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Two acclaimed films, City of Borders and Hollywood, je T’aime, had the distinction of being shown at both the Los Angeles Film Festival and Outfest. The first is an insightful documentary about GLBT Israelis and Palestinians, who found an outlet to overcome their ethnic and religious differences in Jerusalem’s sole (now closed) gay bar, Shushan. Their efforts reveal the leadership that GLBT people have provided not only in contributing toward Jewish-Arab solidarity but world peace.
Hollywood, je T’aime follows the misadventures of Jerome (played by the very attractive Eric Debets), a gay man from Paris who on a whim visits Hollywood over his Christmas vacation. He falls in with a variety of colorful characters, including a drag queen, a transsexual who develops a crush on him, and an HIV+ pot dealer played by out actor Chad Allen. Complications arise as he realizes he’s still in love with his ex back in France. The film alternates nicely between whimsy and hard-hitting reality.
Another Outfest movie infused with the holiday spirit, Make the Yuletide Gay, is a sometimes strained but thoroughly enjoyable comedy by Rob Williams, director of gay faves Back Soon and 3-Day Weekend. It has fun overturning some coming-out story conventions, and benefits from great performances by fetching lead Keith Jordan and the hilarious Kelly Keaton.
Peter Bratt’s La Mission, which opened Outfest, has probably the best crossover, commercial potential of any of the films shown. It was also well-received at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Benjamin Bratt (the writer-director’s brother) delivers a riveting portrayal of a man at odds with his criminal past, his addiction to alcohol, and his gay teenaged son. The movie may receive a national theatrical release, and I won’t be surprised if Bratt picks up some acting awards along the way.
On These Shoulders We Stand by Glenne McElhinney examines and celebrates southern California’s GLBT history through interviews with various community leaders who have been at the forefront of our efforts at gaining recognition and equality for over 50 years. The history is fascinating, revealing that the GLBT community in LA was aggressively confronting its persecutors at least a good six months ahead of New York’s Stonewall uprising.
While not completely successful, David Kittredge’s Pornography: A Thriller is nevertheless one of the more interesting and thought-provoking films at Outfest. Sexy and creepy by turns, it uncovers a mystery behind the disappearance of a 1970’s porn actor over three decades and as it affects unconnected people through potentially supernatural means. The movie offers some serious critiques of the porn industry, which other entries in the average GLBT film festival tend to glorify.
Finally, American Primitive is an extremely well-written domestic drama about two teenaged girls being raised by their father and his live-in “business partner” during the early, closeted 1970’s. Tate Donovan and Adam Pascal (star of the original Broadway production and movie Rent) are great as the secret lovers. The film was inspired by its writer-director’s own upbringing under similar circumstances, and is all the more poignant because of it.
Outfest continues through July 19, so watch for continued coverage in the future of some of the films and filmmakers spotlighted.
UPDATE: Make the Yuletide Gay, Hollywood, Je T'aime and Pornography: A Thriller are now available on DVD and La Mission is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.