Thursday, March 3, 2011

Reverend's Preview: Ease on Down to Fusion 2011

A disco-era movie musical featuring a late pop icon will kick off the 2011 edition of Fusion: The Los Angeles LGBT People of Color Film Festival this Friday. The relatively brief but always significant and enjoyable annual fest will run through Saturday March 5 at various venues in Hollywood.

The Wiz, Sidney Lumet's 1978 adaptation of the Broadway hit, stars Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow and diva/icon Diana Ross as Dorothy in an African-American re-telling of The Wizard of Oz. The expensive movie received a mixed critical reception and was a box office flop at the time of its release, but it received four Oscar nominations and has gained fans over the years through television airings and home video. Jackson's untimely death in 2009 and subsequent revival of interest in all things related to "the King of Pop" have also drawn renewed attention to the film.

The Fusion screening will provide a rare opportunity to experience The Wiz on the big screen. It will also be a "Sing-Along" event, with audience members encouraged to join the cast in performing hit songs from the movie including "Ease on Down the Road," "Home" (sung by the legendary Lena Horne), "You Can't Win," the Wicked Witch's anthem "Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News" and the climactic, celebratory "A Brand New Day." Song lyrics will be projected as subtitles during the film's musical numbers.

Saturday's Fusion events will include a screening of Hooters: The Making of Older, Wiser, Lesbian Cinema. A documentary shot behind the scenes of last year's festival hit, The Owls, director Anna Albelo captures the creativity, difficulty and comedy of filmmaking. It will be followed by a sneak peek at Pariah, which was one of the hits at this January's Sundance Film Festival. Long Beach-based filmmakers Dee Rees and Nekisa Cooper expanded their 2007 short film of the same name about a teenaged African-American girl's difficult coming out process into a feature. Executive Produced by Spike Lee, Pariah was picked up at Sundance by Focus Features and will be released theatrically later this year. Rees and Cooper will be present at the Fusion fest to discuss the challenging process of expanding, filming and selling their labor of love.

Men will be interested in Fusion's special Legacy Project Screening of the 2004 gay-themed film, A Thousand Clouds of Peace. It will be shown on Saturday. Shot in dramatic black and white, it follows a gay teenager who roams the streets of Mexico City searching for the secret behind his ex-lover's decision to break up with him. The movie was an official selection at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and won the Teddy Award for best gay-themed film at the Berlin International Film Festival. A Thousand Clouds of Peace will be followed by the GLBT-inclusive Fusion Shorts Program.

Each year, a deserving person of color in the GLBT film industry is presented with the Fusion Achievement Award. The 2011 recipient will be British writer-actor-director Rikki Beadle-Blair. Best known in the US as screenwriter of the 1996 movie Stonewall and for his wonderful 2002 BBC series Metrosexuality, Beadle-Blair will be presented the award on Saturday, just prior to a gala screening of his latest film, Fit. Fit is described as "an exuberant and funny look at gay and straight love among the new millennials." Fusion 2011 will close that night with an after party in the courtyard of the Egyptian Theatre.

For full Fusion details and to purchase tickets, please visit their official website.

Preview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Blade California.

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