Friday, March 6, 2020

Reverend's Reviews: A Filmic Fusion

The clock is springing forward this weekend, and all manner of interesting couplings, reflections and revelations are now available on movie screens large and small.

In Los Angeles, the 2020 Outfest Fusion is in full swing now through March 10th. This also marks the event's 20th edition. Fusion is Outfest’s people of color-focused, international film, music and storytelling festival that spotlights breakthrough works from today’s most exciting underground artists, musicians and creators. Outfest's new Executive Director, Damien Navarro, wrote: "When it comes to driving representation in the business of filmmaking for diversity and inclusive storytelling at scale, I believe Fusion just barely scratches the surface. Our workshops and career mentorship of persons of color need to embrace those from broader backgrounds. We must continue to expand exhibition of multicultural and multinational stories from artists of every swatch and corner of the world."

Reverend agrees, and Fusion 2020 is presenting a number of commendable short and feature films. Chief among these are 2 Black Boys and Breaking Fast, both screening on Sunday, March 8th. The first is a short film directed by Rachel Myers and based on the poetry of Giovanni Adams. The film's narrative reflects Adams’ experience as a black, queer, Christian man crossing lines of identity, affinity and ideology. It features an original score by RC Williams, some impressive dance work, and striking black and white cinematography by David Tayar.

Breaking Fast is a romantic comedy set against the twinkling lights of West Hollywood. The plot follows Mo, a practicing Muslim reeling from a heartbreak. When an all-American guy named Kal offers to join him in his nightly iftars (the traditional meal eaten by Muslims during Ramadan), the two hotties start to discover they have more in common than meets the eye. Written and directed by Mike Mosallam, the movie also features an appearance by the great Veronica Cartwright of The Birds, Alien and The Witches of Eastwick fame.

Several recent home video releases also deal with fusions of cultures, ages and/or nationalities. Season 2 of the French webseries Woke (Dekkoo Films) continues the strained relationship between Hicham, a gay Muslim, and Thibaut, an uncompromising LGBT activist. Hicham ends up falling unknowingly for a trans performer named Elijah, whose gender identity sparks a new internal conflict for Hicham. He continues to learn, however, and in the process comes to a deeper understanding of his likely true love, Thibaut.

Also new from Dekkoo is Testosterone, Volume 4, their latest collection of sexy gay short films. Unfortunately, the mood of most of them is unusually morose, dealing as they do with relationship false starts or long-term failings. The one welcome exception is J.C. Calciano's comedic The Handyman, even though it is the most amateurish of the five shorts included. Ori Aharon's film fest favorite Rubber Dolphin is the best (and longest) of them but ends on a sad note. The others are Faces, Writhing and Fish Tank.

The best of the new gay-themed movies on home video is End of the Century (available from Cinema Guild). This 2019 production by Argentinian filmmaker Lucio Castro received considerable acclaim wherever it was shown last year but got a fairly limited release in the US. It details a decades-hopping romance between Ocho, a poet on holiday in Spain, and Javi, a Spanish-born Berliner visiting his parents at the same time. After a couple of false starts, the handsome pair finally connect and embark on their relationship odyssey. End of the Century is touching, thought-provoking and, yes, sexy. Among the impressive extras on the DVD is Castro's 2017 short film Trust Issues, which is a must-see hoot.

Reverend's Ratings:
2 Black Boys and Breaking Fast (screening at Fusion): A-
Woke, Season 2: B
Testosterone, Volume 4: C+
End of the Century: B+

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