Lights, Camera, Action! Ft. Lauderdale Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
Lesbian Vampires, Bondage, and a Love App All Featured at This Year's Event
Sunday, Oct. 16, 3:30 p.m.
The Manor - Ivy Cinema
As a gay man in his early 40s, I have only hazy memories of the AIDS epidemic that rocked the gay community during the 1980s. As a teen in the Midwest, barely in touch with my own sexuality, I remember the news reports of a gay "cancer" that was killing thousands of people far away in gay meccas like San Francisco. With the advent of anti-retroviral therapies and the tireless efforts of activist and philanthropists alike, HIV and AIDS are, 30 years later, seemingly manageable chronic conditions like diabetes or asthma.
For those people who buried their friends and lovers, the darkest days are still fresh memories and in San Francisco, many find solace in the AIDS Memorial National Grove, a serene - if little known -- corner in Golden Gate Park dedicated to the memory of their loved ones and all who fell to the disease.
The Grove, a beautifully crafted documentary by Andy Abrahams Wilson, reminds us of the fear and loss experienced by the gay community in San Francisco with jarring archival footage and sentimental interviews, but then explores the politics of remembrance.
Few know of the existence of the memorial grove, visitors often stumble upon it while seeking the Japanese tea garden and other areas of the park. Members of the memorial's board of directors sought to raise the profile of the site with a worldwide design competition that would transform the quiet grove into an international monument to the victims of the epidemic.
Wilson effectively explores these aspirations of a truly national landmark while contrasting the heartfelt, personal objections of those survivors who successfully fought change in the effort to hold on to the reverent memories of their loved ones.
We Are the Night
Friday, Oct. 14, 7:30 p.m.
The Manor - Ivy Cinema
Vampires are cool and they always have been - from the campy early films with Bela Lugosi to Anne Rice's romantic novels, the Twilight series, The Vampire Diaries and True Blood. We Are the Night, director Dennis Gansel's contribution to the genre, takes audiences to the gritty underground world of Berlin where a pack of glam lesbian vampires terrorize the back alley nightclubs.
Louise, the leader, has been looking for love for centuries and finds it in Lena, a street-smart pickpocket. Police detective Tom is searching for Lena, perhaps offering salvation to the newly lost soul.
The problem with We Are the Night is we've seen this movie before - many times. There are few fresh ideas or plot twists in this boringly predictable story. From the first scenes, it's obvious that Lena will struggle to hold on to her humanity and Louise will jealously target Tom, her rival for Lena's affections.
What Gansel does offer is a fast-paced trip through the darkest corners of Berlin with well shot street chases and excellent special effects, including a final fight scene worthy of Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible franchise.
Saturday, Oct. 15, 7 p.m.
The Manor - Ivy Cinema
Some snarky queens will insist, "Leather or feathers, it's all drag," but Michael Skiff's documentary aims to dispel the stereotypes of the LGBT leather community with this behind-the-scenes look at the 2008 International Mister Leather competition in Chicago.
Through a series of interviews with past winners and contestants, he explores fetishes ranging from leather and BDSM (that's bondage and discipline and sado-masochism) to puppy and pig roleplaying. To many, these lifestyles are mystifying and outrageous, but Skiff reveals a lot of heart in the individual members of the community and from unusual sources.
In recent years, IML has crowned its first African-American, disabled and female-to-male transgender winners. The contest also attracts straight fans, mostly women, and heterosexual competitors, too. There are still plenty of "Tom of Finland" types, but Skiff devotes most of the film to the diversity the contest welcomes and the personal journey participants undergo through the competition.
Kink Crusaders offers up plenty of titillation, but it is also an educational film for anyone whose only exposure to the leather community is the spectacle that seems to attract the news cameras at your local Pride parade.
Saturday, Oct. 15, 6 p.m.
The Manor - Epic Cinema
Writer/director J.C. Calciano follows up last year's festival circuit favorite, Is it Just Me, with another romantic comedy, "eCupid." Marshall is a cocky ad agency executive whose relationship is in a rut and his 30th birthday is rapidly approaching. When he downloads a mysterious app, eCupid, that guarantees true love, his life takes series of unexpected turns as the program goes haywire and sabotages his career and his seven-year relationship with Gabriel.
Unlike many of the more serious selections at the festival, eCupid offers a lighthearted story that South Florida audiences will be able to relate to-especially the seven-year itch part and the fear of complacency. It's not thought-provoking and not especially original, but an entertaining diversion.
In the straight cinema, Calciano's film would be a perfect vehicle for Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd or even Adam Sandler, and Houston Rhines (Marshall) and Noah Schuffman (Gabriel) offer strong performances in the lead roles. Look for a cameo from '80s primetime soap siren Morgan Fairchild, who also lends her voice to the eCupid app, which can be downloaded on iTunes.