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In the fest’s early days, Reel Affirmations’ best bets were documentaries, especially if they came from British TV. Then imported fiction films became a reliable component, thanks in part to a boom in gay-themed Hong Kong movies. Now, in the festival’s 11th year, no such shorthand is possible. The fare has become so diverse that this year’s catalog poses a question that occurred to us, too: “What makes a film gay?” The lineup includes some movies—Waterboys, Meet the Mosaics, and Skeleton Woman, for example—that feature gay characters but don’t directly address the gay experience.

Gay and lesbian films “don’t always have to be stories about who slept with whom,” notes festival director Sarah Kellogg in the catalog essay. Of course, the fest does include such movies, including films, such as Drift and The Girl, that are about little else. There are also interesting documentaries on such expected Reel Affirmations subjects as two-mommy pregnancy (Swimming Upstream), women who play “male” sports (True-Hearted Vixens), gay commitment ceremonies and the people who are threatened by them (A Union in Wait), and distinctive gay artists (Ross Bleckner, Freddie Mercury, and Phranc, featured in two “Out in the Arts” programs).

While viewing some 30 movies and short-film programs, our critics also found an impressive number of fiction features worth recommending, including Gaudi Afternoon, Play Dead, The Adventures of Felix, Gypsy 83, Km. 0, and our two top picks, Come Undone and Waterboys. Are these gay films? Yes, but they would and should entertain wider audiences. Except maybe the necrophilia one. —Mark Jenkins

Tickets to shows are $8 unless otherwise noted. To order advance tickets by phone, call (800) 494-TIXS. Fax: (800) FAX-TIXS; TDD: (877) TDD-TIXS. To order online, go to www.boxofficetickets.com.

12

FRIDAY

Gaudi Afternoon

Director Susan Seidelman hasn’t had a hit since 1985’s Desperately Seeking Susan. Her solution to this career impasse is to clone that breakthrough comedy. Once again, a frazzled female protagonist embarks on a quest that draws her into a bewildering subculture—and she even becomes involved in a nightclub magic act. But there’s good news: Gaudi Afternoon is friskier and funnier than its predecessor. Judy Davis stars as Cassandra, a neurotic American translator struggling to make ends meet in Barcelona. Frankie (Marcia Gay Harden), a mysterious woman from San Francisco, makes Cassandra an offer that she can’t refuse: $3,000 to locate her former lover Ben, who has kidnapped their young daughter. Cassandra’s mission becomes more complicated when she spots Frankie standing at a urinal, discovers that Ben (played by Lili Taylor) is a woman, and meets Ben’s seductive girlfriend, April (Juliette Lewis in a surprisingly appealing Marilyn Monroe-ish turn). Dowdily dressed, crowned with an unruly mop of hair, and outfitted in schoolmarmish spectacles, Davis gives an uproariously exasperated performance as the short-tempered, caustic, child-hating amateur detective. Seidelman wittily employs Antonio Gaudí’s whimsical, eccentric structures to underscore the Almodóvaresque skeins of James Myhre’s gender-bending screenplay, adapted from a Barbara Wilson novel. Gaudi Afternoon turns soft in its final reel, diminishing Cassandra to a puddle of maternal tears, but it’s delightful until Seidelman zeros in on the heartstrings. —Joel E. Siegel

At 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St. NW.

The Fluffer

Aspiring filmmaker Sean McGinnis (Michael Cunio) rents a video of Citizen Kane only to discover that he’s brought home Citizen Cum, a porno starring muscle man Johnny Rebel (Scott Gurney). Infatuated by what he sees, he obtains a job as a cameraman at the video’s production company, Men of Janus. (Neighborhood wags habitually swipe the J from the firm’s front door.) During Sean’s first day on the job, Johnny has trouble providing the money shot, and the admiring cinematographer eagerly agrees to serve as the star’s “fluffer”—porno lingo for someone who orally assists a performer’s, er, tumescence. Sean’s crush on Johnny is complicated by the fact that the object of his desire is a heterosexual drug addict involved with a stripper who is carrying the actor’s child. The Fluffer, directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash West, begins as a comedy about the adult-film business, then turns darker when Johnny becomes involved in a murder and Sean helps him escape to Mexico. Weakened by abrupt shifts of tone, the film is indifferently acted (except by Gurney, who proves to be more than an impressive physique) and ends moralistically, with the disillusioned Sean paying a price for his sexual obsession. —Joel E. Siegel

At 9 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Phantom

Sergio works the graveyard shift as a garbage collector and cruises the dark streets of Lisbon looking for sex. But when one of his potential paramours gives him the brushoff, a frightening obsession takes hold.

At 11 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

13

SATURDAY

Keeping It Local

Local filmmakers present Changing Room, Cyberslut, A Different Kind of Black Man, First Impressions, The Method, and Soft ‘n Wet Afternoon, films exploring such topics as gay dating, drag-king performances, and overcoming racial oppression.

At 3 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Drift

This is billed as “the gay answer to Sliding Doors,” but that movie had only two romantic scenarios. Writer-director Quentin Lee’s first feature has three, each more tiresome than the one before. Self-absorbed would-be screenwriter Ryan (Reggie Lee) is about to celebrate his third anniversary with easygoing Joel (Greyson Dayne), but he’s feeling restless. Then Ryan meets Leo (Jonathon Roessler), a college student who shares his taste for horror movies, serial-killer sexual fantasies, and, uh, Wordsworth. Ryan leaves Joel for a few days to think about their relationship, and stumbles—drifts, really—into various possible futures: with Leo or with Joel, or with this other guy…The film is apparently somewhat autobiographical; both Lee and his principal characters are Chinese-Canadians who ended up in L.A. The relatively explicit sex may hold some viewers’ attention, but the dialogue is deadly. And having to hear some of it repeated in successive chapters is a major drawback.

—Mark Jenkins

At 5 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Burnt Money

This steamy 2000 action film by Argentine director Marcelo Pieyro is based on a notorious real-life 1960s bank-robbing duo, dubbed “the twins” in reference to their similar good looks.

At 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Circuit

When a small-town cop leaves the force to become a bouncer at a West Hollywood gay club, he is drawn into the seductive world of the Circuit party scene.

At 9:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Digital Sex

Director Amory Peart’s episodic documentary was commissioned and originally broadcast by England’s Channel 4 television as a six-part midnight miniseries. This might explain the annoying coyness that permeates Peart’s investigation of the fringes of contemporary sexuality. In this feature-length version, trimmed to 93 minutes, Peart visits a sex-doll company, converses with phone- and cybersex addicts, interviews cross-dressers and transsexuals, experiences vinyl-vacuum restraint, and hangs out with his pal, actor Alexis Arquette, whose demonstration of autofellatio is discreetly obscured by a pink matte. Spotty and smarmy, Peart, who functions as on-camera narrator, seems to think that this material, the stuff of everyday trash television, is transgressively naughty, and peppers his film with gratingly cheeky, wink-wink, nudge-nudge gags. Too cheesy to merit inclusion in any film festival—or consume any moviegoer’s time.

—Joel E. Siegel

At 11:45 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

14

SUNDAY

Out in the Arts I

Ross Bleckner: Remember Me, Barbara Wolf’s 54-minute profile of the prolific painter, draws strength from its charming, gifted subject. Wolf examines the remarkable range of Bleckner’s 30-year career, capturing him interacting with his proud parents, addressing art students, and holding forth at gallery openings and charitable events. As unpretentious and eloquent as he is talented, Bleckner illuminates the themes of his canvases, which fuse abstraction and representational imagery, and proves to be delightful company: a serious man with a twinkle in his eye. Wolf’s documentary is bound to impress viewers familiar with Bleckner’s work as well as those experiencing his paintings for the first time.

By contrast, Out of the Closet, Off the Screen: The Life & Times of William Haines, produced by filmmakers Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey for American Movie Classics, trashes one of Hollywood’s most intriguing lives. The Virginia-born Haines ventured West in the ’20s and quickly became a popular silent-screen star. But his refusal to conceal his relationship with his lover, Jimmie Shields, led his boss, MGM’s Louis B. Mayer, to cancel Haines’ contract, thereby ending his career. Encouraged by his friend Joan Crawford, Haines then became a successful interior decorator and continued to live openly with Shields until the former actor’s death in 1973. The filmmakers apparently lacked sufficient funds to obtain permission to excerpt Haines’ movies, and the few brief, scratchy clips they include offer no evidence of Haines’ lively performances in such films as King Vidor’s 1928 Show People. Even worse, contemporary actors are dragged in to participate in stiff re-creations of imagined moments from Haines’ and Shields’ lives, and the obligatory talking heads pop up to praise the actor’s principled decision not to lie about his sexual orientation. In an attempt to glorify Haines as a pre-Stonewall poster boy, the filmmakers gloss over both his contempt for the gay-liberation movement and his role as court decorator for the reactionary Reagans, Bloomingdales, and Annenbergs. Haines deserves a more thoughtful documentary than this shallow, maddeningly repetitious piece of hack work. —Joel E. Siegel

At noon at Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes, 814 7th St. NW.

Julie Johnson

Made last year for the now-bankrupt Shooting Gallery Films, this is the sort of well-meaning but unpersuasive little film that gives Amerindie cinema a not-so-good name. The title character (Lili Taylor, of course) is a high school dropout and Hoboken housewife who’s suffocated by life with her cop husband and their two close-minded kids. One day, she admits to her best friend, Claire (Courtney Love, of all people), that she has a secret vice: She buys popular science magazines, even though she doesn’t understand them. “I don’t wanna be stupid no more,” she declares, and soon she’s ejected her hubby, signed up for adult education, and been certified a math prodigy by her benevolent teacher (Spalding Gray, for chrissakes). Julie also inspires Claire to leave her own oppressive spouse, move in with Julie, go back to school, and begin an affair they’ve long secretly fantasized about. Claire’s rebellion doesn’t endure, however: She doesn’t like being called a “dyke,” doesn’t want to study, and misses her old life. Director Bob Gosse apparently thought Claire’s backsliding would balance the idealization of the title character, but Julie is never credible.

—Mark Jenkins

At 1 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

A Union in Wait

After almost 20 years of togetherness, Wendy Scott and Susan Parker decided to have a “union” ceremony at Wake Forest Baptist Church’s Wait Chapel. The two women carefully decided against using the word “marriage,” but their plans became controversial anyway. Wake Forest University banned the observance, and people quickly chose sides. As usual in documentaries like this, the principal characters are interesting, but it’s their antagonists who are luridly fascinating: One protester explains that “fag” is a Biblical term; another blames the whole controversy on that “filthy dyke Maya Angelou.” (On the other side, gay-marriage supporter Andrew Sullivan sounds almost as hysterical.) When the ceremony finally happens, Scott and Parker defuse the tension with comic schtick. The most powerful moment in Ryan Butler’s 47-minute documentary, however, comes earlier: To protest the decision the university ultimately retracted, Scott and Parker’s supporters quietly covered the chapel’s steps with flowers.

—Mark Jenkins

At 2 p.m. at Goethe-Institut.

On the Bus

Dustin Lance Black’s On the Bus, a queer Road Rules, was originally intended as a half-hour documentary to be disseminated by a now-defunct Internet subscription service. Director Black has compressed 20 hours of video footage into a 111-minute cinéma-vérité account of six young gay men who venture to Black Rock City, Nev., for Burning Man, an annual gathering of 20,000-plus uninhibited celebrants. The 20-something cast, handpicked for the voyage, include an Olympic diver, a porn star, a model, a composer, the film’s producer, and the director himself. Had he chosen more interesting and articulate companions, Black’s documentary might have been more compelling, but this nosegay of vacuous, bickering slackers has little on its collective mind apart from vaguely formed career ambitions (which they do nothing to realize), drugs (mushrooms and Ecstasy), and, of course, getting laid. On the Bus is so crudely made that Black frequently resorts to subtitling the garbled soundtrack, and his images aren’t much clearer. Asked at journey’s end what the trip has taught them, the participants fail to arrive at conclusions more profound than “Nobody is alone” and similar bromides. Campier than a Metrobus ride, but nowhere near as suspenseful or edifying. —Joel E. Siegel

At 3 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

True-Hearted Vixens

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“We can be rough, and we can show boobs!” proclaims one of True-Hearted Vixens’ interviewees. But choosing whether to deal sacks or sell sex isn’t the only dilemma for the 80 athletes of the fledgling Women’s Professional Football League (which is sponsored, much to the players’ dismay, by Hooters). The Minnesota-based organization’s male owner has a history of shady business deals, fan support is in the bored hundreds, and the pay for each participant is one-quarter of 1 percent of the inaugural season’s total profits—which turn out to be no profits at all. But despite the endless fourth-and-long obstacles, the gridiron stars of Mylene Moreno’s documentary keep punting, passing, kicking—and beating the living hell out of each other. Sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes uplifting, but at all times entertaining, the film focuses primarily on the two-team league’s two best players: Jane Bolin, a 24-year-old political consultant with linebacker skills, and Kertria “Moochie” Lofton, a 33-year-old full-time athlete and two-sport star who wants to be wide receiver one week and a shooting guard for the Women’s National Basketball Association the next. Boy-crazy at the beginning of the movie, Bolin provides True-Hearted Vixens’ juiciest drama when she falls for another WPFL player. (“I’ve never felt this way about a woman before,” she says.) And the best athlete in the whole film might just be Lofton’s sad-eyed daughter, Ashley, whose own budding b-ball career is put on hold while her determined mother tirelessly pursues her football and hoop dreams. —Sean Daly

At 4 p.m. at Goethe-Institut.

Queen of the Whole Wide World

This documentary explores the world of Los Angeles’ annual Queen of the Whole Wide World Pageant, which started in 1989 to raise funds for those suffering with HIV/AIDS. Director Roger Hyde’s film features glitzy sets, over-the-top costumes (Miss France is the Eiffel Tower), lots of ego wars, and a cameo by Linda Blair.

At 5 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Undetectable

This documentary follows six Boston residents through three years of their battles with HIV/AIDS.

At 6 p.m. at Goethe-Institut.

Km. 0

One sizzling summer day, eight people make plans to meet at Kilometer Zero, the spot in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol that marks the symbolic center of Spain. With so many assignations planned for the same place and time, some confusion inevitably results: The film student who’s just arrived in town mistakes a hooker for the actress he’s supposed to meet, a gay passer-by happily pretends to be the man a flamenco dancer contacted via e-mail, and the displaced computer date ends up going for a drink with the sexually inexperienced, soon-to-be-married guy who arranged to visit the hooker. Even the people who connect as intended are in for a surprise: A middle-aged woman becomes convinced that the gigolo who’s just entertained her is actually her long-lost son. Don’t expect Almodóvar-style outrage from Yolanda Garcia Serrano and Juan Luis Iborra’s easygoing farce—it’s too gentle to use actual incest as a punch line—but as it draws more characters into its orbit, it does include both a woman who goes for a man in a uniform and her teenage sister, who wants Sis’ fiancé. You can’t always get what you want, but this comedy tries its best to accommodate both characters and viewers. —Mark Jenkins

At 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Best of the Fest

Each year, Reel Affirmations compiles a program of what its selection committee deems the finest short films screened at the festival. Two selections stand out from the nine shorts chosen this time around. Jean-François Monette’s Take Out, a 38-minute Canadian short, poetically depicts the erotic frustration of a closeted high school student working part time as a chicken-delivery boy. Concealing his sexual impulses from his classmates, he’s drawn to a chummy older customer living alone in a lavish home. When he finally works up the courage to make a move, he discovers that he’s misread the man’s signals. Martirio, another Canadian film, by Claudia Morgado Escanilla, is a languorous, stylized fantasy about twin-sister trapeze artists trapped in a mysterious house where their fates are manipulated by their epicene father. Most of the remaining selections are comedies, including Bare, by Australian directors Deb Strutt and Liz Baulch, in which a gay male couple accidentally witnesses a lesbian tryst; Boychick, by American Glenn Gaylord, a Jewish joke about horny high-schooler trying to dance his way into a hunky classmate’s heart; and Queer Things I Hate About You, by Canadian Nickolaos Stagias, an assemblage of still photographs and printed texts that mocks conventional wisdom about gay people. Two American animations, Michael Trull’s Preemie: The Premature Baby and Q. Allan Brocka’s Rick & Steve: The Happiest Couple in All the World (Episode 3), are weakened by forced gags and crude execution. Bargain Lingerie, by Spanish director Teresa Marcos, wistfully depicts a little girl’s fascination with women’s breasts, and Tom Clay Jesus, an American film by Hoang A. Duong, intriguingly presents three variations on a one-night stand between two horny young men.—Joel E. Siegel

At 9 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

15

MONDAY

Youth Outloud!

Kathy Hines and Becky Burklee’s 46-minute video documentary deals with the problems facing gay students in American high schools. In interviews, adolescents discuss the consequences of coming out to their classmates, teachers, and administrators. Positive anecdotes are soon eclipsed by accounts of physical and verbal abuse suffered by teens whose rights remain undefended by uncomprehending adults. An excellent video to spur classroom discussions, perhaps, but too familiar in both style and substance (including an inevitable appearance by Ellen DeGeneres’ crusading mother) to make much of an impression as a film-festival attraction. —Joel E. Siegel

At 6 p.m. at the Cecile Goldman Theater at the D.C. Jewish Community Center, 16th & Q Streets NW. Free.

Skeleton Woman

San Francisco ad-agency owner Anna and exotic dancer Olya have a connection that the former’s husband and the latter’s lesbian lover don’t understand. Director Vivi Letsou also keeps the audience in ignorance for much of this crypto-mystical drama, postponing the resolution of the mystery with folkloric tales recounted by Olya and illustrated with bluish symbolic imagery. Although Anna has nothing much to do but withdraw from her upscale life and its responsibilities, Olya takes her primordial fables to the stage, dancing in flamboyant costumes at a strip club owned by the world’s most indulgent sex-industry impresario. (He doesn’t even object too loudly when Olya drives all the patrons from the club with a pseudo-Hindu dance featuring lots of snakes.) Describing the scenario further would spoil the painstakingly delayed surprise, but viewers who are unsympathetic to the film’s New Age-y disposition will likely be irked by the story’s payoff anyway. —Mark Jenkins

At 7 p.m. at the JCC.

Chop Suey

Photographer-filmmaker Bruce Weber follows up his homoerotic biopics of boxer Andy Minsker (Broken Noses) and jazzman Chet Baker (Let’s Get Lost) with this cine-scrapbook of personal obsessions. Once again, Weber focuses on an impossibly handsome, presumably straight young man, high school wrestler and model Peter Johnson. But this time around he indulges other preoccupations, including his extensive collection of images by the photographers who have inspired him and the life and music of Frances Faye, the late, unabashedly gay nightclub singer/pianist. The footage that Weber devotes to Faye, a mixture of performance clips from her television appearances and interviews with her lover/manager Teri Shepherd, is entertaining and inspiring, a tribute to an irrepressible, nearly forgotten artist who, long before it was safe to do so, refused to conceal her sexual orientation. Otherwise, apart from some rare clips of Robert Mitchum recording “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans” and a touching anecdote about Frank Sinatra in his declining years, Chop Suey is Weber as usual: glamorous images of smooth, trim, muscular young men, shots of frolicking dogs, and candid glimpses of celebrities, notably pontificating fashion doyenne Diana Vreeland. Despite the film’s seemingly confessional tone, Weber remains oddly evasive about sexual matters. Like his Calvin Klein ads, Chop Suey is handsome to look at but profoundly shallow, as indicated by the fawning closing-credits dedication to Elizabeth Taylor and her dog.

—Joel E. Siegel

At 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Women on the Verge 2001

The women on the verge are the lesbian filmmakers who made these five short films, not the characters in them—although some of them are pretty on-the-verge, too. The two shortest are also the most amateurish: Baking With Butch, Episode 2 roughly chronicles the bread-making technique of a woman who’ll never be mistaken for Betty Crocker, while Butter + Pinches is a flimsy, self-amused detective-flick parody. Also on the bill are two moody, if overwrought, minithrillers. Martirio spins a fable of twin sisters who performed in their father’s circus until one of them was crippled; now Dad is insisting that the able-boded sister marry a potential new gymnastic star—a plan that leads to disaster. Betty Anderson has its doppelgängers, too: A woman detective interrogates a woman accused of murdering her own baby, in a case that leads to the suspect’s mysterious girlfriend—and parallels a tangled relationship in the detective’s own life. The best of the lot is Spanish director Teresa Marcos’ Bargain Lingerie, an open-ended reverie about a slender woman’s fascination with large breasts. It’s minor, but suitably evocative. —Mark Jenkins

At 9 p.m. at the JCC.

My First Time: Boys Shorts

Seven short films look at being young, male, and gay. Screening: Boychick, Late Summer, The Burning Boy, Birthday Time, Colour Me Gay: The Modern Homosexual’s Guide to Coming Out, Chicken, and Drawing Girls.

At 9 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

16

TUESDAY

Fun in Women’s Shorts

Seven short films celebrate the diversity of the lesbian community. Screening: Rancour, Dear Emily, Intersextion, Monogamous Slut, Bykes, Title IX.L, and The Living.

At 6 p.m. at the JCC. Free.

Swimming Upstream

This poignant documentary tracks a year in the life of a lesbian couple who resolve to have a baby, but what starts as a sociological study turns into a medical drama when the child is born with a condition that requires immediate attention. Jennifer Freedman’s film is both more interesting and more entertaining than most of the fictional comedies about two-mommy pregnancy. Karen (the biological mother) and Jenny (who says she was the first girl in the U.S. to play Little League baseball) are forthcoming about their hopes, their fears, and their relationship. Both go a little nuts for cute baby clothes and paraphernalia, although Jenny admits she’d be more comfortable with a son than a girly daughter. The two expectant parents are also very open with access to the medical side of the process, even when the pregnancy encounters complications that lead to a C-section. (If you don’t want to see a doctor slice open Karen’s belly and show off her uterus, stick with the fictional lesbian-pregnancy flicks.) Sort of like parenthood itself, the film turns out to be more complex and profound than its initial tone suggests. —Mark Jenkins

At 7 p.m. at the JCC.

Sex & the Single Male

Twelve short films look at sex, dating, and the trials and benefits of being a single gay guy. Screening: Tom Clay Jesus, Family Outing, Varieties of Religious Experience, Safe Sex, The Cucumber Chronicles Vols. 1-3, Shooting Blanks, Guileless Guile, Cyberslut, The Stars We Are, The Sleeping Man, Cruise Control, and Give It to Me White Boy.

At 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Oh Baby, A Baby

The two women at the center of this Austrian comedy are chic and upscale, but the film itself is a common farce. Architect Sandra and flower-shop owner Iris decide to have a child, and although Iris is the more domestic of the two, they decide that Sandra should provide the womb. When Spanish architect Antonio visits her shop, Iris decides that he’d make the perfect father and persuades him to donate his sperm. What Iris doesn’t know is that Antonio works with Sandra (who’s a little bit bi) and that—after the obligatory initial friction—Sandra has begun an affair with Antonio. When Sandra gets pregnant, there’s no doubt that Antonio—one way or the other—is the father. But who’s the rightful other parent, Antonio or Iris? That could be the basis of an interesting legal drama, but director Wolfgang Murnberger opts instead for a routine romantic-triangle plot. The fact that one of two possible couplings is same-sex doesn’t make the gags seem any more up-to-date. —Mark Jenkins

At 9 p.m. at the JCC.

Play Dead

Devotees of jaw-droppingly black comedies may choose to overlook the uneven acting and amateurish camerawork and editing that mar writer-director Jeff Jenkins’ Play Dead. Dale Spitler (Nathan Bexton), a wimpy and horny high school drama queen, is obsessed with muscular wrestling-team captain Raymond Haver (Jason Hall). While baby-sitting for precocious 7-year-old Dustine Murphy (Jessica Stone), Dale lures Raymond to the Murphy home with the promise of liquor but fails to score with the oblivious jock. Driving his truck home, the intoxicated Raymond dies in an accident involving a car driven by Dale’s best friend, Violet Wertsema (Diva Zappa). She and Dale return to the crash scene to retrieve Raymond’s body, whereupon Dale can’t resist the opportunity to become intimate with the hunk’s corpse. Bexton manages to carry off several humiliating scenes without cringing, and young Stone is delectable as the film’s youngest, sanest character, but Zappa, Frank’s youngest daughter, gives a ghastly performance that leaves you yearning for Tori Spelling. Not a successful movie by any standards, but crass and weird enough to prevent all but the most squeamish viewers from walking out. —Joel E. Siegel

At 9:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

17

WEDNESDAY

Kevin’s Room

Kevin runs a small support group for gay, African-American men, but his own life becomes complicated when he reveals to his long-term partner that he has not been entirely truthful about his HIV status.

At 6 p.m. at the JCC. Free.

Sex & the Not-So-Single Male

Five shorts explore the sacrifices and rewards of couplehood. Screening: Caught, Audit, Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World (Episodes 2-4), Bedtime Stories, and Open.

At 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Gender Benders

Four shorts look at stereotypes of masculine and feminine identity in the straight and gay communities. Screening: Kings, The Grass Is Greener, Not Quite, and Phallocy.

Screens with She: Just a Normal Guy, the story of 24-year-old Jenny’s sex reassignment.

At 7:15 p.m. at the JCC.

Meet the Mosaics

L.A. songwriter-guitarist Dave leads a punk band so stubbornly anti-commercial that it doesn’t even have a name. After the quartet loses its vocalist to a group with a more conventional approach to the biz and drummer Augie spots lesbian folksinger Kate performing in a park, he suggests she join the band—an idea that both Dave and Kate resist. Aesthetically, however, the match is a success. The problems come when Kate wants to take things to “the next level” commercially, and Dave resists. Dave is wrong, of course, as the movie underscores by having his girlfriend, Rose, leave him: Dave’s refusal to join the entertainment industry is just another aspect of the narcissism that drove her away. (So what are the Watts Towers, those monuments to outsider art, doing here? Hard to say.) Director and writer Richard Brunton’s semimockumentary is well-made and -acted, although it suffers from a problem common to fictional movies about up-and-coming rockers: The music’s not as special as the band’s growing success would seem to suggest. The strangest thing about the film, though, is its strident anti-idealism. It’s almost as if the story’s moral is the director’s way of advertising his desire to sell out. —Mark Jenkins

At 9:15 p.m. at the JCC.

Iron Ladies

Thai director Yongyooth Thongkongtoon’s 2000 film is based on the true story of a transvestite volleyball team’s rise to the 1996 Thai National Men’s League Championships.

At 9:15 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

18

THURSDAY

Fun in Boys’ Shorts

Four short films look at gay teen angst. Screening: Sloth, Kicking On, Drawing Girls, and School Fag.

At 6 p.m. at the JCC. Free.

A Family Affair

At first, this seems basically a lesbian knockoff of Annie Hall: Talking directly to the camera, wisecracking Jewish writer Rachel (played by director Helen Lesnick) explains how she fled New York—and a tumultuous affair with Reggie—to settle down in San Diego with bright-eyed blond massage therapist Christine. Rachel loves Christine, yet isn’t entirely ready for her new girlfriend to become a full member of the family. But that doesn’t stop Christine from bonding with Rachel’s mother (an enthusiastic PFLAG leader), converting to Judaism, and planning an almost-traditional Jewish wedding for the couple. Some of the gags are glib, but Lesnick eventually steers the tale in an unexpectedly serious direction as Reggie resurfaces and Christine learns of a buried family trauma. Ultimately, the principal problem is Rachel herself: The movie never quite gets around to showing us the qualities that would attract both sweet, simple Christine and assertive, sophisticated Reggie. Still, there’s a lot more to the film than its jokey early scenes promise.

—Mark Jenkins

At 7 p.m. at the JCC.

Confusion of Genders

Alain, a middle-aged lawyer, is torn between his frustration with women and his growing attraction to men. Can he face up to his true desires?

At 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Gay? Whatever…

Six short films look at loss and life through a gay lens. Screening: Big House, What Kind of Music!, Let’s Get Frank, Saturn’s Return, Even Stephen, and War Story.

At 9 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Around the World

Five short films explore the lives of international lesbians of color. Screening: Black Sheep, Gladys: A Cuban Mother, Grounds, Forbidden Fruit, and Women of Color in the Martial Arts and Self Defense.

At 9:15 p.m. at the JCC.

19

FRIDAY

Homophobia

Gay men and lesbians from countries around the world talk about coming to terms with their sexuality and struggling for social acceptance.

At 6 p.m. at the JCC. Free.

Waterboys

Suzuki is the only member of the swim team at Tadano High, an all-boys school in a small Japanese town, but he suddenly has lots of company when the new swimming coach turns out to be an attractive young woman. The coach’s speciality is synchronized swimming, however, which scares away everyone except Suzuki and four other outcasts, including a math nerd and a sensitive, closeted gay kid. (One of them can’t even swim.) Then the coach goes on maternity leave and the boys have to learn their routines on their own. They turn to the dolphin trainer at the nearby aquarium and pick up a few supporters, including the proprietors of the local drag-queen lounge and some students from the girls’ high school, including one who’s sweet on Suzuki. Just about everything is sweet in this movie, and without the underlying cynicism that often causes similar Hollywood confections to curdle. Although the humor is broad in places and the limited budget occasionally shows, writer-director Shinobu Yaguchi’s film is an absolute charmer. It’s basically a high school sports movie, of course, but the final synchro-swim routine is much more entertaining than the customary last-second-touchdown-pass or basket-as-the-buzzer-sounds finale.

—Mark Jenkins

At 7 p.m. at the JCC.

The Monkey’s Mask

After a college student and her professor’s husband are found dead, Jill Fitzpatrick—a down-on-her-luck detective—is drawn into a world of poetry, sex, and murder.

At 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

The Adventures of Félix

After losing his job as a bartender on a ferry, free-spirited, HIV-positive Félix (Sami Bouajila) hitchhikes from Dieppe to Marseilles to locate the father he has never known. Along the French roadways, he forms an impromptu family of strangers: a 17-year-old “brother,” who falls in love with him; a “grandmother” (thoughtfully played by former nightclub chanteuse Patachou), who feeds, advises, and houses him; a muscular “cousin,” with whom he has an erotic fling; and a “sister,” a vivacious unwed mother with three kids. By the time Félix reaches his destination, he realizes that family has more to do with spiritual affinities than genetics. Directors Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau take advantage of the French countryside in springtime to reinforce the optimistic tone of their picaresque tale. Their cast is consistently engaging, and two enchanting ’50s recordings by singer/pianist Blossom Dearie grace the movie’s beginning and end. But The Adventures of Félix is so relentlessly upbeat—even in its depictions of illness, racism, homophobia, and murder—that one can’t help but wish that the filmmakers had risked including a few discordant notes in their celebration of human harmony.

—Joel E. Siegel

At 9 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

The Girl

Girl meets girl—the latter in boyish attire—in this stylishly blank romance, set in a Paris where everyone inexplicably speaks English. The Girl is also the Singer (Claire Keim), and one night she opts to go home with the other girl, who is also the Painter (Agathe de la Boulaye). The Painter has another lover, who’s female and understanding; the Singer, too, has another lover, who’s male and thuggish. The possible threat posed by the latter character provides what little drama director Sande Zeig’s film possesses. Otherwise, it’s just a series of erotic poses, with the voluptuous Singer (but not the androgynous Painter) frequently undraped. Everyone and everything is quite lovely, including the oft-glimpsed Seine and the Singer’s home, which may be the nicest three-star hotel in Paris. Zeig credits French experimental feminist novelist Monique Wittig as an inspiration, and The Girl does play a bit like a lesbian version of a story by Alain Robbe-Grillet, one of Wittig’s new-novelist peers. Robbe-Grillet is a master of mystification, though, whereas Zeig mistakes emptiness for intrigue.

—Mark Jenkins

At 9:30 p.m. at the JCC.

20

SATURDAY

My Left Breast

Director Gerry Rogers’ 2000 documentary chronicles a year in her treatment for breast cancer.

Screens with Body Burden, an experimental documentary about both personal and political consequences of living with breast cancer.

At 1 p.m. at the JCC.

DysFUNctional Families

Five short films explore families, both chosen and biological. Screening: The Chosen Family, Passengers, Do You Take This Man?, Cruising Normal, and Wilma’s Sacrifice.

At 3 p.m. at the JCC.

Fleeing by Night

A man becomes involved in a painful love triangle when he falls for a male opera singer at his fiancée’s father’s theater.

At 3 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

The Perfect Son

It’d be hard to fit more melodrama into The Perfect Son: The movie starts with a father’s death and then afflicts its characters with drug addiction, unplanned pregnancy, AIDS, and gay-bashing before its 93 minutes are over—a likely story, I suppose, for two brothers whose mother died in childbirth. Theo the Screwup (David Cubitt) is reunited with Ryan the Perfect (Colm Feore) when they bury their father; they quickly fall into old arguments, but they remain in contact, and Theo soon discovers that Ryan is not only gay but also has AIDS. The film starts off feeling cheesy—director Leonard Farlinger’s insistence on marking the passage of time with either fast-forward night-to-day sequences or shots of various sleeping positions screams “amateur”—but as Theo becomes involved in Ryan’s care and learns to straighten up and fly right, you can’t help but be touched by the tender renewal of their relationship.

—Tricia Olszewski

At 5 p.m. at the JCC.

Out in the Arts II

Was Freddie Mercury “one of the most important figures in rock ‘n’ roll history over the last 20 years”? And did Queen “dominate the world stage for 20 years”? Hardly, but even those who consider Mercury’s music forgettable kitsch will find his story fascinating: Born Farrokh Bulsara to a Parsi (Indian Zoroastrian) family in Zanzibar, Mercury attended an Indian boarding school before becoming a fashion-design student in swinging late-’60s London. Rudi Dolezal and Hannes Rossacher’s eager account, Freddie Mercury: The Untold Story, features breathless narration, plaudits from Robert Daltrey, Elton John, Dave Clark, and Liza Minnelli, as well as remarks from Mercury’s first lover (a woman) and his last (a man). Fake footage of the singer’s first band—the Hectics, who rocked St. Peter’s boarding school—yields to real (but just as improbable) film of Mercury premiering his pseudo-operatic Olympic anthem “Barcelona” and the opulent Munich orgy that marked his 39th birthday. Important? No, but a trip nonetheless.

Flattopped Jewish lesbian folksinger Phranc still loves to perform, but she’d rather not tour anymore. She has a partner and a young daughter, and wants to stay in L.A. She’s not a big enough star to subsist on royalties, however, so she turns to a housewife’s traditional source of extra income: Tupperware. Neither Phranc nor Lifetime Guarantee: Phranc’s Adventure in Plastic documentarian Lisa Udelson can approach this new vocation without a certain irony—Udelson inserts clips of vintage Tupperware promo films into the proceedings—yet it gradually becomes clear that Phranc really does love both Tupperware and its world. As she follows her sales success to the company’s conventions and “jubilees,” the singer insists that she’s never had such a powerful communal female experience. And she’s genuinely upset that the company didn’t recognize her appearance on Donny & Marie, where she demonstrated a revolutionary new ice-tray design and got Marie to sing her “Tupperware Lady” song. Phranc’s sales career is one of the stranger second acts in an American pop musician’s life—but, hey, it sure beats being Donny and Marie.

—Mark Jenkins

At 5:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Stray Dogs

Stuck in a crumbling Appalachian shack with two troubled preteen sons (one’s a pyromaniac, the other a holy roller) and an alcoholic husband (who likes to pee in the sink), Darla Carter sums up her sad life with one simple statement: “I ain’t never seen a 20-dollah bill in my life.” But things are about to change for this young mother (played by a seemingly stoned Guinevere Turner) who’s stuck in a ’50s backwoods hell. Her lumberjack lesbian sister-in-law, Jolene (Dot-Marie Jones), has a serious crush on Darla—and is all too willing to make the bloodiest of sacrifices to prove her love. Based on Julie Jensen’s 1986 play, Stray Dogs has all the fixin’s to cook up an engaging psychological thriller. But instead of aiming for a redneck Thelma & Louise, director Catherine Crouch sets her movie at such an ambling, turgid pace that it’s all but impossible for the viewer—and, for that matter, most of the actors—to stay interested until the gripping denouement. Only Bill Sage, as the lousy husband/bad dad Meyers, manages to avoid Crouch’s directorial sleeper hold: Throwin’ punches, shootin’ shotguns, and generally raisin’ a whole lotta hell, human exclamation point Sage plays the movie’s villain much the way Michael Keaton played Beetlejuice, equal parts tasteless jokes, loutish behavior, and creepy-funny shit-eating grins.

—Sean Daly

At 7 p.m. at the JCC.

Gypsy 83

Two Goth misfits trapped in the tedium of Sandusky, Ohio—20-something photo-mart clerk and would-be singer Gypsy (chunky Sara Rue) and androgynous teenage virgin Clive (puppyish Kett Turton)—hit the road in a ’79 Trans Am heading for Manhattan, where Gypsy hopes to participate in a “Night of a Thousand Stevies” honoring her idol, Stevie Nicks. En route, the pair encounter a washed-up, alcoholic jazz chanteuse (Karen Black, who sings a breathy version of “When Sunny Gets Blue”), a handsome Amish runaway (Anson Scoville), and a van filled with randy fraternity pledges. Gypsy succumbs to a passionate but disillusioning roadside romance, and Clive experiences a gay sexual awakening that excites but subsequently unnerves him. Arriving in New York at a club overflowing with faux Stevies, Gypsy learns the fate of her runaway mother and Clive realizes that he’s not yet ready to deal with the challenges of a larger, more threatening world than Sandusky. Written and directed by Todd Stephens, Gypsy 83, a comedy-drama filled with unexpected moods and eccentric characters, offers a fresh spin on the road movie. A regular on the television series Popular, Rue gives a bravura performance, complemented by Turton’s vulnerability and startling changes in physical appearance as he shifts from one outrageous outfit to another. Come prepared to laugh, repress a few tears, and wonder at the sight of a screenful of spinning Stevie clones. —Joel E. Siegel

At 8 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Family Pack

The year is 1969, and a woman is given an ultimatum by her lover: Tell your family the truth about your life before man walks on the moon, or I’m outta here. The truth that Sacha (perpetually anguished Marie Bunel) needs to reveal is threefold—that she’s dropped out of med school, that she’s in love with a woman, and that she’s never coming back to Belgium. The stress begins as soon as Sacha walks into her childhood home, where a welcome-back-doctor party awaits, and the sympathetic knot you feel in your stomach during that scene never really goes away. When Sacha’s family is introduced, it’s clear why she’d prefer to spend the rest of her life far away in snowy Montreal: Her sister is a resentful dwarf whose best friend is a goldfish, her grandmother is a loon whose only lucid words to her granddaughters are “In this family, girls, we have a gift for wrecking our lives,” and her parents engage in the same petty banter every day, refusing to talk about their problems but inexplicably (and rather cheerfully) shopping for a coffin for still-kicking Mom. Despite its stagey heaviness—odd, one-note characters; clipped, often meaningless conversation; scenes that don’t quite fit and are never really explained—Family Pack’s sustained tension is a testament to director Chris Vander Stappen’s skill; the smiley, faux-feeling conclusion, however, proves that you can’t just throw “Lollipop” in the background of a closing scene and expect it to alleviate the 100 minutes of misery that came before.

—Tricia Olszewski

At 9 p.m. at the JCC.

Come Undone

One of this year’s Reel Affirmations revelations, Come Undone (Presque Rien) focuses on the steamy love affair of two French adolescents. Mathieu (Jeremie Elkaim), a Parisian architecture student, suffers through a summer vacation at the beach with his emotionally wounded mother, bratty sister, and exasperated aunt until he meets Cedric (Stephane Rideau), a seductive slacker from Nantes who sells pastries at a surfside stand. Although Mathieu has never been with a man before, he and the promiscuous Cedric grow so intensely involved that, despite efforts to conceal it, their relationship becomes evident to both boys’ families—with unsettling consequences. Director Sebastien Lifshitz, who co-authored the screenplay with Stephane Bouquet, employs a complex flashback structure, intercutting past and present to gauge the lingering aftershocks of an all-consuming passion. Evocative photography of the French coastline, sensitive performances, and explicit but nonexploitative eroticism blend to create a haunting experience. Some may be troubled by Lifshitz’s refusal to explain some of the ellipses in his narrative, but these contribute to the film’s richness, challenging viewers to fill in motivations and incidents that the director teasingly chooses to omit. —Joel E. Siegel

At 10 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

21

SUNDAY

Ordinary Sinner

After a friend kills a gay-basher in self-defense, Episcopal seminarian Peter Thompson (Brendan P. Hines) abandons his studies and retreats to a remote Vermont college town. There he tends to the community garden, run by his gay mentor, Father Ed (A. Martinez), and strikes up a romance with Rachel (Elizabeth Banks), a vivacious comparative-religion student. But homophobia again rears its ugly head, forcing Father Ed, when challenged during his Sunday sermon by an irate Christian fundamentalist, to disclose his own sexual orientation. The athletic priest subsequently dies in a swimming accident, but Peter receives information suggesting that Father Ed was murdered. Ordinary Sinner, written by William Mahone and directed by John Henry Davis, is a well-meaning but clumsy attempt to combine a thriller with a plea for tolerance. Although earnestly acted and atmospherically photographed, the mix doesn’t quite gel. Heavy-handed didacticism overwhelms the feeble mystery plot, and the climactic revelation of the killer’s identity comes as absolutely no surprise. —Joel E. Siegel

At 1 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Webcam Boys

The director of this 56-minute video, credited only as Radd, presents profiles of 10 gay men whose personal lives are accessible to anyone with a computer, modem, and credit card. Webcam Boys begins as a celebration of exhibitionists whose daily and nightly lives are tracked by cameras in their apartments. Kip, a carefree blond surfer, delights in showing off for unseen eyes. Over-the-hill adult-film star Dino, who used to earn day rates for his appearances in pornos, sees the Internet as a means of reaping the full profits of his erotic performances. But as the video unfolds, the interviews take on a darker tone. Incestuous S&M aficionado half-brothers Cory and Cody talk about their troubled backgrounds and recurrent drug problems, and Zack, the youngest of the group, breaks into tears while recalling his hardscrabble early years. Although its title is something of a misrepresentation—few of these “boys” will ever see 30 (or even 40) again—Webcam Boys offers some revealing insights into the psyches of people who expose themselves, physically and psychologically, in ways that few of us dare. —Joel E. Siegel

At 3 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre.

Metrosexuality

Rikki Beadle-Blair wrote, directed, and appears in this six-part, 144-minute miniseries produced and aired by England’s Channel 4 Television earlier this year. Set in London’s Notting Hill, Metrosexuality is an ensemble piece chronicling the relationships of a group of pansexual, multicultural characters including a straight teenager with two flamboyantly gay fathers, a lesbian couple awaiting the birth of their child, and their assorted friends, lovers, and one-night conquests. On the basis of the opening half-hour preview segment supplied by Reel Affirmations, Metrosexuality appears to be a frothier venture than Channel 4’s acclaimed Queer as Folk, shot with a hyperactive camera in vivid candy colors, underscored by throbbing techno, and edited like a frenetic music video. Although the series reportedly interweaves serious themes (racism, homophobia, gay parenting) with gags, drugs, and eroticism, two-and-a-half hours of this dizzying stuff could prove to be a sensory overload. —Joel E. Siegel

At 5 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre. $10.