Anna Karina in Pierre le Fou


61st Cannes Film Festival

The 61st Cannes Film Festival ended on May 25 after a 10 day run, the festival which is one of the most prestigious and which is known for screening artistic world class films. What was really refreshing about this years Cannes was the choice of the jury president, Mr. Sean Pean, a man who has worked hard for films with social issues and who has really come into his own. Other jury members included Natalie Portman and Alfonso Cuaron.

The Palme d'Or this year when to The Class by Laurent Cantet and was presented by Robert De Niro. This is the first time a French film won the top prize in 21 years. The film is about a teacher who tries to prepare a junior high school class in a rough neighborhood in Paris for the future, though the students challenge the way that he goes about it. The story is autobiographical and the teacher, François Bégaudeau, plays himself. The jury chose this film unanimously and Sean Penn said it is the young people of today who have the responsibility for the future of the planet.

Two veterans received the special Prize of the 61st Festival de Cannes the so-called ex-aequo awards.

Catherine Deneuve for A Christmas Tale by Arnaud DESPLECHIN also starring the French-Italian actress Chiara Mastroianni, the daughter of Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni.

And Clint EASTWOOD won for The Changeling, the story of a mother played by Angela Jolie whose kidnapped son is returned but who knows it is not her son.

The Award for the Best Director went to Nuri Bilge CEYLAN for Three Monkeys, a film that like its title deals with corruption in a family that doesn’t want to see hear or speak the truth.

At the press conference for the jury it was noted that the two acting awards went to films with social relevance:

Benicio Del Toro was awarded for his performance in Che, by Steven SODERBERGH, the story of Che Guevara, the Argentinean doctor that sailed to Cuba to help bring about the downfall of Batista together with Fidel Castro. Soderbergh understands that the length all of 267 minutes, may scare off the average audience and his hope is that it can be shown in installments.

Sandra Corveloni won the other award for her role in LINHA DE PASSE by Walter SALLES, a film about the hopeless conditions for four brothers in Sao Paolo who struggle to avoid falling into a life of crime. Corveloni plays their mother the housemaid Clueza,

Other veterans who have been awarded at Cannes previously were Jean-Pierre et Luc DARDENNE who won the Best Screenplay award for Lorna’s Silence the story of an Albanian woman who acquires Belgian citizenship by marrying a Russian Mafioso.

The feeling this year was that there was a lot of good films, and not enough prizes to reward all of the good work. This was not a year when a film like The Brown Bunny, by Bad Boy Vincent GALLO stood among the talent. And Sean Penn brought a quality to the festival that will make the 61st edition stand out for a while, with a French film at the top.

Broadcast on Movie Magazine International, San Francisco, May 26, 2008.


Hollywood, A Country for Old Men and Foreigners

Postscript: Oscars Numero 80
The anticipation is always higher than what the Oscars can deliver. I think Jon Stewart's opening line says it all: "No Country for Old Men, Let There Be Blood, Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber?
Does Hollywood need a hug? Thank god for teenage pregnancy."
Maybe Hollywood does and maybe it doesn't. But the Oscars might need an audience, and the 80th edition had one of the lowest turnouts ever.
Word is out that at least in the USA viewing was low because not enough Americans were nominated! Looking at the actor categories its pretty awesome to note that the winners are all from outside the JUESSAY. Both Tilda and Marion gave kudos to the men that make them rock: Olivier Dahan and George Clooney and then Javier Bardem thanked his mother and Daniel Day Lewis his girfriend.
Joel Cohen revealed that what they do in No Country for Old Men is no different from their first film, Henry Kissinger on the Move, shot in Super 8. I hope that my Super 8 film on The Underwater Real Estate Twins and a human ashtray will catapult me to Oscar glory. It is really the same, yes it is. Time will tell.
The Oscars could be significantly shortened by taking out the music numbers and stop mentioning "Jack" all the time. As a role model it is unfortunate that he is the leading veteran in the house. Could we say his appearance with Boris Karloff in The Terror (1963) is actually no different from his appearance at the Oscars?
Indeed, Hollywood seems to really be a country for old men, and the men who make the women rock. And the men who decided to put them all in one arm dresses this year.
One refreshing addition to this Oscars was the thank you speech by Cynthia Wade, winner of the best short. She directed Freeheld, the true story of the terminally ill Lieutenant Laurel Hester who wanted to leave her pension benefits to her life partner - Stacie.
(PS 35,000 viewers from Sweden watched the ceremony on TV9- 45,000 average in the Red Carpet - acknowledged during the pre-event for sending email- and up from 20,000 viewers last year. Population of Sweden, 9 million.

Oscar-itis, Numero 80

The 80th edition of the Oscars are on TV9 in Stockholm this year and you have to wait until the end of the month to add cable channels. Hello? Timing?
When it comes to services, the bureaucrats of (Sweden) are fashionably late, albeit retro... not a politically incorrect statement; backwards, intentional refusal to update the world ; insistence in living in a cubicle of stubbornness. SO, I MADE the bureaucrats ADD TV9 before March 1! The "cable people". I wonder if they are really the "TV people" from Poltergeist living inside the set behind the war of the ants! Whew! This was hard, but persistence is rewarded, and this approach works! Disarm the bureaucrats before they can say no. Drive close up to their bumper and then ram! But the tailpipe may backfire: "we can't do it because everyone will want it then", or "that is not the way we do things". True customer (dis)service. Just a teenie little cultural idiosyncracy, enough to drive you to drink.

SEEING the Oscars is the name of the game! First hurdle every year, at least in Sweden. The media conglomerates keep channel switching the coverage to different hosts; only IF a Swedish film is nominated will the national channels pony up the money. OK the show is expensive, more expensive then Dallas reruns anyway. (According to Svenska Dagbladet 2008-02-27, 58% of the TV shows in Sweden are from USA, because they are cheaper). The condensed Reader's Digest version of the Oscars is broadcast two days later (subtitles included, and great to understand what Javier Bardem said about his mother!) With a speedy version of the technical and artistic achievement categories. This is really really sad.

I'll never forget the year I saw the Oscars in Paris on Canal + and the commentators talked on top of everyone the entire time, turned down the volume on the speakers so you couldn't even tune them out. Like a football game. But at least in Sweden they DON'T, and when they cut to commercials there is some pretty good analysis by some pretty good film critics. This year it was fashion expert Ellen Kling ( who left after 30 minutes into the show), program leader Pontus Gårdinger AND the popular film critic with the wirey hair, Hans Wiklund.

Best cinematography is a wonderful category at the Oscars that is awarded, the use of the camera and lighting in a film. I think the cinematography in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is excellent, bright light and soft focus, radiant outdoor shots and just incredible visual style. Hope it wins best cinematography. Director Julien Schnabel did Before Night Falls with Javier Bardem. (According to Maria Schneider, arthouse diva from Last Tango in Paris, Schnabel is one of the few arthouse directors out there). Its the six degrees of Javier this year! Javier Bardem for best supporting actor!--he is a real icon like Hannibal Lector as far as (serial ) murderers go in No Country for Old Men. How else could you describe him? That hairdo just is over the top! We will never forget him! Especially if he wins. I can bet you someone wears a Sugar Wig tonite!
I hope Atonement doesn't win anything! Actually I don't really care how a film compares to a book. It shouldn't even be considered. A film is a film, and a book is a book. Please just keep it separate. Usually book ideas don't make great films because film is not literary, its visual, so if people are SO disappointed go back and read the book. Film owes you nothing. Just your story for inspiration, that is all.

Haven't seen Juno, yet, or There Will be Blood, or Michael Clayton. But I would not be unhappy if No Country for Old Men won best picture, supporting actor and director. (and it did!)
Thought Viggo Mortensen was great in Eastern Promises, I loved that film! The great auteur David Cronenberg made it! What can that guy NOT do, and how versatile!
I am partial to Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd as best actor , a real ST fan I am! We have the advantage of the musical tradition in the USA which Sweden does not. Hard to sell this film perhaps because it is such a great musical, and well, then a musical is a musical, and a film is a film.

Torn between Julie Christie for Away From Her, a compassionate and moving film directed by Sarah Polley , a young director with such a sensitivity for the elderly, and Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf for La Môme - for best actress. Love them both. Olivier Dahan, the director of La Môme, was invited for the San Francisco International Film Festival, closing film 2007- and was a bit obnoxious, but I think he had stage fright. That is a real oxymoron.

TORN between Persepolis and Ratatouile for best animated film. Tight race! Both are brilliant. Ratatouille will probably win, its so Americano/Francophilo.
Have not seen I'm Not There yet oj oj oj but hear Cate Blanchett is good as Bob Dylan (she is currently in overuse syndrome), and Heath Ledger (really sorry to see you go) but NOT Richard Gere. Oh Please!
Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a great actor but like Cate is overused in almost everything. I loved him in Capote. He could have retired after that one.

I will attempt to be glued to the set tonite, but will probably fall asleep unfortunately and wake up when the credits roll and the war of the ants begins. Its on here at 2.30am. No way around that. "Aphrodite, crowned in gold, please let this piece of luck of mine".
After the writers strike everyone will be out in droves. Hair, makeup, and tacky American ball room dresses. (Red Carpet on TV9 at midnite) I can't wait till Cannes for some real designs. Have to look at the tuxes then, usually a lot better. Alas, not sure if its a great Oscar year. But then don't we say that every year?
And what about that writer's strike? Seems like missing the Red Carpet at the Golden Globes was a fate worse than death. What Solidaritet! Could have missed the Oscars actually. Still haven't wrapped my head around the issues that need to be clarified once and for all.

As for Sicko half good, half bad. That is BEFORE Michael Moore makes his patronizing Disneyland switch to document health care in Cuba and Europe. It really fell apart after the USA report, which was great- intelligent, with the hard cold facts. Ironically, in Sweden health care is starting to become privatized!

Happy Oscars to you! Drop me a line during the show if you can any of you cinephiles!

This movie never won an Oscar, but like Ghostbusters, you can see it over and over and over and never get sick of it.
Hint: it was inspired by The Birds.


Diana Rigg at the Old Vic

Is there anything Diana Rigg can't do? From James Bond's wife to a veteran stage actor in love with a lesbian drug addict, this actor has proven her versatility and extraordinary acting craft time after time. At the London Old Vic through November 24th, All About My Mother is a dramatic rendition of Pedro Almodóvar's cult film about a mother who loses her son in an accident, fathered by the transsexual Lola.
And just to prove that the attempt to dramatize the film on stage was approved, Aldmodóvar was on hand at the opening nite in London with Penelope Cruz and Cecilia Roth on September 4th, along with quite a few queer folks. Listen to upcoming review of play on October 24th for Movie Magazine International, San Francisco.

Jeanne Moreau in Stockholm

Jeanne Moreau was guest at the Swedish Film Institute on October 6th to honor Ingmar Bergman. She revealed a story about letters to Bergman sent after an unhappy love affair with Louis Malle. They planned on making a film called Monstrous Love, but when Bergman was arrested for a tax violation the film never came to be. Upcoming review of Long Live Bergman Weekend in Stockholm and interview with Jeanne Moreau on Movie Magazine International, San Francisco on October 17.


Farewell Rita Chan!

September 21, 2007

Dear Sister!

There is no one that I have met that so much embodies the North American spirit than you: fun-loving and compassionate, generous and hard-working, courageous and outrageous. You had all these wonderful qualities in spades. And your light never went out. You were a constant fountain of vitality giving to Sweden your gifts, and wherever you went in the world. As you became more and more Swedish, you gave the culture a polish and shine that we will all miss. A wonderful and enchanting light has gone out, but your radiance will always be here in this country.

I am so honored to have you as a friend since the 1980’s and to keep in touch with you through the years on our journeys. I know we missed our roots in the States but we both loved Sweden and Swedish women and that is pretty close to heaven, I think we both agreed. We made this wonderful journey to Stockholm at almost the same time and stuck together through the years. You made it a point to remember my birthday and were there for many of my important life rituals.

So sister countrywoman from Sweden, I salute you, and will always. Thanks for all your networking and brainstorming and support through the years. Thanks for promoting lesbian culture, bringing Holly Near to Sweden, and all your activism for immigrant women in Sweden and the LGBT world. Our film made ten years ago is a living testimony of your humor, your vitality, and your compassion for women. I have it waiting to show you, as you requested last time we met.
You will be deeply missed Rainy. I am so grateful for our time together and in light years, I am moments behind you.

Moira, San Francisco, CALIFORNIA

My thoughts and prayers to Rita’s family: Petra and family, Kicki and Mette and Yvonne.
Tribute to Rita "Rainy" Creighton, September 21, 2007 at Nalen, Stockholm, SWEDEN.


Jodie Foster is Back!

The Brave One directed by Neil Jordan stars Jodie Foster and its her best performance since Silence of the Lambs, 15 years ago. Truly this film puts her out there again, conjuring up memories of the tough girl in Taxi Driver who walks the streets of New York as a precocious preteen. Only this time she is cleaning up the streets of New York, instead of Robert De Niro's "You talking to me?"- Well she doesn’t say that exactly. But when a pimp calls her a Super -"Expletive", she lets him know that he has just met his own private hell.

Erika Bain and her boyfriend Naveen Andrews played by David Kirmani --- take their dog for a walk in the park at night. What’s the harm? There are people sitting on park benches. Well, three street thugs decide to take their dog, brutally assaulting Erika and beating her boyfriend to death. As they assault the young couple the men film the attack. Erika wakes up in intensive care after spending weeks in a coma, thereby missing the funeral of her boyfriend. She works as a radio correspondent and she does a “different” kind of show—socially relevant programs. Her special reports bring her to the attention of Detective Mercer (Terence Howard) who remembers her assault and who is investigating a parallel murder. Erika suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and takes pills for her nerves. But one day she decides she can’t live in fear. And she decides she can’t wait 30 days to get a handgun. She needs it now and badly and in a serious of random crimes she personally observes, she is let into an existence as a vigilante.

The Brave One is a female revenge vehicle and no one is more qualified than Foster. She been pimped out in Taxi Driver, sexually assaulted in The Accused , set up to weasel out information from Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs and go mano e mano with a serial murderer. But after all that, it all gets kind of tame for Foster in pictures. She’s in a western with Richard Geer and a period piece in Siam, but starts up her own production company.

Then the engines seem to roar again with the kind of visceral raw toughness that Foster has in spades. One project is with Mathieu Kassovitz to present La Haine (Hatred) about gang violence in the Parisian suburbs with yet another reference to Travis Bickle and Taxi Driver; she’s locked in a safe house in Panic Room; her daughter is abducted in Flight Plan. The woman has had it all happen to her. It’s all about defending her integrity and her right to be safe. The message of this film comes from post 9/11 New York, and it’s a grim tale about payback and justice. Erika manages to elude the police and everything thinks she’s a guy, but soon the picture starts to flesh itself out.

Death comes unexpectedly and leaves a hole in her heart. Erika needs to reinvent herself she has become another person shaken by senseless violence. Her vengeance becomes a way out and the message is not pretty.

Neil Jordan has directed The Crying Game and Interview with a Vampire. He is fascinated with American violence, as many Europeans who live in relatively safe ethnically homogenous cultures with social welfare programs seem to be. It’s a fascinating subject for the movies, and New York violence is easy to sell. The style for The Brave One is over the top: Both the camerawork and editing convey the confusion and disorder of chaos. Sarah McLaughlin is not a good choice to deliver the film theme, but the song does make it into a love story and tempers the violence. Ironically the Dixie Chicks come up in the film as being too tame for this city. But certainly not Jodie Foster.

Go to "Listening Room" started September 22, 2007 at Movie Magazine International for a broadcast based on this review.


Rita Chan Creighton

Rita (Rainy) Chan Creighton, 1951- 2007

Thanks for the energy, the activism, the support, the friendship through so many years in Stockholm , Rainy. We were the few dual nationals in Stockholm since the 70's and it was always fun to meet you. Thanks for the Holly Near concert, and bringing women's culture to Sweden through the years. Thanks for your motorcycle - your travels in Japan and Europe were truly inspirational.
You touched so many people's lives. Thanks for being active with immigrant women's issues and the first Feminist Party in Sweden F! You caught the flowers at my wedding and were blessed in love many times over all over the world. You were humble and never held a grudge and stood by me all through the years. You will be sorely missed.

"Is That You Hortense?", our film from 1997, will forever immortalize your humor and joy for life.


Jamie Babbit Closes Frameline; Andrea Sperling Receives Frameline 2007 Award

Frameline went out in grand queer cinema style after eleven days of screenings and at the end of San Francisco Pride. Andrea Sperling received the Frameline 2007 Award, citing her influences including Maya Deren. Sperling has produced several award winning gay and lesbian films such as But She's a Cheerleader, and works with Power Up, a LA lesbian entertainment film organization for writers, directors, and producers. Her partner Jamie Babbit closed the festival with her new feature Itty Bitty Titty Committee, also produced by Sperling and aptly named for a young radical feminist group that spray paints institutions and billboards to get women to resist the media campaigns for silicon implants. And a few other things. Like demonstrating against gay marriage - because "marriage is fundamentally a patriarchal institution", earmarking historic town statues that celebrate racists or to create new statues of women who changed the world, like Angela Davis. On hand were the actors of the film and crew such as screenwriter Abigail Shafran. Babbitt referred to the character of Sadie - one of the leads - as a troublemaker, but actress Nicole Vicius countered with good humor, "she's not a troublemaker, she's got holes". The film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and was nominated for a Teddy Award. Vicius remarked that someone from that festival audience made a similar remark and just hadn't read the character right. I do agree. The film has an LA aura of Born in Flames, though certainly not as radical as its predecessor. There is great possibility in the script however though the director doesn't claim to live according to the radical ideals of her film, the ones which made the audience roar . Babbitt underlined that she is "not a radical feminist". The festival closed with a party at the Swedish American Hall bearing a dark rustic country wholesomeness. I have never seen a building like this ever in Sweden. In attendance was Babbit, Sperling, Vicius and Go Fish and L Word writer and actor Guinivere Turner, who wanted a bigger part in Babbit's world, but "had to settle with a minor role she said since she is no longer in her 20's". Also on hand was French filmmaker Catherine Corringer who presented her film This is the Girl, and the programmer from the Paris Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Florence Fradelizi, who starred in the film and made a hit with the San Francisco public.


Frameline All Told

Frameline has earned its reputation as a vital festival for queer film. In recent years the agenda has grown to incorporate not only lesbian, gay and bisexual films but transgender subjects. Still the strongest and most economically viable venues are for gays and lesbian, the films that are most heavily attended. Its a huge population out there, and films like Starrbooty (Mike Ruiz) starring Ru Paul, and Nina's Heavenly Delight (Pratibha Parmar , UK) were some of the the biggest heavy hitters at the festival. Ruiz wacky blaxploitation film puts supermodel Starrbooty (Ru Paul) on the trail of an evil woman selling body parts. Parmar who has turned towards features after a successful oeuvre of documentaries tells the story of love between a woman from Glasgow who becomes an Indian restauranteer and one of the staff.
Programmers from festivals all over the world such as Sweden (Göteborg), France (Cineffable and Paris Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and Brazil (Mix Brasil Fest), attend to bring the films to international communities. The festival features 250 films in 11 days with about 200 filmmakers in attendance.

Pride in San Francisco

Its the largest parade of its kind in the world, and over a million spectators and participants lined the streets of San Francisco.The previous day Pride event was no minor event with over 20,000 women in the annual Dyke March walking through the Mission up to the Castro district. The theme of the march was "Health Care for All". Pre-march entertainment was held at Delores Park including the outstanding vocalist Vickie Randle as special guest. In the evening the Castro became a huge block party. Mayor Gavin Newsom was at the head of the June 24th Pride parade, following of course about 400 dykes on bikes, the parade's official starting event. The three and half hour event heralded lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders in all walks of live: teachers, parents, police, firemen and the IT industry and parents and friends of gays and lesbians PFLAG.
Happy PRIDE DAY San Francisco!

Born in Flames Revival at Frameline

Lizzie Borden's Born in Flames from 1983 was shown at Frameline LBGT Festival. Special guest, Hillary Hurst who plays the first captain of the women's army in the film appeared at the screening and spoke about the making of this cult classic. Considered radical already for its time, Born in Flames evokes the spirit of 70's feminism, because it actually began production in 1976, according to Hurst and was seven years in the making. (When more funds became available shooting continued with a second captain - Honey ). The film is set in the future after the socialist revolution in the USA! The socialist party is ineffective however and still unable to provide jobs or stop violence against women. So a women's army is formed, a grass roots movement that patrols on bicycles and intervenes when women are being sexually assaulted or harassed on the subway (Dana Johnson) . The film weaves the connections between of racism, sexism and classicism into a powerful futuristic story that received appreciable recognition by the Frameline public. The film tackles the role of the media, working hand in the hand with the government, in the perpetuation of injustice and an eerie ending which definitely proves to have foreshadowed the future takes place. Eventually the army takes over a TV station to interrupt a Presidential broadcast advocating "wages for housewives". A film is forced under gunpoint with the message that women are in far greater need of equal opportunities in the job market than housework.

See film review of "Born in Flames", by Moira Jean Sullivan


Susan Stryker Said...

Susan Stryker is a well known transsexual activist in San Francisco and is one of the most vocal on the Frameline decision. Stryker has both supported the Frameline decision to pull The Gendercator , that Frameline was not an appropriate venue , and also believed it was important to screen it. This letter appeared in Left in San Francisco.

  1. Susan Stryker Says:

    "I obtained a copy of the film, viewed it, and corresponded with Catherine Crouch before making any comment.

    I decided to support this petition because Frameline, as an LGBT inclusive organization, is not the appropriate venue for this sort of work. The film expresses a long-familiar anti-transgender polemic: the idea that transsexuals are anti-gay, anti-feminist political reactionaries who collude with repressive social and cultural power; furthermore, that transsexuals are complicit in the non-consensual bodily violation of women.

    The ideas in the film echo the rhetoric of Janice Raymond’s Transsexual Empire (1979), which goes so far as to claim that Nazis invented transsexual surgery, that transsexuals are agents of a patriarchal conspiracy to replace biologically female women, to accuse all transsexuals of being rapists (because they represent an “unwanted penetration” of women’s space), and to argue in a eugenic fashion that transsexuals should be “morally mandated out of existence.”

    Raymond’s book, and the film, engage in the paranoid fantasy that what transsexuals do to their own bodies is somehow a threat to the bodies of nontranssexual women, that the very existence of transsexuals will somehow “force” a nontranssexual woman to have her body violated through some sort of compulsory and unwanted transformation–it’s the same structure of fantasy that imagines that all black men want to rape white women, that gays are predatory pedophiles, that communists are secretly infiltrating our government, that terrorists are swarming across our borders, that drug pushers are constantly trying to hook our kids, and so on ad nauseum. The film projects fear onto an “alien other” and then condemns that other for reflecting back that fear to the person who has projected it there in the first place.

    The director’s comments on the website betray a profound ignorance of the on-going, sophisticated conversations among feminist, queer, and trans activists and scholars about medicalization, pathologization, body modification, and other related issues–and frankly, for that matter, about misogyny and sexism within transgender communities and discourse. Her remarks suggest that she assumes she’s knows what best for other people, and that people who have made different choices than her, or felt different needs, or found other ways to be happy, self-fulfilled, productive members of society, are “distorted.” Sadly, that’s a move that liberal feminism has made many times, and it has only and always served to reinforce the privilege of the most advantaged populations of women, and to extend the repressive apparatus of sovereign power to the detriment of those on the margins. I have no qualms about working as actively as possible against such forms of feminism, and refuse to let such forms of feminism claim to represent feminism in its totality.

    But to return to the matter at hand, I personally think that sponsoring a “special screening” of Gendercator in San Francisco, perhaps sponsored by Frameline as part of its public process for dealing with the controversy, contextualized by a moderated panel discussion and presentations on the history of the issues involved, would provide an excellent opportunity to advance discussion on this matter. I guarantee, however, that any discussion in San Francisco would not be the one the filmmaker seems to think she would instigate. She would not be bringing the truth to poor confused transsexuals who would suddenly say, “Gee, it never dawned on me that I was embodying a distorted cultural norm.” She would be further mobilizing an already highly articulate, politically engaged, progressive community of queer/trans people to hold a homocentric GLB(T) to higher standards of accountability on trans issues, and to further isolate an increasingly isolated strand of anti-transsexual lesbian feminism.

    For that reason, while I support Frameline’s decision to pull the film as inappropriate for their mission, I truly regret that the film will not be shown. I hope it finds another venue where it will be subjected to the rigorous critique it so richly deserves.

    Susan Stryker

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.