QDoc 2009

City of Borders

In a city seething with religious and political tensions, Jerusalem’s only gay bar, Shushan, offers an oasis of freedom and acceptance. Palestinians and Israelis, lesbians and gay men, gather at Shushan in a spirit of community and mutual support. Unlike cosmopolitan Tel Aviv, Jerusalem’s political atmosphere is dominated by ultra-religious Jews, who have found rare common ground with their fundamentalist Muslim and Christian counterparts in their shared hostility toward gays and lesbians.

CITY OF BORDERS takes us into the lives of some of Shushan’s habitues – Palestinian lesbian Samira and her Israeli partner, Ravit; devout Muslim Boody, who receives death threats in his home town of Ramallah and sneaks through the border to perform in drag at Shushan; an activist gay couple who are building a house among right-wing settlers in the West Bank; and the bar’s owner, Sa’ar, a tenacious idealist who was the only gay member of Jerusalem’s city council.

Yun Suh’s provocative and inspiring film offers the hope that people from conflicting worlds can embrace their commonalities rather than be defined by their differences.

CITY OF BORDERS dir Yun Suh 2009 USA 66 min

U People

Filmmakers Hanifah Walidah and Olive Demetrius brought together a group of women and transmen of color, gay and straight, at a brownstone in Brooklyn to film a music video, “Make a Move.” Over the two-day shoot their cameras caught the off-screen production as well, with cast and crew awaiting the next scene, getting their hair and makeup done or simply passing time out on the stoop. What might have been a common “the making of” video turned into an “accidental” documentary, as the unscripted conversations took on a rich and passionate life of their own.

What does it mean to be a woman of color? A lesbian of color? What about a transman of color seen as male, as female? What does it mean to face multiple oppressions, and how or should they be compared? In the spirit of sisterhood, these dialogues develop among people who are comfortable enough in their own identities to make the effort to understand those of others.

Scattered throughout these moments of personal honesty, the sexy, on-screen house party video must go on! U PEOPLE, the documentary, is the result. A joyous celebration of community and shared identity, of honoring similarity and respecting difference, U PEOPLE is about being real, people.

U PEOPLE dirs Hanifah Walidah and Olive Demetrius 2008 USA 76 min.
Community Partners: Happy Ours Productions & Q Center

It Came From Kuchar

Director John Waters considers Mike and George Kuchar’s films “my first inspiration.” As an impressionable youth, Waters saw in their work “a vision so peculiar, so hilarious, goodnatured and proudly pitiful that I realized (with a little help from LSD) that I too could make the films of my dreams.”

Bronx-born twins, both gay, the Kuchars began making 8mm films as teenagers in the 1950s, and in the early ‘60s they were a part of the cutting-edge NYC underground film scene of Jack Smith, Jonas Mekas, and Andy Warhol. Unlike the more “arty” films of their peers, the Kuchars’ work wallowed in hilariously lurid, melodramatic deviations on cheesy Hollywood convention. With titles like SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS, HOLD ME WHEN I’M NAKED, and I WAS A TEENAGE RUMPOT, the Kuchar films featured tawdry glamour, spaceships and aliens, preposterous vulgarity and over-the-top performances by some of their very peculiar friends and family members.

Both brothers have continued to produce exceedingly kooky work, with more than 200 films to their names. George has been making films with his SF Art Institute students since 1971, rarely missing an opportunity to push their sexual boundaries. Beautifully directed by a former student of George’s, IT CAME FROM KUCHAR is an affectionate, funny look at the lives and work of these unique and very prolific cinematic oddballs.

IT CAME FROM KUCHAR dir Jennifer Kroot 2009 USA 86 min.
Community Partner: Northwest Film Center

Georgie Girl

In 1999 Georgina Beyer became the first transgender person in the world elected to national political office, and the first person of Maori descent in New Zealand’s parliament. Even more amazing was the fact that this former stripper, drag performer and sex worker was elected by a mostly white, rural, conservative constituency that was fully aware of her background. Said one farmer from Dannervirke, “I’m going to vote for that Georgina Beyer because she’s a go-getter and she’s a good chap.”

Beyer’s election was part of a major shift in the make-up of New Zealand’s parliament that also included the first Rastafarian MP and the first Green party MP.

GEORGIE GIRL chronicles Beyer’s incredible journey from rural farmboy to flamboyant cabaret performer to accomplished screen actress to charismatic national leader. Beyer unapologetically recounts her fascinating and inspirational life story, enhanced by archival footage from her early years in theater and community organizing.

Equally interesting are scenes of Beyer attending to her daily political duties – making parliamentary speeches, meeting with her constituents, and even judging sheep racing contests. Demonstrating a depth of empathy and a level-headedness that disarms her critics and inspires the trust of ordinary people, it becomes clear why her district (the largest in New Zealand) chose to elect the irrepressible politician known simply as “Georgina.”

GEORGIE GIRL directors Annie Golson and Peter Wells 2001 New Zealand 70 min.
Community Partners: Basic Rights Oregon & Sex Workers Outreach Coalition

Word Is Out

A classic in every respect, WORD IS OUT was the first documentary made by gay people, about gay people, for gay people. Released in 1978 WORD IS OUT captured the exuberance and the diversity of the emerging gay liberation movement. For the first time, lesbians and gay men were able to see ourselves represented on screen, in all our complexity and beauty. A collective of three women and three men, mentored by filmmaker Peter Adair, interviewed 26 lesbians and gay men of varying ages and backgrounds. Their stories ranged from being a dyke in the military in WWII, getting electroshock therapy in the 1950s, to the new post-stonewall generation with its radical politics and gender activism.

After 30 years, WORD IS OUT remains incredibly intimate, often funny, and deeply moving. It manages to simultaneously be a time capsule into the proudly gay 1970s, as well as the closeted decades preceding it. It is a must-see for anyone who is interested in understanding who we are, where we’ve been, and how we got to where we are today.

WORD IS OUT dir Mariposa Film Group 1977 USA 130 min.
Community Partners: Portland PFLAG & SMYRC

Training Rules

During her 26-year coaching career at Penn State University, Rene Portland had three publicly well-known rules for her women’s basketball team – no drinking, no drugs, and no lesbians. She enforced these rules with a vengeance for more than two and a half decades, without apology and without interference from Penn State’s powerful and wealthy athletic department.

In 2006, player Jennifer Harris, along with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, sued Portland and Penn State for discrimination. Harris’ courage led other women victimized by Portland through the years to come forward and share their stories.

TRAINING RULES skillfully exposes what is unfortunately a far more pervasive problem than simply one coach’s homophobia. The film serves as both a wake-up call to the many athletic departments nationwide that still discriminate against their student athletes and coaches, as well as inspiration to those athletes ready to fight back.

Preceded by BREAKIN’ THE GLASS, an exciting and fast paced look at the promise of women’s professional basketball. Featuring fast breaks, cross-over dribbles, and three point bombs, the rise and demise of the American Basketball League (go Portland Power!) is a testament to the importance of women role models and professional opportunities for women athletes.

BREAKIN’ THE GLASS dirs Marla Leach and Dina Maria Munsch 2000 USA 28 min.
TRAINING RULES dirs Dee Mosbacher and Fawn Yacker 2009 USA 59 min.
Community Partner: Oregon Gay and Lesbian Law Association

Pansy Division: Life In A Gay Rock Band

Out, proud, and in-your-face rockers Pansy Division pioneered the “queercore” genre long before other musicians had the confidence to come out of the closet. Frontman Jon Ginoli launched the band along with bassist Chris Freeman in the early ‘90s to challenge the notion that rock was exclusively heterosexual territory, and that gays only enjoyed disco and showtunes. With frequently humorous and always explicit lyrics, the band quickly carved a niche for itself with songs like, “Smells Like Queer Spirit”, “Fem in a Black Leather Jacket”, and “The C*cks*cker Club.”

Filmmaker Michael Carmona has created a fast-paced account that follows the band from their first celebratory days playing small gigs around San Francisco to its exciting tour opening for soon-to-be-huge labelmates Green Day. Whether it was tiny underground clubs with mosh pits of four, or stadiums full of frat boys waiting for Green Day to come out, Pansy Division always remained true to itself and unapologetic in its music.

Featuring interviews with some major figures of punk and pop-punk history, including Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Rob Halford (Judas Priest), and Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day), PANSY DIVISION: LIFE IN A GAY ROCK BAND shares the unique story of one of the most influential gay music acts of the past 20 years. Fans and the uninitiated alike will enjoy this film about the “b*ttf*ckers of rock ‘n’ roll.”

PANSY DIVISION dir Michael Carmona 2008 USA 83 min.

A Place To Live: The Story of Triangle Square

IA PLACE TO LIVE movingly chronicles the creation of Triangle Square, an innovative affordable housing project specifically addressing the needs of LGBT seniors in Los Angeles. As housing and living costs continue to rise and the health care system becomes increasingly more inaccessible, many LGBT seniors face further marginalization and isolation. The first of its kind in the nation, Triangle Square is part of a burgeoning movement to create new models for community throughout the United States.

Central to the story are the seven remarkable and colorful individuals who embark upon an emotional rollercoaster in search of their future home. Triangle Square has given each of them hope, and we follow these courageous elders through the highly competitive and tension-filled application process. At the same time we are offered a very intimate look into their histories, dreams, and fears. With great humor and determination they face the challenge of their uncertain future in order to find a secure, safe place to live – for some, for the first time in their lives.

A PLACE TO LIVE is as much a celebration of collaborative vision and hope as it is an exploration of our diverse history and the importance of human connection. The film underscores the great need in our society for building communities that honor our elder citizens and that address the concerns of an already vulnerable population.

A PLACE TO LIVE dir Carolyn Coal 2008 USA 88 min.
Community Partners: Senior Housing and Retirement Enterprises & Elder Resource Alliance

Projecting The Body

Stephen Cummins burst onto the international queer cinema scene in the early 1990s. His films were poetic, erotic, political. They were celebratory of gay culture, sexuality, and the male body, yet steeped in powerful critiques of homophobic violence and the raging AIDS epidemic.

PROJECTING THE BODY is an intimate look at Cummins’ life and career. It explores his film and photographic work, and captures his passionate and creative personality though interviews with friends, family, collaborators, and film critics/commentators.

Followed by RESONANCE. At a time when there were almost no gay or lesbian characters in Australian film and television, Cummins made RESONANCE (1991), the first gay-themed film to be funded by the Australian Film Commission. The film fused narrative with dance to tackle the issue of anti-gay violence, and was an Australian voice in the emerging New Queer Cinema. RESONANCE went on to become the most exhibited Australian short film of the 1990s and screened at more than 40 international film festivals.

PROJECTING THE BODY dir Walter McIntosh 2008 Australia 60 min.
RESONANCE dir Stephen Cummins 1991 Australia 11 min.
Community Partner: White Bird

Hand On The Pulse

The “welcome note” at Joan Nestle’s website reads: “You are on the verge of entering the home of a 68-year-old fem lesbian woman. If you find explicit words about love, lust, play, creativity, illness, and social concerns obscene, you will not be comfortable in my home.”

Co-founder of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, writer, activist and sex-radical Joan Nestle has made significant contributions to our understanding of women’s sexuality, gender issues, and the preservation of lesbian history and culture.

HAND ON THE PULSE traces Nestle’s amazing life: from Greenwich Village in the 1950s, to the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, and helping to forge a new lesbian and gay consciousness through grassroots organizing. She has celebrated the body and women’s sexuality in her writings, and in public readings in her trademark black slip. Along with her then-partner Deborah Edel, she started the first lesbian archive in their apartment, and maintained it there for more than 15 years. The archive now includes more than 20,000 books, 12,000 photographs, and 1,600 periodical titles. Now in her late 60s, Nestle continues to celebrate the body as an aging woman and as a woman with cancer.

Screening with 575 CASTRO ST. Queer filmmaker and historian Jenni Olson elegantly combines footage she shot on the set of Gus Van Sant’s MILK with an audio recording of Harvey Milk contemplating the possibility that he could be assassinated.

575 CASTRO ST. dir Jenni Olson 2008 USA 7 min.
HAND ON YHR PULSE dir Joyce Warshow 2002 USA 52 min.
Community Partners: Siren Nation & In Other Words Bookstore

Fig Trees

A sensation at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, FIG TREES is a wildly inventive and visually stunning documentary opera that manages to weave Gertrude Stein, a singing albino squirrel, and Saint Teresa of Avila into the moving stories of two AIDS activists. This completely original film from celebrated Canadian filmmaker John Greyson – who previously wowed international audiences with ZERO PATIENCE, LILIES, and PROTEUS – denounces government inaction and the outrageous greed of the pharmaceutical industry through a surrealistic, complex, and compelling narrative.

FIG TREES presents the real-life struggles of pioneering AIDS activists Tim McCaskell in Toronto and Zachie Achmat in Cape Town, whose stories parallel one another as their communities are ravaged by the pandemic. With thousands dying every year due to lack of treatment, McCaskell and Achmat agitate and educate for mass access to HIV/AIDS medications. Achmat made international headlines when he went on a treatment strike, refusing his drugs until they were made more widely available to all South Africans. Their heroic efforts, and those of others, are inspiration for a reworking of Gertrude Stein’s 1934 avant-garde classic opera Four Saints in Three Acts.

Equal parts joy and sorrow, FIG TREES is an inspiring tribute to the AIDS activist saints among us. Beautiful to watch and haunting to listen to, Greyson continues to be one of queer cinema’s smartest, most inventive artists.

FIG TREES dir John Greyson 2009 Canada 104 min.
Community Partners: Cascade AIDS Project & Portland Institute for Contemporary Art