Monday, September 27, 2021

Reverend's Preview: Jump, Darlings, to QFilms Long Beach

I expect I’ll always remember Cloris Leachman best as Frau Blucher, the sinister yet hilariously lascivious castlekeeper in Mel Brooks’ classic Young Frankenstein. Others will fondly recall her as Phyllis on The Mary Tyler Moore Show or as Granny in the big screen adaptation of The Beverly Hillbillies.

Sadly, Leachman passed away earlier this year at the age of 94 but not before completing her final film role in Jump, Darling. This new LGBTQ family drama will have its Long Beach premiere the evening of October 3rd as part of the 28th Annual QFilms Festival. Presented by The LGBTQ Center Long Beach, proceeds from each year’s festival provide important funds for The Center’s numerous programs that support more than 25,000 seniors, youth and other members of the diverse local community.

QFilms will run Thursday, September 30th through Sunday, October 3rd, 2021. Movies will be shown three different ways this year: indoors at the Art Theatre Long Beach, 2025 E. 4th Street; outdoor screenings at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), 628 Alamitos Avenue; and online at Last year, all films were streamed online only due to the pandemic. Passes and tickets are now on sale at

Jump, Darling is written and directed by debut filmmaker Phil Connell. It follows a rookie drag queen (played by newcomer Thomas Duplessie) reeling from a breakup who moves in with his declining grandmother (Leachman) to protect her from the local nursing home. The film is a thoughtful exploration of the right to live as who we are and how we wish, while also grappling with end of life care.

The initial seeds for Jump, Darling were planted along two parallel tracks. One was Connell’s experience with end-of-life care conversations with his grandmother. The other was his experience choosing life as an artist. “Over a period of years, my late grandmother struggled with how to prepare for her ‘decline’, be it physical or mental,” shares Connell. “It was the topic of conversation each time I would visit her. Meanwhile, as I recommitted to filmmaking, I struggled to maintain my resolve, against all the forces and voices, the ones that every artist face.”

The film’s supporting cast includes Linda Kash (Best in Show) and Jayne Eastwood (Chicago), plus cameo appearances by well-known drag queens Tynomi Banks (featured recently on Canada’s Drag Race), Fay Slift and Miss Fiercalicious. The film showcases six on-screen drag performances against a pop soundtrack including Robyn, Allie X, Rough Trade, Years & Years and more.

During her long career, Leachman won both an Academy Award and a BAFTA Film Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Last Picture Show, and she holds the record for the most Primetime Emmy acting nominations in history, a whopping 22. She played her role as Phyllis on The Mary Tyler Moore Show to such great success that it led to her own television series spinoff, Phyllis.

“Cloris was an icon and an ally,” said Connell. “To work with her, to know her, and now to share her final leading performance with the world is a true honor.”

QFilms will feature a number of additional feature films and documentaries during its four days. Here’s the rundown:

This is Jessica (premiering Thursday, September 30th at 7:00 pm at the Art Theatre): Fest favorite Andrea Meyerson paints an intimate, emotional portrait of a woman forced to make a heart-wrenching decision to save herself. From her earliest years growing up as a Mormon boy in a conservative environment, Jessica knew she was a girl. Terrified to risk her family, her faith, her life on earth and eternal soul, Jonathan went about creating the perfect life of a young Mormon man, becoming a missionary, marrying young and starting a family. While serving in the Army under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, she became despondent over the chasm between whom she was and who she was merely pretending to be. When Jonathan finally comes out as Jessica, it's a leap off the edge of life as she knows it.

Yes I Am: The Ric Weiland Story (Thursday at 9:30 pm at the Art Theatre) features tech mogul and philanthropist Bill Gates as well as the voice of out actor Zachary Quinto. Ric Weiland was a brilliant programmer, queer pioneer and one of the earliest employees of Microsoft. He dedicated his life and fortune to philanthropy and activism, but personal struggles eventually became too much to bear. This important film is the story of his life and legacy.

Rebel Dykes (Friday, October 1st at 7:15 pm at the Art Theatre) is a rabble-rousing documentary set in 1980s, post-punk London. It tells the previously unheard story of a community of dykes who met doing art, music, politics and sex, and how they went on to change their world.

No Ordinary Man (Friday at 9:30 pm at the Art Theatre): A fascinating, award-winning portrait of Billy Tipton, the renowned jazz musician who was revealed after his death to have been transgender.

Summertime (Friday at 9:15 pm Men & Friends’ Night @ MOLAA): Over the course of a hot summer day in Los Angeles, the lives of 25 young Angelenos intersect. A skating guitarist, a tagger, two wannabe rappers, an exasperated fast-food worker, a limo driver... they all weave in and out of each other's stories. Through poetry they express life, love, heartache, family, home and fear… but one of them just wants to find someplace that still serves good cheeseburgers.

My First Summer (Saturday, October 2nd at 11:00 am at the Art Theatre): 16-year-old Claudia has grown up in isolation from the outside world. Stranded on a remote property after her mother's death, she is shocked when Grace, a spirited local teen, appears in the garden like a mirage or a breath of fresh air. The pair finds in each other the support, love and intimacy they need, and teach each other the restorative power of human connection.

Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters (Saturday at 6:30 pm at the Art Theatre): A feature documentary that traces the remarkable history and legacy of one of the most important works of art to come out of the age of AIDS: choreographer Bill T. Jones’s tour de force ballet D-Man in the Waters. As a group of young dancers reconstructs the 1989 dance today, they learn about this oft-forgotten history and deepen their understanding of the power of art in a time of plague.

Fanny: The Right to Rock (Saturday at 9:15 pm at Women & Friends’ Night @ MOLAA): Sometime in the 1960s in sunny Sacramento, two Filipina American sisters got together with other teenage girls to play music. Little did they know their garage band would evolve into the legendary rock group Fanny, the first all-women band to release an LP with a major record label. Despite releasing five critically acclaimed albums, touring with famed bands from Slade to Chicago, and amassing a dedicated fan base of music legends including David Bowie, Fanny's groundbreaking impact in music was written out of history... until now. Fighting early barriers of race, gender and sexuality in the music industry, and now ageism, the incredible women of Fanny are ready to claim their hallowed place in the halls of rock 'n' roll fame.

Marry Me, However (Sunday, October 3rd at 1:15 pm at the Art Theatre) tells the stories of Jewish LGBT men and women who decided to marry against their own sexual orientation, in order to comply with Torah laws and be accepted into their families and religious communities. Some shared their secret with their partners, some kept it hidden, and some lied even to themselves. After their eventual divorces, they confront the conflicts they repressed: their faith and religious laws; children, family and community; exposure to society and search for a partner. The characters experience a journey of self-acceptance and social activism, as they try to affect change in their religious environments.

Forgotten Roads (Sunday at 5:30 pm at the Art Theatre): Bereft on an isolated turkey farm after her husband’s death, 70-year-old Claudina — meek, repressed and adrift — moves into town to live with her daughter and grandson. Despite a strained relationship with her daughter, Claudina experiences an unexpected spark of life when she befriends the dynamic and independent married woman next door, Elsa, who seems to travel paths and make choices Claudina never had the chance to make. But in the gossipy Chilean town of Lautaro, their budding relationship doesn’t stay a secret for long. Just as Claudina sees love’s horizons expanding, she may be forced to choose between the traditional role she understands and the open road ahead of her.

QFilms 2021 will also present a large number of specially-curated LGBTQ short film programs including CORTOS: Latinx Queer Shorts (Thursday outdoor screening at MOLAA); TRANSpirational Shorts (Friday at 5:00 pm at the Art Theatre); Rated PG-13: Youth Shorts (Saturday at 1:30 pm at the Art Theatre); Queermation: Animated Shorts (Saturday at 4:00 pm at the Art Theatre); and (Almost) Midnight: Experimental Shorts (Saturday at 9:30 pm at the Art Theatre). These are in addition to the fest’s traditional programs Men In Briefs (Sunday at 11:00 am at the Art Theatre) and Women In Shorts (Sunday at 3:30 pm at the Art Theatre) plus two new exclusively-online programs, Eat My (Comedy) Shorts and Locally Sourced: California Shorts.

There will truly be something for everyone everywhere in Long Beach at this year’s QFilms!

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

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