(*homocinematically inclined)

Friday, November 9, 2018

Reverend's Preview: Gay Movies on the Bay


Although this November will mark its third edition, the Coronado Island Film Festival is now garnering our fullest attention. This increasingly popular event will run November 9th-12th at San Diego’s iconic Hotel del Coronado and other nearby locales.

Coronado Island’s enduring love affair with Hollywood began back in the earliest days of filmmaking, when “movie people” were irresistibly drawn to the still-legendary hospitality of the host hotel (which also serves as the festival’s Presenting Sponsor). The hotel was built right on the sand in 1888. Coronado’s world-class beaches, perfect weather, and proximity to Hollywood have made it a favorite go-to spot for the stars since those halcyon days when Errol Flynn, Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin strolled the Avenue.

The film festival, inaugurated in 2016, is an intimate, pedestrian-friendly festival, with most screening venues an easy walk from one another. Organizers promise a weekend to remember with films of every genre, many introduced by their makers; memorable panel discussions; a welcoming Hospitality Lounge; live performances; numerous parties; a “Meet the Jury” reception; and a signature Celebrity Tribute hosted by renowned film critic Leonard Maltin, back for his third year as Festival Host and Honorary Jury President. Jury awards will be presented in several categories.

A number of gay-interest movies will be screened this year. They include Larger Than Life: The Kevyn Aucoin Story; the acclaimed documentaries Love, Cecil and Studio 54; and the cross-dressing comedy classic Some Like It Hot.

Another film of significant interest to LGBT viewers is Words and Music by Jerry Herman. Amber Edwards’ insightful look at the life of the gay, Tony Award-winning composer will be screened the afternoon of Sunday, November 11th. Although Edwards made her documentary a decade ago, Herman has been in the spotlight once again thanks to the smash Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly!.

Herman is also renowned as the songwriter behind La Cage aux Folles, Mame and Mack & Mabel, among other shows. He made his Broadway debut at the age of 29 with the Jewish-themed musical Milk and Honey, and subsequently scored his first Tony nomination. The documentary features interviews with such luminaries as Carol Channing, Angela Lansbury, Michael Feinstein, and the late great Charles Nelson Reilly. Now 87, Herman often works as a coach to budding theatre artists.

I asked Edwards about the films with LGBT appeal that will be screened during the Coronado Island Film Festival during a recent phone interview. “There are quite a lot of them, including mine,” she replied from her home in Connecticut. “Jerry Herman is a gay man but the film is primarily about his career as a Broadway composer; I think it’s a sign of progress that the gay-interest films are no longer in a separate or niche program.”

The director attended last year’s event and presented Vince Giordano: There’s a Future in the Past, her most recent documentary. “One of the things I found (about the fest) and made me feel good is that they pay a lot of attention to the people who make the films — animators, composers, production designers, etc — versus big stars or actors,” Edwards said upon reflection. “There is an emphasis on peeling back the layers of a film and filmmaking as a holistic thing, rather than focusing on name stars or directors.”

Edwards described another significant benefit of this festival’s size and location. “For one thing, they don’t overpack it in terms of screenings. When you have too many films, you can’t find common ground to talk about them because everyone has seen something else. (Finding common ground) is one of the great, socializing aspects of film festivals.”

Word and Music by Jerry Herman provides plenty of fodder to get attendees talking, especially gay viewers. Herman discusses the AIDS-related death of his partner, Marty, as well as his own HIV+ status. He has been living with HIV for approximately 30 years. The doc also boasts generous use of vintage and backstage photography of fantastic musical numbers from Herman’s classic musicals.

It sounds like the third edition of the Coronado Island Film Festival shouldn’t be missed. “I really just fell in love with the people who run it and the community,” Edwards noted. “The local community was so interested and excited; usually, the organizers of a festival are really excited but nobody else (laugh). This is a great, very well-run festival.”

Visit the Coronado Island Film Festival website for full details and tickets.

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

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