QDoc 2008

Suddenly Last Winter

If you’re looking for a film that is simultaneously romantic, fiercely political, comically absurd, totally fresh and deliciously Italian,Suddenly, Last Winter fits the bill. A couple for eight years, Gustav Hofer and Luca Ragazzi lead a seemingly charmed life. Good-looking and metrosexually sophisticated, Gustav is a TV reporter and Luca a film critic.

When the conservative Berlusconi government fell to a center-left coalition in 2006, Gustav and Luca were optimistic that domestic partnership legislation, common in the EU, would finally be enacted, and it seemed like a fun idea for the two to collaborate on a documentary about how the change would play out.

But all hell broke loose. Far-right politicians and the Vatican unleashed a furious resistance to any change. Gustav and Luca found themselves shocked by the virulent homophobia that they were faced with. As they fearlessly plunge into right-wing protests and directly confront and film“pro-family” opposition, stress builds within their relationship as they react differently to so much overt hostility. But the sweetness of their partnership, their humor, and the vitality of the pro-domestic partnership movement enables them to tell what is at times a very frustrating story with a whimsical touch and a great sense of irony.

Be Like Others

A major sensation at the Sundance and Berlin international film festivals, Be Like Others is a fearlessly honest and unadorned look at the rationale behind gender reassignment in Iran. Over twenty years ago the Ayatollah Khomeini pronounced transsexuality legal while, according to Islamic law in Iran, homosexuality remained illegal and punishable by death. In Tanaz Eshaghian’s fascinating and stunningly revealing film, we witness the boom in the gender reassignment industry and the decisions that some who are attracted to the same sex are forced to grapple with.

Dr. Mir-Jilali, the country’s most prominent sex change surgeon, has no shortage of young men and women seeking his help. The film follows, over a year’s time, a number of young men who are in many cases desperate to overcome the social disgrace and legal harassment of their “condition.” In a mind-boggling sequence, Iran’s Theological Expert on Transsexuality, Cleric Kariminiya, explains that changing one’s gender isn’t much different than changing a tree into a chair.

Be Like Others sheds light on what Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have meant when he notoriously stated at Columbia University that Iran had no homosexuals. The blur between gay and transgender identities may be difficult for us to comprehend in this context, but the oppression of sexual minorities is crystal clear.

Searching For Sandeep

Setting out to make a film about the online dating scene, Sydney filmmaker Poppy Stockell regards the whole idea of finding virtual prospects totally fascinating, if a little weird. Especially in how the immediacy of “meeting” strangers and reading their intimate details has transformed the way in which those of an entire generation relate to one another in the search for love, sex, or even friendship.

Searching 4 Sandeep starts out as a light-hearted documentary, but quickly turns into a very personal story when Poppy stumbles upon the profile of her perfect match, Sandeep. Well, perfect in every way except for the colossal difference in their cultural and social backgrounds, not to mention geographic location. Sandeep lives halfway around the world in the British Midlands…with her conservative Sikh family…to whom she is still in the closet about her sexuality.

With Sandeep surprisingly willing, Poppy sends her a video camera, and separately they document the evolution of their bi-continental crush. Filled with a joyful sense of adventure, the film is anchored in its authenticity. And even with many significant obstacles in their way, clearly love is worth fighting for. Preceded by Small Town Secrets, in which the director and her parents discuss why keeping it a secret seemed like the only option.

Living with Pride: Ruth Ellis @ 100

Hers is a busy schedule by anyone’s standards. If she’s not out dancing (doing a mean “electric slide”) or shopping for her neighbors at the retirement community, she’s guest of honor at one of the many engagements on her packed lesbian social calendar. What makes Ruth Ellis unique is that she’s 100 years old! And yet she still finds the time to share her remarkable story, offering us the rare opportunity to experience a century of our history through the life of one inspiring woman.

Born July 23, 1899, and “out” for as long as she could remember, Ruth was thought to be the oldest African American lesbian before passing in October 2000. Filmmaker Yvonne Welbon had the foresight to document Ruth’s life while she was still with us. The film combines interviews with Ruth and her friends, and rare archival material, together with clever reenactments of the period when Ruth’s home in Detroit (shared with her life companion) was the social hot-spot for African American gay men and lesbians.

Living with Pride exemplifies the tremendous gift our elders in the community offer us if we take the time to appreciate it. With undeniable charm, humor and joy for life, Ruth shows us that a life lived with pride is a life well lived.

Beyond Conception: Men Having Babies

The stork is soooo last century! Welcome to the modern world of surrogacy agencies, sperm and egg donors, test tube fertilization and all kinds of high-tech alternatives available to those with the determination – and resources – to pursue the family of their dreams. Jennifer and Jenna, a lesbian couple, are both trying to become pregnant, albeit with very different agendas. Jennifer already has two kids, but Jenna wants to have a biological child of her own. Jennifer, though not wanting another child, really just wants to experience pregnancy again! Enter Paul and Bruce – a gay couple who already have an adopted child but are craving a second and want this one to be the spawn of their own seed.

Director Johnny Symons (Daddy and Papa, 2002) once again tackles complex issues surrounding gay and lesbian parenthood with insight, compassion, and humor. Beyond Conception plays out like a suspenseful drama. No amount of technology can diminish the emotional rollercoaster of the adventure Paul and Bruce, and Jennifer and Jenna, have embarked upon.

FTF: Female to Femme

With all the focus in recent years on transgender issues, dialogues around butch and FtM identities, and the profusion of drag king performance, there hasn’t been much acknowledgement of the femme. In FtF: Female to Femme, filmmakers Kami Chisholm and Elizabeth Stark celebrate femme identity – and assert the femme’s rightful place as a radical sexual icon.

In a film that manages to be sexy, smart, and sometimes hilariously funny, the filmmakers explore a wide range of perspectives on being femme. Interviewees include actress and writer Guinivere Turner, novelist and activist Jewelle Gomez, poet Meliza Bañales and rock stars Leslie Mah (Tribe8) and Bitch (Bitch & Animal). Their words are interspersed with tantalizing snippets of femme burlesque troupes and a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek FtF transition support group.

Fulfilling Fantasy, an episode from here TV’s over-the-top Lesbian Sex and Sexuality series, delves into some of the more lascivious aspects of lesbian life. Award-winning filmmaker Katherine Linton offers an unblinking and light-hearted look inside the world of lesbian culture in this provocative docu-series.

The Universe of Keith Haring

Young, sexy New York art superstar Keith Haring created some of the most popular and iconic imagery of the late 20th century. His style was, and still is, instantly recognizable – a flowing electric graffiti with which he covered everything from subway stations to BMW convertibles; from Grace Jones’ body to the men’s room wall in NYC’s LGBT community center. Following in the pop art footsteps of his friend and mentor Andy Warhol, Haring revolutionized contemporary art over the span of a single decade, 1980 to1990.

Christina Clausen’s delightful documentary, The Universe of Keith Haring, captures the essence of this talented, playful, and joyous spirit. Featuring a wealth of footage taken of Keith over the years (at work and at play!), the film recaptures the exhilarating NYC art scene in the ‘80s; with appearances by Madonna, Yoko Ono and David LaChapelle, among others.

Diagnosed with HIV in the late ‘80s, he was one of the few people to openly discuss his disease publicly at the time and donated the use of many of his images to HIV education and grassroots AIDS activism. One of the many brilliant young members of our community who died in their prime (1990), his legacy and motto,“Art is for everyone!” lives on in the hundreds of public works he left scattered around the world.

It’s Still Elementary

It’s Elementary, a groundbreaking 1996 documentary, explored how addressing
anti-gay prejudice in elementary and middle school classrooms could help in preventing violence and supporting alternative families. Directors Deborah Chasnoff and Helen Cohen endearingly delivered this daring message through the language of the curious, and at times hilariously direct, kids they captured on film.

Chasnoff’s It’s Still Elementary is the very timely follow-up, reviewing the tremendous national impact of the original film through its broadcast on over 100 cable access channels and use as a teaching and advocacy tool across the country. Thankfully, the film catches us up with some of the most memorable kids, now college age, who have turned out to be thoughtful and remarkable human beings. It’s Still Elementary is a tribute to the awesome power of documentary filmmaking and grassroots organizing.

Immediately following this free screening stay for an informative panel on the status of safe schools in Oregon. Joyce Liljeholm, board member of Oregon Safe Schools and Communities Coalition; Jessica Lee, queer youth organizer for Basic Rights Oregon; and Johnny Symons, co-director of It’s Still Elementary, will be among the panelists.

Out In Africa

In the 1980s, one of the most outspoken critics of South Africa’s apartheid regime was an unlikely character named Mrs. Evita Bezuidenhout. Dubbed “the most famous white woman in South Africa,” Mrs. Bezuidenhout was actually the alter ego of highly acclaimed male political satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys. As “Evita,” Pieter-Dirk was able to use his drag persona as a powerful comedic weapon against racial injustice. In recent years Pieter-Dirk/Evita has continued his theatrical activism as a fierce opponent of the South African government’s AIDS policies.

Counting among his close friends both Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu, Pieter-Dirk Uys is also a hero to thousands of South African children who have grown to love him as an eccentric and hilarious AIDS educator who often gets away with saying the most outrageous things to try to save young people from infection.

In 7 Years Dutch filmmaker Bram Vergeer opens an extraordinary window onto the lives of lesbians and gays in Kenya, where homosexuality is punishable with seven years imprisonment. Remarkably candid interviews address how some gays and lesbians manage to live their lives in a hostile environment.

QDoc Film Festival

She’s A Boy I Knew

A profound first-person account, She’s A Boy I Knew chronicles filmmaker Gwen Haworth’s transition from Steven, a straight male, to Gwen, a gay female. Blessed with an abundance of contemporary as well as archival family footage, Haworth has made a tender and thoughtful film of self-discovery that is part family drama and part love story.

Using revealing and emotional interviews with her two sisters, parents, best friend, and ex-wife, Malgosia, the filmmaker boldly gives voice to the perspectives of those closest to her who mourned the loss of Steven and eventually came to embrace Gwen. Particular emphasis is given to Haworth’s relationship with Malgosia (above left) and her process of adjusting to the dramatic changes in her marriage to Steven. The film doesn’t shy away from the high price – financially, physically and emotionally – that the director has had to pay while undergoing this momentous change.

She’s A Boy I Knew, a tremendously uplifting story, leaves its audience with the great satisfaction of knowing that we are witnessing the emergence of a hugely talented and compassionate lesbian filmmaker who happened to have been born in a male body.

The Times Of Harvy Milk

With Portland director Gus Van Sant finalizing work on his biopic, Milk, this is a perfect time to revisit one of the masterpieces of American documentary filmmaking. Winner of the 1984 Academy Award for Best Documentary, Rob Epstein’s The Times of Harvey Milk recounts the life and eventual assassination of the first openly gay person elected to public office in the U.S.

A charismatic, funny, and passionate activist, Harvey embodies the emergence of gay liberation in 1970s San Francisco. With a determination unprecedented in human history, self proclaimed gays and lesbians were creating a vibrant and open community of their own and demanding their rights as equal members of society.

The Times of Harvey Milk is a “must-see” film for anyone who wants to understand the amazing evolution of GLBT life over the last thirty years. And there is nothing like seeing it on the big screen in all its 35mm glory, with a room full of people whose lives have been so deeply affected by Harvey’s life and death. Join director Rob Epstein and Gus Van Sant in a post-film conversation about Harvey, and how each filmmaker has chosen to tell Harvey Milk’s story.