Friday, September 1, 2023

Reverend's Preview: FIlmOut San Diego - Glitter and Doom and Big Boys, oh my!

Summer may be winding down but it will hardly mark the end of big LGBTQ events. FilmOut San Diego’s 23rd Annual LGBTQ Film Festival is just around the corner. It will take place from September 7th–10th, 2023, at various locations including the San Diego Natural History Museum (THE NAT) and the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA). Both venues are located in San Diego’s historic Balboa Park.


Award-winning films from the Sundance, SXSW and Berlin Film Festivals along with independent features and a variety of short films, will be featured. FilmOut San Diego “annually affirms the ongoing integrity and boundless imagination of our community and the artists who tell our stories. The Board of Directors believes its work is an integral part of an ongoing effort to build a vibrant, affirming and sustainable LGBTQ community in San Diego County.”

FilmOut SD 2023 will kick off at 7:00 pm on Thursday, September 7th with the gay-themed musical romance Glitter & Doom. It was directed by acclaimed filmmaker Tom Gustafson, who previously helmed fellow musicals Were the World Mine, Hello Again and Mariachi Gringo. His latest is set to songs by the iconic Indigo Girls and follows two guys who fall in love while trying to make it in the music biz. The star-studded supporting cast includes Ming-Na Wen, Missi Pyle, Lea DeLaria, Tig Notaro, Drag Race alum Peppermint, Broadway star Beth Malone, and the Indigo Girls themselves! The Opening Night screening will be followed by a fabulous party at THE NAT.

Other major screenings confirmed for the fest are:

Men’s Centerpiece: Shoulder Dance
Best friends Ira and Roger haven't seen each other in 24 years. When Roger arrives unexpectedly for the weekend, long-suppressed desires dangerously resurface. As the boundaries of friendship, love, and sex collide, the strength of Ira's long-term relationship with Josh is tested as never before. This sexy, provocative film stars TV alums Matt Dallas (Kyle XY) and Rick Cosnett (the conflicted Eddie Thawne on The Flash).

Women’s Centerpiece: Silver Haze
Fifteen years after she got burned when the pub she slept in as a child caught fire, Franky (now 23 and a nurse) seeks revenge because she still hasn't found any answers. Things get more complicated when she falls in love with one of her patients. Of note, Vicky Knight, who plays Franky, is a nurse in real life and this is her second film. The scars on her body are real, the result of a fire in her home when she was 8 years old. A powerful, potent tale by Dutch filmmaker Sacha Polak.

Festival Spotlight: The Mattachine Family
A timely and moving film by Andy and Danny Vallentine. Longtime couple Thomas and Oscar are very much in love. However, after their first foster child returns to his birth mother, they find that they have different ideas about what making a family actually means.

International Spotlight: Three Nights a Week
Baptiste is in a relationship with cisgender female Samia when he first meets Cookie Kunty, a young drag queen from the Parisian scene who immediately mesmerizes him. This French drama is a must-see in light of all the current anti-drag sentiment in our good ol’ US of A.

Closing Night Film: Golden Delicious
When gay, basketball-obsessed Aleks moves in across the street, straight-seeming Asian-Canadian teen Jake finds himself trying out for the basketball team to get his attention. An enjoyable coming-of-age story for the iPhone/TikTok age by director Jason Karman.

A Closing Night Dessert Reception will be held at MOPA on September 10th from 7:15 pm to 10:30 pm. Throughout the festival, several filmmakers and other talent plan to attend the festival and participate in audience Q&A’s after their respective films’ screenings.

I want to recommend at least two other movies I’ve seen that will be screened during the FilmOut SD weekend. One is the lovely Lie With Me, adapted from the award-winning French novel by Philippe Besson. (Incidentally but interestingly, the English-language version of the book was translated by none other than beloved 1980’s “Brat Pack” actress Molly Ringwald!) Upon agreeing to be the brand ambassador for a famous cognac celebrating their bicentennial, gay novelist St├ęphane returns to his hometown for the first time in many years. Once there, he meets young Lucas, who turns out to be his first love's son. Memories come rushing back to St├ęphane: irrepressible attraction, bodies becoming one in the heat of desire, a passion that can never be revealed...until now.

Another standout is Big Boys, which relates the story of a precocious, 14-year old aspiring chef named Jamie (a terrific performance by relative newcomer Isaac Krasner). His dream camping trip is ruined before it even begins when he finds out that his beloved cousin Allie is bringing her new boyfriend, Dan. However, Jamie’s initial jealousy of the competent and confident Dan quickly turns into a “bromance” as they bond over cooking, games and both being “big boys.” As the weekend progresses, despite Jamie’s brother’s attempts to set him up with a girl staying at the campsite, all Jamie wants to do is hang out with Dan. As his burgeoning crush gets him into awkward scrapes and arguments, Jamie begins to come to terms with who he is… and who he desires.

Big Boys was written and directed by Corey Sherman, a 29-year old filmmaker living in Los Angeles. He grew up in Riverdale, a neighborhood in the north Bronx, just within New York City limits. Sherman later majored in Film & Television Production at the University of Southern California. He started making comedy short films when he was eight years old, and continues making them to this day. A long-time lover of animation, Sherman branched out from live action in college and created an animated web series titled Billiams, which was well-received online and led to a partnership with Matt Maiellaro, the creator of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. He achieved a life-long dream when he wrote, directed, edited, and voiced a character on several episodes of Maiellaro's animated Adult Swim show, 12 Oz. Mouse. Sherman is also passionate about non-fiction filmmaking and recently edited Lawrence Kasdan’s documentary short, Last Week at Ed’s, which won the Audience Award for Best Marquee Feature at the 2019 Austin Film Festival.

Corey Sherman

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with the talented young Sherman via Zoom:

CC: Big Boys is such a sensitive, unique coming of age story. What was its genesis?
CS: It was an idea that had been playing around in my head, to center a story on an unrequited crush. Those were really formative for me when I was growing up and coming to terms with my sexuality. There were a lot of guys I liked but none of them were interested in me because they were straight, they were older, they were just inaccessible in some ways. But they still had an impact on me because they taught me about what I liked, and they taught me the courage to be honest about how I was feeling. They were also my first experiences of letting myself get really excited about another guy, and going to that place emotionally — which was a really big step for me, to even allow myself to entertain the idea — so there was all this change happening internally. I wanted to make a movie that centered around that sort of turning point for someone like me.

CC: Wow, that’s really powerful. So what led you to decide on casting a larger-than-usual body type or protagonist?
CS: We were specifically looking for kids of that size because that’s who I was when I was a kid and it’s still who I am now. It’s something that we haven’t seen a lot of in movies before, where a character like that is allowed to take center stage and have a romantic plot. For them to be these three-dimensional characters that aren’t just like the friend or the total butt of a joke, and for the movie to respect their size and also respect that they have a personality that exists totally outside of their size. It was also important for him to be attracted to a bigger guy and not some thinner or more attractive twink, which is often the case in movies.

CC: Isaac Krasner gives a very impressive performance for a teenager! How did you cast him?
CS: Working with a really great casting director, Kristi Lugo. We put out a national casting call and Isaac was the first person we saw. He was remarkable. We wanted to showcase the experience of a chubby teen going through this life-altering experience and allow him to be a fully-developed, nuanced character instead of a stereotype. Isaac totally invested himself in the process and he brought really good ideas and perspective as a 14-year old. Lugo also helped us bring on top talent like Emily Deschanel (who plays Jamie’s mother), in addition to many other incredible actors who gave the performances in the film a lived-in specificity and authenticity.

CC: And how about the casting process for Dan, played by hunky David Johnson III?
CS: That took a lot longer (than casting Jamie/Isaac). Dan was the last role we cast. It took time to find the right combination of warmth and strength, but David really embodied both better than anyone else we saw. Dan is large but confident in his body, and over the course of the film teaches Jamie that there is nothing to be ashamed of about being a big guy. Even though it is often presented as solely a women’s issue, body shaming affects everyone. Young people of all genders are susceptible to body image issues, particularly now when there is an endless well of images to compare ourselves to online. We need more male role models of body positivity like Dan and Jamie to encourage viewers to stop comparing themselves to others and embrace their bodies no matter the size.

CC: What have been some of the responses to your film? Have any of them particularly surprised or moved you?
CS: I’ve been really touched by people, all kinds of people, telling me how personal the movie is to them. It’s clearly gotten an emotional reaction from people and they’re really moved. The story is accessible and universal. We made a film about a young man’s unrequited crush to shed light on this extremely common yet under-examined aspect of queer life. In most romantic stories, the object of the protagonist’s love eventually returns their affection. However, for many queer people like myself, growing up was full of unrequited crushes on straight or closeted peers. Yearning for someone we couldn’t have was frustrating enough, but not seeing any exploration of that experience in the media made it feel like a lonely failure. However, these experiences are extremely common and can be profoundly impactful. We figure out how to make peace with not getting everything we want. We learn to put ourselves out there and be honest even in the face of imminent rejection. Fortunately, these experiences aren’t always complete downers. Like any other love story, they are full of funny, thrilling, and tender moments. We hope that all viewers who can relate but have never seen their story on screen before Big Boys may feel more celebrated and understood.

Sherman will be in attendance at the Big Boys screening. For complete festival ticket info, screening updates, sponsorships and volunteer information, please visit FilmOutSanDiego.com. One can also follow the event on Facebook at FilmOut San Diego or on Instagram/Twitter at @FilmOutSD.

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

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