Happy PRIDE DAY San Francisco!
See film review of "Born in Flames", by Moira Jean Sullivan
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.)
FIPRESCI Federation of International Film Critics
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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...
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.