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Queer and here to stay 

Pikes Peak Lavender Film Festival turns five

click to enlarge Mango Kiss, showing Saturday at 7:15 p.m.
  • Mango Kiss, showing Saturday at 7:15 p.m.

Queer culture seems to come farther out of the closet every year. The love that once dared not speak its name is now as ubiquitous as Pamela Anderson's cleavage, and it isn't satisfied with campy supporting roles in sitcoms. Since this time last year, same-sex couples have fought for the right to legally marry in a handful of cities and states across the United States. Not since the civil rights movement of the 1960s has America seen such a groundswell of grass-roots organizing around the issue of equal rights for minorities.

But along with the massive push for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) civil rights has come an equally determined backlash from conservatives who believe that allowing gays to marry will threaten the institution of marriage. Just as soon as gays began to celebrate their fight for the right marry in Massachusetts and San Francisco, President Bush announced in February that he would back a constitutional amendment proposed by Colorado Rep. Marilyn Musgrave to permanently ban gay marriage in the United States. Though such an amendment faces a long uphill battle, the battle lines have been clearly drawn.

As with any political fight, much of the coming struggle will continue to be fought on the frontlines of culture: on the news and in books, music, TV shows and movies. For the GLBT community, film festivals have long been a primary way for queer filmmakers to circumvent the homophobia of Hollywood. Since 1976, the San Francisco International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival has played a seminal role in bringing visibility and legitimacy to gay themes and issues that might otherwise languish in the closet.

Five years ago, local activist and film buff Alma Cremonesi decided to bring some of the best GLBT films from festivals like the one in San Francisco to audiences in Colorado Springs, and the first annual Pikes Peak Lavender Film Festival was born.

Now, after several years of financial uncertainty and wavering community support, Cremonesi is thrilled that the PPLFF is still here.

"I wake up every morning just astounded that we made it this far," she said. "I'm rather thrilled about it."

Originally, Cremonesi had envisioned the festival as a gathering that would likely serve the Colorado Springs queer community exclusively. But much to her surprise, the festival has experienced much broader support.

"The purpose of the festival has evolved somewhat over the years," she said, "When we started, we saw it as an LGBT event that would educate us and validate us. As time went on, it became more of a community event. Thankfully, friends of the LGBT community began to show their support. It became clear that the gay and lesbian community could not solely support it. So it's really evolved into this wonderful community event."

Though the PPLFF nearly collapsed two years ago due to flagging ticket sales, Cremonesi says that she and other organizers have fine-tuned the program to a sustainable number of films that represents the diversity that audiences want.

"It's just the right size now," she said. "I think we've settled on nine features and nine shorts. We're able to add more diversity to the program by adding less-popular but more-esoteric films that more esoteric people in our community would like."

She also believes that the importance of civil rights issues facing the GLBT community right now will draw people together around this weekend-long event in a town that is now world-renowned as the home of Focus on the Family, which strongly opposes gay rights and same-sex marriage.

"The other thing that's happened over the past five years is that the festival has become a voice, a counter voice to Focus on the Family," Cremonesi said. "And I think that's very important for the city of Colorado Springs. It's important that Colorado Springs isn't presented as a monolith to the world -- that it has gays and lesbians living here and that it's open to our friends."

True to the spirit of openness and diversity, this year's selection of films touches on issues including same-sex marriage, sex and aging, role-playing urban dykes and much more.

Reviews

Goldfish Memory
Directed by Liz Gil
Wolfe Ireland

Somewhere between Sex and the City and Robert Altman's Short Cuts, this look at the ups and downs of metrosexual love in Dublin is entertaining if not, at times, giddily sentimental. Lecherous professor Tom (Sean Campion) spins the first thread of an elaborate romantic web when he cheats on student Clara (Fiona O'Shuaghnessy) with another student, Isolde (Fiona Glascott). Clara decides men are so five minutes ago and shacks up with news reporter Angie (Flora Montgomery). Angie's best friend is Red (Keith McErlean), a young gay bicycle messenger whose bike accidentally gets locked up by David, the bartender at the caf where all the characters seem to cross stars. David falls for Red, leaving his girlfriend in the lurch ... and you get the point: Everyone sleeps with everyone else, almost. Romantic high jinks aside, the film does raise some interesting issues about casual bisexuality, gay parenting and the fluidity of gender in this post-post-modern world.

Amour de Femme
Directed by Sylvie Verheyde
Picture This Entertainment France

Young, hot and bored with marriage, motherhood and her osteopathy career, Jeanne (Helene Filleres) feels the siren call of the charismatic (and hot) dancer Marie (Raffaela Anderson). After lots (and lots) of tortured sexual tension, Jeanne finally gives in and realizes she's in love with Marie. When her husband finds out and threatens to take away her son, the film, sadly, ends. While Un Amour de Femme is sexy and beautifully shot, it falls short of addressing the prickly issues it almost courageously raises.

Eating Out
Directed by Q. Allan Brocka
Ariztical Entertainment Group United States

click to enlarge Callas Forever, showing Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
  • Callas Forever, showing Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Everyone knows the gay guys get all the hottest chicks. But those chicks are almost always (sigh) women more interested settling for the platonic love of their emotionally available, yet sexually unavailable, "boyfriends." In Eating Out, director Q. Allan Brocka campily asks the question: What would happen if a straight boy fell in love with a fag hag who would only go out with him if she thought he were gay. More broken compasses on the road to sexual orientation make for good, wholesome fun. Irksome little twinges of cinematic amateurism can't hide the fact that this is a brilliantly scripted romantic comedy with twists that Hollywood will soon be wishing it had made into American Pie III.

Proteus
Directed by John Greyson
Strand Releasing Canada/South Africa

Probably one of the more difficult films in this year's festival, Proteus pays off in spades if you can stick with it. The story is this: A young South African Hottentot herder named Class Blank is accused of stealing cows that he claims originally belonged to his family and is sent to the Robben Island Penal Colony for 10 years of hard labor. Robben Island is home to a wide variety of Proteus flowers -- a tenacious species of flora that metaphorically mirror the strange love that soon begins to bloom between Blank and Rijkhaart Jacobsz, a Dutch sailor serving time for sodomy. The affair is witnessed by Virgil Tyne, a botanist studying the Proteus flowers who develops a close relationship with Blank. When Tyne himself is accused of sodomy many years later, he returns to Robben Island and inadvertently exposes the relationship of Blank and Jacobsz, who must finally give a name to their love before a court of colony judges. Aside from a few strange anachronisms (including the video quality), the film is a powerful story of love and truth. Based on true events, it's hard to imagine the courage it must have taken to carry out such an affair in the 1700s.

Mango Kiss
Directed by Sascha Rice
Mango Me Productions United States

While the acting in this farce about open relationships in the 1990s San Francisco dyke scene is lacking more than just a little bit, it's still a fun peek inside the convoluted emotional landscape of sexual role-playing in a community determined to defy staid heterosexual mores. Based on Sarah Brown's play, Bermuda Triangles: The Non-Monogamy Experiment, the film is lighthearted and decidedly hip.

Lily Festival
Directed by Sachi Hamano
Tantansha Co., Ltd. Japan

The seldom touched upon subject of elderly sex is treated with grace and wit in Lily Festival. When Miyoshi, a dapper old man with more libido than a bottle of Viagra, moves into an apartment complex inhabited by nothing but gossipy older women, the elder-flirts and their cat claws come out flying. As each woman gradually realizes she's not "the only one," all are forced to see themselves for what they are and accept a far broader definition of their sexuality then they had ever imagined. A bit slow at times, but charming, beautifully directed and well acted all around.

Callas Forever
Directed by Franco Zeffirelli
Capitol Films Italy, England, France, Spain and Romania

My pick for the best all-around film of the festival is, without question, Callas Forever. You don't have to be an opera queen to appreciate the magnetism of the ultimate opera diva, Maria Callas, as she is perfectly inhabited by Fanny Ardant. Jeremy Irons plays Larry Kelly, Callas' estranged gay friend and manager who barges in on the flagging, pill-addled and reclusive diva during a visit to Paris in the late 1970s. Though her voice has long since passed its prime, Kelly convinces Callas to undertake one last career-defining project: a series of films in which she would act out her most famous opera rolls while her great earlier recordings would be overdubbed. As the production of Carmen proceeds, the Callas of yore re-emerges from her shadowy cocoon to give the performance of her lifetime. But the fact that her voice must be overdubbed haunts her and raises timeless questions about art and truth. Absolutely exquisite acting -- you'll completely forget that Ardant isn't Callas!

Tying the Knot
Directed by Jim de Seve
IDP Distribution United States

An important look at the issue of same-sex marriage, Tying the Knot shows two examples of imbroglios that can follow when a same-sex partner dies and the living partner doesn't have the legal entitlements afforded to heterosexual married couples. Experts also weigh in on the constantly changing definitions of marriage throughout history and draw parallels to the rhetoric of racism used by politicians opposed to interracial marriage and the rhetoric now being used by politicians to oppose same-sex marriage. Though de Seve leaves a few loose ends in the narrative and doesn't incorporate as many expert testimonials as he could have, overall it's well researched and compellingly presented.

Straight Jacket
Directed by Richard Day
Regent Entertainment United States

In this witty, campy, comic look at the 1950s Hollywood closet, Guy Stone (Matt Letscher) plays a hunky gay actor la Rock Hudson. Arranged marriage, dangerous liaisons and the inevitable choice of career or betrayal paint the ethos of the times from the other side of the closet door with 20/20 hindsight.

Pikes Peak Lavender Film Festival

Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.

Friday, Sept. 17:

Catered opening reception at 6:30 p.m., welcome by Mary Lou Makepeace at 7:30 p.m., and opening night film, Goldfish Memory, at 8 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 18:

click to enlarge Proteus, showing on Saturday at 5:15 p.m.
  • Proteus, showing on Saturday at 5:15 p.m.

12:30 p.m.

Short: F*Stop by Roberta Degnore

Feature: Amour de Femme

2:30 p.m.

Short: Seventy by Q. Allan Brocka

Feature: Eating Out

5:15 p.m.

Short: Straight in the Face by Peter Demas

Feature: Proteus

7:15 p.m.

Short: Little Black Boot by Sascha Rice

Feature: Mango Kiss

Sunday, Sept. 19

Noon

Short: You Fake by Maureen Bradley

Feature: Lily Festival

2:30 p.m.

Short: Annie Dearest: The Real Miracle Worker by Donna Nudd and Diane Wilkins

Feature: Callas Forever

5 p.m.

Short: One Wedding and a Revolution by Debra Chasnoff

Feature: Tying the Knot

7 p.m.

Short: TV Dream Homes: The Drawings of Mark Bennett by Pamela Ezell

Feature: Straight Jacket

Tickets range from $75 for the festival pass to $10 for an individual feature.

For more, call 386-6843 or visit www.pplff.org.

  • Pikes Peak Lavender Film Festival turns five

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