Anna Karina in Pierre le Fou


Frameline31 San Francisco Pulls Lesbian Film from Lineup

For the first time in 31 years, Frameline, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Film Festival in San Francisco (June 14-24), has taken an invited film out of the program. The Gendercator (USA 2007) has been pulled for being "transphobic", originally scheduled for screening on June 15th . Protesters brandishing picket signs stood outside of the Roxie Theater with tape over their mouths. The artistic director of the Frameline festival, Michael Lumpkin, appeared at the opening of the screening to explain that the decision to "OUT" Catherine Crouch's The Gendercator (USA 2007) came about due to pressure from the transgender community and underlined that "the decision to remove it was the correct one". Frameline programmer Jennifer Morris also stands by the decision claiming that the publicity released on the film by director Catherine Crouch and on her own website is "transphobic". Frameline's press release on May 22: "After considerable dialogue with members of the transgender community and after careful consideration of the issues raised by Catherine Crouch’s film The Gendercator, Frameline has decided not to screen The Gendercator in Frameline31. Given the nature of the film, the director’s comments, and the strong community reaction to both, it is clear that this film cannot be used to create a positive and meaningful dialogue within our festival. We are grateful to the many Frameline members, filmmakers and Transgender community leaders who brought this issue to our attention and assisted Frameline’s senior staff in making this important decision." The late night program (10.30 pm) was not sold out ( 30% seating capacity) and its hard to say how much of a factor the controversy over the film had on the screening. In my experience, experimental work at festivals is never sold out and is always about 30% seating capacity.

The protest to yank the film began by an online petition organized by New Left in San Francisco, a popular local internet forum. Prior to the screening about 130 signatures were collected. Only six of the protestors had actually seen the film. In Frameline's press release regarding the removal of The Gendercator they also revealed that they have partnered for screenings with Female to Male International, headed by president Rabi Levi Alter, the largest longest running organization serving the FTM community. There are about twenty films about transgenders featured at Frameline this year. The documentary Gender Redesigner (USA 2007) concerns the sexual reassignment surgery of "fAe", an FTM (female to male) transgender including interviews with the medical establishment that performs his double masectomy and a video journal during and after the procedure . Both the director Jonny Berggman and fAe, who has since relocated to San Francisco, were present at the Q&A. fAe , a transformer who also started a women's band called The Sex Combs spoke of the strong transcommunity in San Franciso.

Support for Crouch's film was visible outside the screening of the pre-empted film. Flyers (see above) were passed out to the perhaps 50 people attending the screening where The Gendercator was originally slated yet without any contact information for a specific action group.

The Gendercator was included in the "OUTer Limits" screening in a program of experimental and visionary filmmakers. The film is no longer searchable on the Frameline website and has disappeared from the radar. But in the program catalogue the film remains:
"In The Gendercator, a woman emerges from a pile of leaves to find her last memory is from 1978. Good acid, or is it 2048"? Four other films were part of the "OUTer Limits" program.
Frameline framed this venue as following. "Tripped-out futuristic lesbians! Sword-wielding S&M nuns! Cannibalism! Trannies in space! Welcome to the outer limits of queer filmmaking in this series of shorts by five visionary filmmakers clearly weaned on sci-fi and fantasy films". With emphasis on "queer filmmaking" and "outer limits", a case can be made that Frameline did know what it was programming.

When Frameline accepted Crouch's film, it was programmed together with: Agnieszka- a Dark Symphony of 2030, Martin Gauvreau 2007 Poland , The Incredible Dyke, Kurt Koehler & James Edward, 2007 USA ( how many dykes look like these dykes?--Frameline category: "Butch/Femme Issues") Transgender Express, Laure Schwarz 2007, Switzerland, Sister Satan, Viva Ruis 2007 USA and Transneptune or the Fall of Pandora, Drag Queen Cosmonaut, Matthew Long 2007. All of the films feature stereotypical iconography such as a huge green lesbian that beats up bad dykes in a bar or floating doped up transgenders.
Film and artistic expression are subjective experiences. Without the opportunity to view a film we are forced to go by the experience of what others "see" and "interpret". Newfest chose to screen The Gendercator despite controversy with this perspective in mind and that an LGBT festival should have room for the perspectives of filmmakers from the spectrum of this community. Because of "descriptions" of imagery and content on Crouch's website, The Gendercator has provoked the transgender community in San Francisco though a screening has yet to take place. Thus, the largest LGBT film festival in the world, Frameline, has made a controversial move.

Catherine Crouch's short The Gendercator (shot in Super 8 and miniDV) features lesbian "Sunshine Sally "(Emily Wood). After celebrating the 1973 victory of Billy Jean King over Bobby Riggs she passes out under a tree. She awakens in 2048 to an era where feminism has failed. Sex roles and gender expression are not only binary, they are enforced by law and convention. Butch women and sissy men are out and Sunshine Sally has to choose a strict gender role. Sexual reassignment surgery works in hand with the government to enforce binary gender choices.
Catherine Crouch describes the piece as a “satire about female body modification and gender.” According to the director, “more and more often, we see young heterosexual women carving their bodies into porno Barbie dolls and lesbian women altering themselves into transmen. Our distorted cultural norms are making women feel compelled to use medical advances to change themselves, instead of working to change the world. This is one story, showing one possible scary future. I am hopeful that this story will foster discussion about female body modification and medical ethics". Crouch says that the films is about lesbians, not transexuals.

The New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA) believes that Crouch inaccurately portrays transgenders and was surprised that The Gendercator was screened at the recent New York Newfest. NYAGRA's mission " advocates freedom of gender identity and expression for all". The San Francisco transgender position is that one's artistic freedom in the LGBT context can not be at the expense of another group.

Pulling this invited film has had a negative impact on a productive low budget and independent lesbian filmmaker with nine films previously screened at Frameline.
There is a divided feeling in San Francisco that the film should have been screened. According to Jennifer Morris, "there would be no point in a screening of the film with a discussion since it would so clearly offend half the audience". How is it possible to make a judgment like this without extending the public the opportunity to see the film? Art has historically generated discussion and it is within the nature of art to "offend" through the use of metaphor and personal expression. There are countless examples of artists that have "offended": Charlie Chaplin, Robert Mapelthorpe, Antonin Artaud, and Andres Serrano ("Piss Christ"). Morris pointed out that the film can still be screened and has been screened at other ("transphobic") venues. One of the venues for The Gendercator, she points out, is the "transphobic Michigan Womyn's Festival". Screening a film should not constitute a "transphobic" position or make a festival "transphobic". That is an important question for all future LGBT festivals.

The majority of the people who signed the New Left petition had not seen The Gendercator. Efforts are being made by Ondine Kilker to bring Catherine Crouch and The Gendercator to San Francisco in the fall. Catherine has made herself available to interviews and said she is open to discussion. (Listen to interview by Moira Sullivan with Catherine Crouch on Movie Magazine International, July 11, 9pm , or the national broadcast July 13-20.)

Moira Sullivan
FIPRESCI Federation of International Film Critics


Third Queer Women of Color Film Festival, San Francisco, 2003

The third Queer Women of Color Film Festival kicked off June 8 in San Francisco for a three day run, a festival that amazingly is free of charge. The inaugural night featured a presentation of filmmakers with work on the subject of immigration. And yes we do have our "Dykeback Mountain", (Laurie Koh,"Where's Our Dykeback Mountain? LGBT media at the crossroads", The Magazine of Film Arts Foundation July/August 2006 ). This is it, the films that defy mainstream and are the deep tributaries, according to Jewel Gomez, Village Voice critic, author of The Gilda Stories and guest panelist of the festival.

Which is to say, shorts. But not short by any means. And the executive director of the festival Madeleine Lim and development and events manager T. Kebo Drew made us all feel at home, inviting us to meals in the foajé and a upstairs fundraiser with the filmmakers and sponsors before the evening program. Lim is a Bay Area filmmaker and trains queer women of color on how to make films in the "Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project" supported by grants. The candidates work out a film proposal close to home and the result is this rich and exceptional festival, which in part helps to pay for the education of these talented filmmakers. Lim believes that women have stories to tell, whether about their origins, or their relatives or those ex girlfriends. Letting Go of An Attachment by Joy Lam, 2006 turned out to be a therapeutic film about a relationship that didn't seem to amount to really anything of substance , but it took the filmmaker six years to find out it wasn't "love". It is the beauty of this sharp audience to reinforce that awareness who warmly scrutinized the dialogue between the two women--and were they relieved when the character that plays Lam walked out!

We don't all need to reinvent The L Word. This festival proves there is a vast terrain of subjects out there which are personal to the lives of queer women. That is Lim's aim. While Jamie Babbitt (Itty Bitty Titty Committee, 2007) and Angela Robinson (D.E.B.S. 2006) lead with their left, its just a matter of time till we have more features out there too, and much of the work indicates the potential. Details Magazine published a report, oh, about 14 years ago, that if a film appealed to a lesbian spectator, the box office revenue went up 10 %. That is what landed Rose Troche (Go Fish, 1995) a spot in Hollywood who has since then directed , well, she did make some L-Word segments - and a film selected to the San Sebastian Film Festival, The Safety of Objects ( 2001).

This particular festival of short films and docs is the work of women of color and this year there was a special focus on queer black women's films and filmmakers, over 40 films. Amazingly there was some criticism about that, the kind of logic that defies logic something like, if you only screen queer black women's work not as many will come. 

Well, I don't think so, there wasn't a seat left in the Brava Theater in the Mission for the second day!

These films will also be shown at the Frameline LGBT Film Festival slated for June 14-24 and director Jennifer Morris and Cheryl Dunyé were on hand for this three day fest. 

And the films had a breathtaking array of themes: Ersulie's Tears about the beauty of this loa of the Vodoun spirit religion (Mary Ann Brooks, 2007) talking flowers - Flower Fokes (Belinda Sullivan, 2007) , the tranquility of meditation - Acts of Love (Crystal John, 2007), watch out how you treat your Mammy! - The Saint (Erin Wood, 2007) and self criticism in filmmaking - Wallow (Sarah Beth Harris, 2006).

A panel discussion on queer black women in film featured Watermelon Woman and Stranger Inside herself Cheryl Dunye, back from Amsterdam after three years to make some more films in the JUESSAY, the queer programmer for Sundance Shari Frilot and Tina Mabry - Brooklyn's Bridge to Jordan, and co-writer Itty Bitty Titty Committee.

 The final day of screenings at the Brava Theater included shorts of subjects such as military fashion in Fashion Resistance to Militarism (Kimberly Alvarenga, 2006), corn allergies and a Chinese girl growing up in the midwest Local Grown Corn (Mel Chen, 2007) - I know now why I have always hated Corn Flakes! 
- and a provocative film on female rivalry and women loving women That's Why I Hate Females (Vassilisa Johri, 2007).

One of the most spirited debates occurred after the screening of Against our Better Nature on the subject of the death penalty (Kenya Briggs, 2006). The filmmaker's position is that we just don't have to kill to create justice.
The evening show presented films about love and family, including the poignant It Takes a Village ... (Kiki Zerrudo, 2007) about a queer mom raising a son, required viewing for every lucky boy with such a loving mom and circle of friends as well as a tribute to an 11 year relationship, the philosophical and playful Eleven (Arwyn Moore, 2006). 

Probably every long term relationship would benefit from a screening of Eleven, it makes you proud to have a partner like Moore.
Mel Chen presented a magnifiqué plan for the distribution of queer women's cinema, soon to be in the pipelines: "QTPI Media". If you make it, let's it distributed!
Interviews with some of the directors and a report of the festival is scheduled for Movie Magazine International , broadcast on KUSF San Francisco. June 27 and later on the internet. Stay tuned!

Festival Poster.


National Queer Arts Festival, San Francisco Kicks Off

The National Queer Arts Festival kicks off this weekend with a QBall from 6 to midnite at the at the Queer Cultural Center in San Francisco. Look forward to a month of events from June 1 to 30th and over 300 artists in over 50 venues. Where else but San Francisco can this manifestation occur, the mecca of the LGBT univerise - worldwide. At the ball, Nedra Johnson will launch the release of her newest CD Nedra, a 2006 OUTMUSIC Award winning, mix of R&B, funk, rock and gospel.

Some of the headliners for this year's arts festival are comedian Marga Gomez and graphic artist Alison Bechdel. Gomez will present her latest show on June 30th Marga Gomez & The Boys with special guests Kenny Yun (winner of Russian River Comedy Competition) and Ronn Vigh (a male Joan Rivers, seen on Last Comic Standing.) Gomez will also include a quick study of Pride 2007.

Alison Bechdel, cartoonist/writer of the beloved comic Dykes to Watch Out and Fun Home will do a public reading on June 6th together with other queer writers: Lenelle Moise (Haitian-American performance poet) and Cherry Muhanji (author of the novel Her) and Ariel Schrag (comic artist and L Word writer).
Also slated for June 6th is a dual channel video installation based on Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 Sci-Fi mystery, Solaris. Rudy Lemcke is behind the project which has been presented in venues such as Frameline, The Mix Festival (New York), & Festival Nemo (Paris). Lemcke presents a queer reading of this film classic, exploring the tension between technology’s endless quest for utopian dreams versus the frailty and limitations of human love.

The Queer Women of Color Film Festival will take place June 8-10 with 32 new films in 4 film programs in a tableau of queer women of color from queer Asian to Latino women.

Best of the Bay drag king troupe The Transformers have rounded up an eclectic mix of drag kings, queens, and burlesque artists from the Bay Area and beyond. With performances by Landa Lakes, Kentucky Fried Woman, The Citizen Kings, and Jay Walker. MC: Micia Mosely June 13th.

San Francisco Pride has slated a special comedy night hosted by Karen Ripley with Lisa Geduldig and other favorites on June 23, just in time to pre-operations for the 37th magnifiqué and legendary SF Gay Pride Parade, the mother of us all.


Lesbian National Center for Lesbian Rights Celebrates 30 with Martina Navratilova

San Francisco´s most prestigious lesbian rights gala was held on May 12 at Fort Mason with valet parking, black tie and evening gowns. The dinner and dance with rope and trapeze acts was a fundraiser for the National Center for Lesbian Rights with entertainment by Montuno Groove and the Twilight Vixen Ruvue. Emcee Kate Clinton awarded Martina Navratilova the Voice and Visibility Award, for demonstrating extraordinary commitment to strengthening and empowering the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Also honored at the gala was the gay British NBA player John Amaechi.
The NCLR is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.


Zoe Cassavetes Makes a Movie

One of the directors in town for the 50th San Francisco International Film Festival is Zoe Cassavetes, daughter of the legendary independent film duo John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands. Her new feature, Broken English, stars Parker Posey as Nora Wilder, a 30-ish woman in Manhattan who is looking for "the relationship". She is cheered on by Audrey, Drea de Matteo, who is in a "boring" five year marriage. Nora seems to fall fast, confusing attraction with love and has a lot of baggage from her past that requires prescription medication. One day she meets Julienne (Melvil Poupaud whose film Melvil was selected to the 2006 Cannes Fortnight) equally shipwrecked after girlfriend moves into new relationship as soon as they hit NYC. A trip to Paris under the pretext to find the "bon vivant" when he leaves town is made, at least initially, but Cassavetes surprises us all. The 30-ish helmer reveals, " I didn't want to make a romantic comedy, its just turned out that way". She wrote the script and some of the film is improvisational, in part thanks to the wit and acumen of Parker Posey, fabulous in the role. Cassavetes has shown us with this first debut feature that she knows how to make a movie and has struck out on her own. Broken English debuted at Sundance this year and will be released in San Francisco in June. Review upcoming with interview on Movie Magazine International. Stay tuned.


Créteil Dispatch.

Its time again for a new Créteil report! Here's the 2007 edition direct from Paris!

Créteil Films de Femmes The 29th Créteil Films de Femmes, International Women's Film Festival (March 23 through April 1), threw its spotlight on films directed by women from Great Britain, featuring, for example, a retrospective of the work of Sally Potter. Among the highlights were Yes, with Joan Allen and Sam Neill, and the brilliant and luscious Orlando, starring Tilda Swinton based on the novel by Virginia Woolf.

The charismatic Scottish filmmaker's Mary Miles Thomas's One Life Stand, a remake of Pasolini's Mama Roma, tells the story of a single mother who works as a tarot card reader over the telephone and struggles to raise her 18-year-old son, John Paul, who is employed by an escort service for women. The outstanding digital feature has already won several awards at various festivals.

The first feature from festival veteran Pratibha Parmar, Nina's Heavenly Delights, was seven years in making and centers on an Indo-Scottish lesbian who returns to take up her father's restaurant business following his death - she falls for a woman who owns half of the establishment.

Charlotte Rampling

This year's guest of honor was Charlotte Rampling, who selected François Ozon's Under the Sand from her repertoire for screening. Rampling plays Marie, a university professor at the Sorbonne in Paris whose husband Jean suddenly disappears during their beach vacation. Marie refuses to accept that Jean is dead even when the coroner produces his body.

Mira Nair

Mira Nair was also celebrated at Créteil this year with a screening of her new feature, The Namesake, released in France at the end of March. [Nair has also been a recent guest on Film Weekly.]

Xiaolu Guo

Xiaolu Guo from Beijing, now based in Great Britain, took home the jury prize for best feature film. In How Is Your Fish Today?, the interplay of voiceover with a rich tableau of iconographic documents creates a rich tapestry of investigation, making Guo one of the most exciting Chinese directors of today. Guo, who also produced the film, received partial funding from Channel Four in Great Britain. She says her work is representative of a new generation of Chinese filmmakers who are finding new ways to make films and steering clear of an industry stuck on recycling martial arts formulas.

The runner up chosen by the 29th Créteil jury was Shoot the Messenger by Ngozi Onwurah from Great Britain, also voted the best film by the public and the Créteil youth jury. The film is about a black teacher, Joe Pascale (David Oyelowo), who works in an urban school composed of predominantly black students and white teachers. He's hired to inspire black youth, according to the school administration, but is instead soon unfairly accused of assaulting a student and his entire world collapses. Joe is driven to insanity, incarcerated and later winds up homeless but is soon rescued by evangelicals and a job recruitment firm. The film is refreshingly told from Joe's, with strategic close-ups of him commenting directly into the camera about the story unfolding.

The audience runner-up was Finn's Girl, the story of a woman whose partner dies and who decides to raise her daughter and carry on her work at an abortion clinic which has been receiving death threats. The film was made by the Canadian couple Dominique Cardona and Laurie Colbert.

The documentaries at Créteil this year, many of them overtly political, addressed a wide array of topics. Receiving an honorable mention from the Créteil gymnasium jury was Melek Ulagay Taylan's Dialogues in the Dark from Turkey, a film which deals with legislation aimed at "honor killings" of Muslim women by male relatives. The filmmaker also touches on the Turkish diaspora by bringing in the infamous case of 26-year-old Fadime Sahindal, who was murdered by her brother and father because she had a Swedish boyfriend. Sahindal immigrated to Sweden from Kurdistan as a little girl.

Judith Butler, philosophe en tout genre Several new French documentaries were screened at the festival. Judith Butler, philosophe en tout genre by Paule Zajdermann explores a visit by the UC Berkeley gender studies professor Judith Butler to France in 2005. Les Tomates Voient Rouge, by Andréa Bergala, takes up the globalization of alimentation, noting, for example, that there are only seven varieties of tomatoes that remain in France today. Love and Words are Politics, by Sylvie Ballyot, is a poetic film essay in which a woman searches for her space in Yemen.

The Créteil festival is at present the largest annual pageant of films made by women in the world. It is generously supported by several government ministries, regional as well as municipal, and a host of corporate sponsors. Créteil has been able to successfully integrate the surrounding area with the festival through student juries from local gymnasiums (lycée) and universities. This jury of the 29th festival was comprised of Noëlle Châtelet, Daniel Vigne, Loïc Magneron, Philippe Grandrieux, Laura Benson, Marylin Alasset and Maryse Wolinski. Seven percent of the world's directors are women and this events presents a panorama of shorts, documentaries and feature films dedicated exclusively to this marginalization.

Photos of Charlotte Rampling, Mira Nair and Xiaolu Guo by Moira Sullivan.

Posted by David Hudson, Greencine Daily


Ensemble Album with Swedish Lesbian Vocalist Eva Dahlgren Blacklisted by Bush

The work of Swedish lesbian vocalist Eva Dahlgren, part of an ensemble album produced by the Norwegian company Valley Entertainment entitled Lullabies from the Axis of Evil, has been blacklisted by the Bush administration. Women from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Palestine, North Korea, Cuba and Afghanistan sing duets with Western artists such as Nina Hagen, Rickie Lee Jones and the über- Swede Eva Dahlgren. The Norwegian producer Erik Hillestad was inspired to get to know the people from the "axis of evil", an expression he feels was used irresponsibly by Bush in his 2002 State of the Union address. Getting Western artists to lend their voice to the album was difficult since many of them were cautious to be involved with a project that was this politically charged. Dahlgren was not among them.

For years Dahlgren has had a dedicated following, an esteemed soulful singer who writes her own lyrics with over 500,000 albums sales and fiver Swedish Grammies. She married the artist Eva Attling in 2001.

The Swedish word for embryo and even used for homeland is foster/fosterland. It will be interesting to see if the album "fosters" understanding of people who are lived in areas which received such a discriminatory label from our High Commander in his inaugural address. Two years to go...


"I Give You The Queen" But We'll Take Ellen Anyday

Helen Mirren's triumphant Oscar win once again deferred kudos to The Queen, that is Queen Elizabeth of England. The film certainly brings out the royalist in almost everyone watching it, and certainly has brought it out in the 62 year old Mirren, whose Oscar win does not maker her anything close to a late bloomer. Watch her as a 22 year old in A Midsummer Nights Dream (1968). The question is if Queen Elizabeth gives a hoot about any of this. She most definitely enjoyed a good night's sleep in her castle on Oscar night, telecast 1.30 in the morning GMT. Although since the Oscars, there may be the possibility for Mirren and Elizabeth to meet. The Queen has not seen the movie and probably will not.

Anyone who has lived in Europe knows that the royals are drab, seldom make changes to their hairstyles, sport drab matronly clothing, and make drab official statements. Queen Silvia of Sweden is one example, and husband King Carl Gustav, moreso. His political speeches could be likened to the dimwitted George Bush, whose garbled geographical facts and political blunders are even rumored to be intentional. With Oscar held high over head, at the 79th ceremony which Mirren calls "the motherload of all award shows", she extended her generosity to a woman with comfortable shoes. Diana, Princess of Wales was the first one to bring glamour to a royal title, but that just irritated Elizabeth, a subject raised in Steven Frears, The Queen.

Lesbian prominence at the Oscars was certainly well noted, with Ellen Degeneres as awards show host, though the only reference to her lifestyle was an obvious remark on stage, presumably to partner Portia de Rossi, that she was bringing home party food after the show. De Rossi ( the Australian born Amanda Lee Rogers- a stage name taken when she realized she was gay) split up with Francesca Gregorini in 2004 to be with Ellen Degeneres. Though she appeared in tabloid pix with the daughter of Ringo Starr, she publicly came out after meeting Degeneres. The subtle and funny cutting edge remarks of Degeneres since her silenced Ellen show, "Hollywood would be nothing without blacks, Jews and gays" are so in for the Oscars. Everyone else who makes a political fuss at the Oscars is so snubbed if they hit head on. Eddy Murphy, for example. Leave it to the movies to carry the messages, the stars or celebrities must be careful about writing their own dialogue. Sherry Lansing brought that home upon accepting a special humanitarian award, from a real oxymoron, Scientologist Tom Cruise. The former Paramount head has produced a stable of provocative films such as " The Accused".

After the awards Degeneres was on hand for the Barbara Walters Oscar Special. The largest revelation was that she was molested by her mother's husband. The notion that the experience must have made her a lesbian was quickly defrayed by both Walters and Degeneres who were swift to point out that Ellen "loved men". Clearly all incest survivors don't become lesbians. It seems that its heterosexual women that seem to hate men anyway. We know that Ellen Degeneres is much more savy than the media ever makes her out to be and has done so much for lesbians.

Melissa Etheridge took time to thank her wife and children for their support while picking up an Oscar for best song of the year, written for David Guggenheim's doc starring Al Gore, An Unconvenient Truth which won best documentary of 2007. The lyrics are not terribly profound however, such as "I need to wake up, I need a change", regarding our environmental crisis. "This is not a "Republican or Democrat, blue or red state issue", said Etheridge. The Oscars also went green this year, with efficient vehicles and no limos and clearly supported the work of Gore, who has decided not to run for president but to carry on this important work of turning back the clock on global warming.

Degeneres all in all was a fairly average host, with a few truly funny moments such as Ellen "Oscar holders", vacuuming during the ceremony, and getting Steven Spielberg to take a photo of her with Clint Eastwood for My Space. She had previously sucked up to Martin Scorsese by presenting him with a script. Degeneres claims she has a fireman's pole in her home and just slid down it to do the Oscars. Academy Award President Frank Pierson says that Ellen has that "how do you do lightness" that works well with folks at the Oscars. Yes an and no. Elsewhere in her intro she lumped Penelope Cruz together with the other nominees from Mexico from Babel to Pan's Labyrinth, and in a cutaway the nominee for best actress took note. Later Degeneres, who should know better, said Spain was in the house, but it was too late.

The elegant Catherine Deneuve announced the category for best foreign language film which should have gone to Pans Labyrinth but went to Germany for Sophie Scholl, the Lives of Others. Deepah Mehta's Water (2005) was also a welcome nominee, the last of a trilogy of films including Earth (1998) and Fire (1996) , starring Shabana Azmi, the story of two women in love in India. Water, like Fire was interrupted by violent protests because of the subject matter. A riveting collage of clips from international cinema gave a definite quality tone to the awards as did a special award to composer Ennio Morricone who made his acceptance speech in Spanish, interpreted by Clint Eastwood. Deneuve enjoys regular work in Europe and said she wouldn't continue if she didn't love it. She even took a minor role in Lars Von Trier's Dancer in the Dark.

Two-time best actress award winner Jodie Foster ushered in a memoriam for show business professionals who departed this year that have had left remarkable legacies, including Robert Altman.

The Departed
won for editing, best adapting screenplay, best picture and best director of 2007, bestowing Martin Scorsese with his first Oscar after countless nominations. The film is based on the 2002 Hong Kong production Infernal Affairs which delves into "Avici", living hell, the lowest level of Buddhism, starring Andy Lau and Tony Leung.

Unsurprisingly, Jennifer Hudson won best supporting actress for Dreamgirls. Its a necessary nuisance that her rise to fame began with the troll of all TV shows, American Idol. But its not surprising that she rose to the top since the cynical and sinister Simon made a horrendously ill fated decision to dump her from the musical world's worst "rewards" show. Simon says wrong. Thanks Jennifer for remembering Jennifer Holliday, the original Dreamgirl from Broadway that took " I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" to a whole other level. Beyoncé made no effort to conceal her love of the Oscars and Hollywood royalty and belted out a Dreamgirls medley with Anika Noni Rose and Hudson at the ceremony. Bad Boy Murphy has in the past dissed the Oscars for racial underrepresentation but this year, best supporting actor should have gone to him over Alan Arkin's performance in Little Miss Sunshine. Forest Whitaker, just as Degeneres foreshadowed, brought the speech audiences love to hear, the rise to fame from humble origins saga, as he chronicled his journey from Texas to Oscar night.

The command of Oscar is larger than the cast and crew of cinema. Which is why this may be the most glamorous awards show. But the Cannes Film Festival has to be the best festival of all and this year Steven Frears will head the jury. Cannes has glamour too (the Scottish word for enchantment, delusive allure, or compelling charm) but the critics and jury pick films for talent, ingenuity and message. The Oscars ceremony is notoriously jaded and its hard to resist the spellbound movie magic, with morning after comments on clothing, makeup and whether or not everyone's on camera red carpet comments were "scripted". The temptation was perhaps too great, but veteran Peter O'Toole despite numerous nominations and reaching the ripe old age of 74 did not get to go up to take a bow for best actor. The Oscar show, exemplifying the American theme of winners and losers, which Degeneres brought up to in her opening remarks, is all about winning AND how you play the game.


The Dixie Chicks Sing Out

I heard the 2007 Grammy Song of the Year live by The Dixie Chicks on one of my first nights back in San Francisco on November 17, 2006. In a half filled auditorium with my very special friends Steve and Monica, I relished the band that they spoke so passionately about. On May 28th this year, The Dixie Chicks were on the covers of several magazines including Time Magazine. The Time piece was about how a frivolous comment about our High Commander in a concert in London 2003, the eve of the controversial military intervention of the US military in Iraq, lead to a ridiculous malplaced ostracization of the women by some of their fans and even death threats. Let the cowards and hypocrites listen to what their music has to say. The Dixie Chicks outspokenness and right to define themselves as artists has been a courageous inspiration to women everywhere who are told to shut up and be quiet, and are ridiculed and threatened with loss of revenue and work.
The witch hunt is documented in Barbara Kopple's excellent doc from this past year: Shut Up and Sing (See CinéFemme review)

Yeah, Outspokenness. Frank, Candid, Speech, Spoken Without Reserve. Our Truths. However uncomfortable that may be to cowards and hypocrites, or for those
who deceive or mislead either deliberately or inadvertently in the name of their own bullshit. The right to express personal opinion as an artist is important. This song is courageous and inspirational.

Natalie Maines was far from "speechless" at the Grammy's last nite, as reported in The New York Times. She let out a mischievous Bart Simpson "hee-hee" on the first of five Grammy wins she shares with Emily Robison and Martie Maguire including Best Album of the Year, and Best Country Album. You go girls!

Song of the Year 2007 Grammys:
The Dixie Chicks: Not Ready To Make Nice

Winner of Five Grammys in 2007 for their Right On Music.

Forgive, sounds good

Forget, I’m not sure I could
They say time heals everything
But I’m still waiting

I’m through with doubt
There’s nothing left for me to figure out
I’ve paid a price
And I’ll keep paying

I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell and
I don’t have time to go round and round and round
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
‘Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should

I know you said
Can’t you just get over it
It turned my whole world around
And I kind of like it

I made my bed and I sleep like a baby
With no regrets and I don’t mind sayin’
It’s a sad sad story when a mother will teach her
Daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger
And how in the world can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they’d write me a letter
Sayin’ that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over

I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell and
I don’t have time to go round and round and round
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
‘Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should

I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell and
I don’t have time to go round and round and round
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
‘Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should

Forgive, sounds good
Forget, I’m not sure I could
They say time heals everything
But I’m still waiting


Women in Film in Europe: News

..."It’s a time, where – see “Whale Rider” or “Rosenstrasse” - in many countries films made by women seem not to be anything special anymore and women film festivals therefore obsolete. We know, they are not and patriarchy still exists and shows it’s ugly teeth. I don’t think it is necessary to debate this. But I thought it was very interesting what Moira Sullivan told yesterday about the difficulties of women politics in a culture – Sweden - where gender equality has been officially declared as achieved. We know, that it is a difference that women’s films make also if not every film made by a woman makes a difference. And we need women’s film festivals more than ever if just for the reason that so many think of them as obsolete.

But there is a more general aspect to the example of Sweden. I think one of the major inner problems women film festivals had to face in the nineties is the dissolving of feminist identity politics in gender and queer theory. I don’t want to talk here about the question how much sense this may theoretically make. But for practical feminist politics that development left behind an open space, that is not easy to fill. One solution to this can be to create new identification. This is what many lesbian film festivals do very successfully until today, even if sometimes their programmers try to avoid it. At Feminale in Cologne for example, in times where the rest of the festival suffered from audience losses and disinterest, the separate lesbian program was always packed.

But an open space can also be a chance. And another possibility to react to the new situation could be to create new and different audience approaches. In this context I think we have to realise that the times of ever-growing audiences are definitely over and that this is perhaps not the worst thing to happen. And sometimes going on into the future may also mean to downsize in the present, not in professionalism and quality but in extension of films and times. Being small is not always a sign of weakness. Instead of sheer size we should focus more on intensity, on possibilities of visual, historical and social learning and on communication. "

Silvia Hallensleben, a German film journalist, at the meeting of the Working Group “Women and Film in Europe” during the 26th edition of Festival de Films des Femmes at Créteil/France in March 2004.


Shut Up Yourselves!

The Dixie Chicks are the subject of an excellent well-crafted new documentary by Barbara Kopple. Shut Up and Sing. The title comes from one of the country group’s ex fans who would feel perfectly content if everything that is disturbing to her was censored and muzzled. Why are artists assumed to be exempt from having opinions about political causes and world matters? Why are they just supposed to entertain? This contempt for the artist as the public's stooge recalls some of the films of Ingmar Bergman about the theme of the artist as outsider such as the most vivid example The Magician (1958, Sweden).

The Dixie Chicks
gained infamous popularity after a statement made at a concert in London in 2003 that they were ashamed that George Bush Jr comes from Texas. The comment was picked up by the Guardian in London and syndicated making its way back to the USA. A personal opinion about the governor from the state of Texas, who many still refer our controversial often foot in mouth high commander as, is all lead singer Natalie Maines expressed, but it’s like the game of gossip when someone whispers a simple statement into someone’s ears and by the time it gets around the circle it’s completely distorted. After the comment the group got death threats and were declared unpatriotic, radio stations wouldn’t play their music by listener request and their concerts and record sales sagged. It smacks of the way Jane Fonda’s visit to North Vietnam was used in a smear campaign to make her an enemy of the state. The most revealing comment made by Martie Maguire in the documentary is that the hidden reason they seem targeted is because they are supposedly a nice group of refined women that represent the myth of purity in America. And it seems like the unpopular war in Iraq needs a scapegoat just like the Vietnam War to stop the dissent. What better target than women. It also seems true that war is ultimately about a deep down hatred of women, as bearers of life on this planet. So to this end Kopple gives ample room to the fact that these women are mothers with children and husbands who support their work with intimate scenes of the women and their loved ones. These are some of the best parts of the film, especially as one finds it hard to fathom death threats from people who don’t even know them and what was actually said.

The film principally shows the interactions between the PR and record label people who handle the Dixie Chicks, personal comments from Natalie Maines, Emily Robison and Martie Maguire and about what happened to them since the London concert, and the reactions good and bad to their work. It is an impassioned study of a group who speaks their mind spearheaded by a frivolous comment on a night in a country where the anti war sentiment is strong especially the unpopularity of Bush’s ally Tony Blair. To what extent are artists allowed freedom of speech, that is the question and why the immature belief that artists are wind up talking dolls in service to the people. The extent to which corporate radio yanked the music off the airwaves shows a very sad and disturbing state affairs about basic civil liberties in our country. Shut Up and Sing shows that it is all about freedom of speech and expression and how we had better not forget it. Freedom of speech, speaking out and having a voice. Yeah! On to the Grammies Dixie Chicks. You go girls!

Review Broadcast For Movie Magazine International, San Francisco. December 29th 2006 ©Moira Sullivan


The Twelve Days of Cochina: Marga Gomez at Theatre Rhinoceros, San Francisco.
This is not a film review, no siree bob, its about a theater production written by Marga Gomez. But she has starred in several indie films including, THE D WORD, a spoof on THE L WORD, and so the work of this multi-talented artist is here for you all to appreciate.
Marga Gomez is a household word in San Francisco, and she is back in town, her "creative home" as she puts it. (And MY "mythical home", proclaims CinéFemme!). I managed to catch this über talented performer in Stockholm years ago in a museum built to house the enormous shipwrecked Vasa, which sunk on its maiden voyage in the 16th century. It escapes me what Gomez was up to in Stockholm that year, but the spunk and fire that fuels her performance about oh , 20 years later was in crystalline form. She has only gotten better and better and better, every time I see her.

Just know that in an oppressive political period there are a lot of tight asses. I guess you can say this is the theme of this new piece. There has been an outgrowth of Laura Bush jokes by female comics from Margaret Cho to Sandra Bernhard to Gomez that invite us to explore how Hubby Bush can't possibly be satisfying her and women can do it better. Here, that Condoleezza Rice and the first lady librarian could be a better and kinkier match. So too, Al Gore could have done infinite wonders for the White House, if he hadn't been such a tight ass. Gomez makes that clear.

The story of The Twelve Days of Cochina begins with the upbringing of a young Latino American girl who learns that everything she puts into her mouth is dirty, making no exceptions for consensual sex as she grows older. Lesbian bed death aside, on Xmas eve she learns that her lover has dumped her for someone else. Perhaps that is why they haven't had sex for a long time and her girlfriend is always at work. Cochina goes on a war path which includes a visit to Walgreen's to become the yuletide "discrepancy bitch". She knows the parameters of this archetype having suffered lines of Xmas shoppers in order to overindulge her waylaid exlover. But she learns from the ghost of Xmas past, her auntie, (Theatre Rhinoceros could only afford one Xmas ghost being low budget , Gomez reveals) that she should live more and have more sex. It may seem a little corny but there is some truth to the missing life force of a loveless life. Or a sexless love life.

As time goes on I swear I am listening to Guy Debord's Situationist Manifesto that digs at the commodity tradeoff involved in sexual repression. Even some of his offspring who "demand new sex organs" because the one's we have don't function very well. Maybe that is why there is a sex toy market......or maybe even that is why the Austrian psychiatrist Willhem Reich really went to prison.

One things is for sure, Napoleon Hill seems to be right about handshakes (Think and Grow Rich, 1937). He says they reveal the presence or absence of a vital sexuality and even the potential for success. Most folks aren't really "successful" till they are 50 he proclaimed, and all goes "mano et mano" with mind-body-soul alignment. When will the conservatives ever learn? George never has, and I don't think Laura ever will either. With or without Rice.

Just know that Gomez' timing is sublime all the way through the one hour and forty five minute one woman act. There is subtlety and wild antics and the comedian is a veteran in knowing when to speed up, slow down and stop for parking. Some of the musical numbers require a stronger voice, but Gomez makes no pretense she is a vocalist or musician and doesn't let it rip like Sandra Bernhard. (There is only one lesbian standup world class vocalist I know that could pull it off with the right musicians) You can't have everything not even for Xmas. Like Bernhard, Gomez has a taste for stacking up the cultural icons that belong under the Xmas tree, when you're not having sex and don't have someone who breathlessly rushes at the same speed to snuggle under the mistletoe for a kiss.

I wish I could do justice to the elastic body of Marga Gomez: Suffice it to say she is in great shape and pulls off physical elocution like a gyroscope at a fun house. If you are a suspicious spectator determined to make her work for a laugh you will find yourself in agreement with the lofty wit of Gomez in roughly the first quarter. Its impossible not to imbibe in her energy and wherever you are on the relationship spectrum there is something for all and for all a good night.

Today would have been the last day of the show, extended through New Year's Eve at Theatre Rhinoceros, San Francisco.


Welcome CinéFemme Back to Paris and Cineffable!

After a summer hiatus....
With Cineffable News!

From Greencine
November 06, 2006
Paris Dispatch.
Moira Sullivan looks back on a Parisian highlight which took place October 27 through 30.
The Paris Cineffable Feminist and Lesbian Festival is a pearl of a festival, an international "non-mixte" event exclusively for women. Since 1989, it has been held during what can be seen as the (unsuccessful) attempt to bring Halloween to France and just before la Toussaint (All Saints Day). This year the 18th edition took place at the legendary Trianon Theatre, built in the late 19th century and a former venue for Jacques Brel, and at the folklore museum Halle Saint Pierre, both situated just below the Sacré Coeur. The Trianon conveniently accommodates everyone who buys an adhésion or membership fee for €8, and the entire program of nearly 80 films can be seen for €45. Attendance is up 23 percent over last year, so there will most certainly be a 19th edition. The festival also features several "non-mixte" film events during rest of the year in Paris. Run by approximately 50 volunteers, Cineffable is sponsored in part by the city of Paris and one of its best and most eclectic radio stations, Radio Nova. This year's trailer featured a smart collage set to Brigitte Bardot's 1967 classic "Harley Davidson."

Cineffable's success is partly attributable to the vision of the selection committee, which culled the 7000 short films submitted to come up with an excellent package featuring the best in lesbian global cinema. The committee regularly travels San Francisco's LGBT festival, Frameline, and maintains contact with many other gay and lesbian film festivals around the world. While all the films need to be translated into French, the team as a whole is fluent in six languages. The program includes a screenwriting award with support for production and features debates at Halle Saint Pierre. This year there were discussions on same sex parenting, racism and discrimination; eleven photographers, engravers, sculptors, poets and writers discussed and displayed their work; and there was a presentation from the French group, Slam O'Féminin. Modeled to some extent on Créteil Films de Femmes, Cineffable weaves political activism with eroticism, poignant stories with humor.

Besides a concert by Nawal, a vocalist from the Comores archipelago in the Indian Ocean, opening night featured The Journey, the story two young upper class Indian women who attend a private school in a small village and later fall in love. This brings problems to Kiran, as Delilah will soon enter into an arranged marriage. Filmmaker Ligy J Pullappally was born in India, grew up in Chicago, became a lawyer and then returned to India to make this film. Several other directors represented at the festival seem to be living in countries other than their homelands as well.

Slam poetry was one of the main themes of the films of this festival. The audience award for best short documentary went to Krudas, a film on Cuban lesbian rappers beautifully executed by Sandra Boero-Imwinkelried from Argentina who studied cinema at the University of Cordoba. Left Lane, by Samantha Farinella, founder of One Angry Woman Productions, won the award for best feature documentary. The doc, not as brilliant as Boero-Imwinkelried's, follows a year on the road with Alix Olson, a spoken word poet.

The theme same sex marriage was evident in other recent work. In The Attack of the Bride Monster by Vicky Boone, a woman uses all of her energy to convince her partner to marry her. The same theme is explored in Floored by Love by Desiree Lim, who grew up in Malaysia and Japan and now works in Canada. Two Asian-Canadian partners, one from Japan and the other from China, want to tell their parents about their relationship and their plans to marry. Meanwhile, their Jewish neighbors have a son who is just coming out.

Two feature films that won prizes at the Créteil festival last spring were featured at Cineffable this year. Both is a compelling drama that explores the life of a bisexual stuntwoman. San Francisco-based and Peruvian-born Lisset Barcellos directed the feature. The other film, Sévigné by Marta Balletbò-Coll, is about a famous theater director who falls in a love with a playwright. It stars Anna Azcona as well as the director herself.

The audience award for best feature film was tied between Sévigné and Fremde Haut (Unveiled) by Angelina Maccarone from Italy, a film about an Iranian woman who is forced to take on the identity of a deceased man in order to survive in Germany. As the festival wrapped, several French spoken word poets performed, followed by the presentation of "the best of the 18th," featuring several short films. The fabulous "Cineffablians" are planning a gala festival to commemorate the 20th edition with a Greek theme.
Edited by David Hudson, Greencine