QDoc 2011

Arias With A Twist: The Docufantasy

When the legendary performance artist Joey Arias met the brilliant puppeteer Basil Twist, a one-of-a-kind magic happened on the New York stage. Lucky for us, their collaboration has been captured on film. The exhilarating beauty of Joey’s persona and voice combined with Basil’s elegant and outrageous puppet work is a jawdropping spectacle that makes Lady Gaga’s antics look like a picnic with Sandra Dee.

Fascinating archival material traces the history of both collaborators. From the barrios of L.A. to the New York performance art scene, Joey has been an enduring figure in queer arts and culture through three decades. Working with the likes of Klaus Nomi and Thierry Mugler, his performances broke boundaries around the world. Friend and colleague Ann Magnuson describes Joey as a “cosmic surrealistic psychedelic glamour clown,” making him the perfect collaborator for third-generation puppeteer Basil Twist, a queer visionary in his own right.

Director Bobby Sheehan’s film is a celebration of creativity and imagination. Basil’s sumptuous stagecraft makes Joey the star of his own fantasies, creating a dreamscape for the performer to romp through, from a gyroscopic alien exam room to a lush jungle alive with flora and fauna. Pretty twisted to begin with, Joey and Basil together reach new artistic heights in Arias with a Twist. −Corey Eubanks

Hit So Hard: The Life & Near Death Story of Patty Schemel

From rock star to rock bottom, Patty Schemel has experienced both the highs and the lows of the music world. After picking up her first pair of drumsticks at age 11, she went on to join the predominantly female rock band Hole, whose 1994 album Live Through This is considered among the greatest of all time. But she also had her first drink at age 12, leading to years of substance abuse.

With a warm sense of humor and remarkable candor, Schemel shares her survivor story in Hit So Hard, which made headlines in March when its New York premiere brought together the members of Hole for the first time in 13 years. The film recounts Schemel’s childhood outside Seattle, conflicts with Hole singer Courtney Love and how she turned to drugs to cope with the deaths of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff. Hit So Hard features fly-on-the-wall footage of the Cobain family and interviews with a who’s who of women rockers from The Go-Go’s, The Bangles, Luscious Jackson and Veruca Salt.

Schemel, who came out in a 1995 interview with Rolling Stone, also explains how music helped her cope with feeling like an outsider: “I found other freakish people through music…androgynous icons like Klaus Nomi, David Bowie and Patti Smith who were playing with gender. That was interesting to me.” —Jimmy Radosta

The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye

It’s generally perceived that Genesis P-Orridge, legendary founder of industrial music with such bands as Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, underwent gender reassignment surgery as part of the ongoing creative project that is her life. The truth is that P-Orridge and partner Lady Jaye sought to experience the unification of their bodies as much as they had their spirits in what they consider to be “one of the great love affairs of all time.”

Director Marie Losier spent five years filming the day-to-day lives of P-Orridge and Jaye and their process to become the same pandrogynous individual. Intricately crafted with an array of experimental techniques and archival material, this intimate and charming film documents the history of the subjects’ creative lives along with their process of physically realizing the idea that bodies are prescribed cultural identities, “the suitcase that carries us around,” and not who we truly are.

Winner of the Teddy Award for best queer documentary at the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival, Ballad is a playful work of intriguing depth as well as a captivating love story full of eccentricity, joy and unceasing devotion. −Wing Grabowski

On These Shoulders We Stand

With so much emphasis—and rightly so—on the events of the Stonewall riots, it’s easy to overlook the struggles and achievements of our community in other parts of the country. On These Shoulders We Stand counters that notion by exploring the early decades of the gay rights movement in Los Angeles through the eyes of 11 extraordinary individuals with firsthand experience of the city’s gay past.

Gay life in ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s Los Angeles was both a haven where lesbians and gays could find each other as well as a trial of social and legal homophobia and persecution. In particular, LGBT individuals faced threats, intimidation and humiliation from the Los Angeles Police Department through harassment, raids and arrest. Yet with each setback, new people found their way into the movement. Fear and shame slowly transformed into defiance and community building. In the wake of Stonewall, Los Angeles hosted the first Gay Pride Parade and the community came into its own. Social, health and political organizations were founded, and those who survived the earlier times became mentors and leaders to a new generation of activists.

On These Shoulders We Stand is an important reminder of how we got to where we are today, and a testament to the heroic contributions and triumphs of those who have come before us.

I Am

Returning to India to clean out her recently deceased mother’s home in Delhi, filmmaker Sonali Gulati regrets never having told her mother that she is a lesbian. Wondering if she would even have wanted to know, she imagines her mother’s possible reactions in a series of unreassuring vignettes. Compelled by this unresolved question, Gulati meets with out and closeted Indians and their parents in hopes of finding insight and understanding. What begins as a beautifully rendered personal journey transforms into a multifaceted portrait of families across India.

Citizens of a country where being homosexual was until recently against the law, parents and children grapple with social as well as familial pressure to conform to gender norms, marry and have children. While one family helps a couple solemnize their union with a religious ceremony, another breaks into a temple to reclaim their daughter, who had taken refuge with her lover. Stories of confusion, resignation and heartbreak are tempered with those of love, acceptance and pride in this moving and heartfelt film.

Against the backdrop of the Indian Supreme Court’s 2009 decision in a case challenging Penal Code 377 outlawing homosexuality (which dates from 19th century British colonial law), LGBT people begin to find solidarity and publicly claim their rightful place as
Indians—and family. –Beth Hutchison

The Adonis Factor

Do looks matter? When it comes to the male physique in the gay community, the answer is a resounding YES. In this fascinating, thought-provoking documentary, filmmaker Christopher Hines turns his camera on guys of all shapes and sizes to explore how body image affects status among gay men.

Through intimate interviews with men across the United States, Hines uncovers the very common, often unsettling reality of how many gay men struggle to achieve and maintain a particular image in order to be accepted. One especially muscular guy admits that even though he knows it’s superficial, he “feels more respected and accepted” when people compliment his look. Hines explores how these issues trickle into other areas of our modern world by looking at everything from the gay porn industry to a naked yoga class in San Francisco that helps students feel more comfortable with their bodies.

The Adonis Factor deftly balances diverse viewpoints and voices to paint a picture of a complex world where beauty is too often considered skin deep.
—Brendan Peterson, courtesy of Frameline

Preceded by Crowned & Bound, a fun, front-row view of pecs and personality at the 2010 International Mr. Leather competition in Chicago.

The Advocate for Fagdom

Is it porn or is it art? Using the vocabulary of gay pornography, Canadian auteur Bruce La Bruce relentlessly probes gay undercurrents in the extremes of popular culture. From neo-Nazi skinheads to armed terrorists to zombies, no dark corner of the “straight” world is safe from his spotlight view on the faggot sexuality lurking in the shadows.

La Bruce, along with the likes of Derek Jarman, Gregg Araki and Todd Haynes, was a leading contributor to what B. Ruby Rich, in 1992, dubbed the New Queer Cinema movement of independent queer-themed film, albeit in his own edgy realm.

Both an excellent introduction to La Bruce and an insightful analysis, The Advocate for Fagdom is delightfully packed with rare archival footage of his films. Interviews with icons such as Gus Van Sant, Harmony Korine and John Waters not only serve to examine La Bruce’s films but the whole of gay culture. Purposefully rude in his cultural commentary, La Bruce transgresses all our assumptions of what is safe, what is dangerous and what is hot.
−Wing Grabowski

Passionate Politics: The Life and Work of Charlotte Bunch

Passionate Politics traces Charlotte Bunch’s lifelong work for social justice: from her early years as a civil rights activist to her engagement with feminist and political theory as a member of the lesbian separatist group The Furies and on to her induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, her receipt of the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights from President Clinton and her place as one of the leading advocates in the international women’s rights movement.

Best known for her international work guided by the phrase “Women’s rights are human rights,” Charlotte’s story is told in part by women from the Caribbean, South America and Africa who have long worked with her to shape the global human rights agenda and extend the interpretation of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (ratified in 1948) to include the rights of women.

Archival footage and photos document the trajectory of her activism over four decades, while excerpts from her letters illuminate her determination to create a more just society and her decision to leave a youthful marriage in order to live as a lesbian and devote her energy to women’s issues. –Beth Hutchison

Youth Speak Out — Shorts Program

Blazing a new media trail, the next generation gives us a firsthand look at what it means to be young and queer today in these short documentaries by and about queer youth. 20 Straws, made by Youth Video OUTreach of Columbus, Ohio, is a touching and heartfelt film about nine gay and lesbian youth coming out and staying out in high school. I’m Just Anneke is a portrait of a12-year-old girl who loves ice hockey, dresses as a boy and isn’t sure she wants to transition, or if it’s even necessary.

In Always My Son, self-described “macho Marine dad” Ed describes his own transformation after his son comes out in a truly touching and inspiring film from the Family Acceptance Project. Equally uplifting is filmmaker Ewan Duarte’s Spiral Transition, in which he documents his evolving relationship with his mother as he transitions genders.

Wrapping up our program of outstanding docs about queer youth is Put This on the {Map}, in which 26 young people from the Seattle suburbs, frustrated with a lack of queer visibility, launch their own project to empower themselves and others. Speaking about their identities and personal journeys toward self-acceptance, these inspiring young educators are an example of everything our community should be proud of. Let’s put that on the {map}!

Inspired: Voices Against Prop 8

The passage of California’s Proposition 8 was met with shock and disbelief from LGBT communities across the country. Anger soon followed, and mass protests erupted throughout California, particularly in Los Angeles, where so many people, gay and straight, were caught completely off guard. Inspired takes a look at a diverse group of individuals who were spurred into action by the results of Prop 8, which awoke a new grassroots movement in Southern California.

Criticizing both the failed No on 8 statewide campaign (too controlling!) and the community as a whole (too complacent!), people naturally looked for answers. But blame in L.A. was quickly replaced with a renewed sense of determination. From East L.A. to Hollywood, Long Beach to Pasadena, average citizens were politicized overnight and word-of-mouth demonstrations sprang up throughout the city. L.A. saw the emergence of countless new political organizations, and Latino voices emerged not as mere educators to the movement but as outspoken leaders of the movement.

Prop 8, currently overturned by a U.S. district court and awaiting appeal, in many ways can be credited with this newfound sense of urgency and unity among everyday LGBT citizens. Where On These Shoulders We Stand illuminates Los Angeles’ early LGBT social and political history, Inspired chronicles a new generation of political activists and grassroots organizations.

Becoming Chaz

It was hard enough for Chastity Bono to grow up in the shadow of her famous folks, Sonny and Cher. Then a tabloid outed her as a lesbian in 1990, drawing public attention to a private struggle for acceptance from her parents, one a gay icon and the other a Republican politician.

But the biggest revelation didn’t come until 2009, when Chaz Bono announced his transition from female to male, making him quite possibly the most visible face of the transgender community. From the acclaimed directors of The Eyes of Tammy Faye and Party Monster, this touching documentary takes viewers inside the home of Chaz and his partner, Jennifer, as they confront the inner and outer challenges of gender transition: the side effects of testosterone,

Cher’s struggle with pronouns and Chaz’s emerging role as a trans advocate.
As a friend tearfully congratulates Chaz after his top surgery, she observes: “It’s such a milestone that he had the courage to be who he really is, which is really what I think we’re all about…to find who you really are inside and let that grow.” –Jimmy Radosta