and/or in DVD compilations in the future.
The concurrent Los Angeles Film Festival (held June 18-28) featured two films that ultimately emerged as my favorites out of all three festivals. After the Storm (which also screened at Outfest) is a stunning, moving documentary by Hilla Medalia about the power of art — specifically musical theatre — to heal individuals and even communities in the wake of disaster. It recounts the creation of a teen production of the Caribbean-based musical Once on This Island in New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina. I was blown away by the film, no pun or offense intended. Check out the film's official website for more information about the production and future screening opportunities.
Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction is a gory yet hilarious and smart satire. A gay man’s years-long struggle to come out to his mother during a visit to his hometown turns out to be the least of his and his partner’s worries when the community becomes overrun by flesh-eating zombies. When the man’s mother, unbeknownst to him or his partner, becomes a zombie during his coming-out announcement and subsequently attacks him, the man’s partner declares, “That’s exactly how my father reacted when I told him!” That line and many others as well as some great visual gags brought the packed house down during the screening I attended.
UPDATE: Click here for Part 2. ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction is available on DVD and After the Storm is available on DVD now from Amazon.com.
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.