In 1991, the smash documentary Truth or Dare brought audiences behind the scenes of Madonna’s groundbreaking Blond Ambition tour, which courted controversy with the Vatican for its sex-positive theatrics at the height of the AIDS crisis. But for gay fans, the heart of the film belonged to her proudly flamboyant dancers: Salim, the chiseled Belgian; Jose and Luis, who Madonna recruited from the underground drag ball scene to help choreograph the video for “Vogue”; Oliver, the only straight guy among the bunch. Backstage footage shows the dancers engaging in racy “pillow talk” with Madonna, who becomes a sort of mother figure to the wild young men.
A quarter-century after being thrust into the spotlight, Strike a Pose reunites the dancers to find out where they are now. Some have struggled with drugs and alcohol. Some are still coming to terms with an HIV diagnosis. One of them has died of AIDS.
It’s a touching story of talented artists who have matured into complex, introspective adults—and who are finally receiving credit for opening hearts and minds through their visible role in Truth or Dare. As one of the dancers, Kevin Stea, puts it: “The daring, progressive message in this movie was that you can be gay and happy and successful. You didn’t have to be hiding in the back alley of some sleazy bar. You could be yourself.”
The famously queer and bohemian beach resort of Provincetown, Mass.—featured in last year’s QDoc crowd pleaser Packed in a Trunk—makes a raucous return in this highly entertaining film from director Andrea Meyerson. Back in the early 1980s, a small group of women innkeepers had an idea to extend the Provincetown LGBT tourist season by organizing a “Women’s Week” featuring lesbian entertainers and a beach clambake.
More than 30 years later, Women’s Week in Provincetown has become one of the most popular lesbian events in the world, attracting women of all ages for a week of parties, performance and solidarity. Clambake is not only a celebration of the extraordinary success and longevity of Women’s Week, but it’s also a poignant and often hilarious journey through 30 years of remarkable change in LGBT—and specifically lesbian—life and community. Archival and contemporary interviews and performances from celebrities, organizers and attendees capture the spirit and energy of this lesbian mecca. Clambake features some of the top lesbian comedians and performers such as Kate Clinton, Suzanne Westenhoefer, Karen Williams, Mimi Gonzalez and many more.
We are Palestine, we are queer, and we are here!”
“Here” means Tel Aviv, where three gay Palestinian friends are exploring their national, sexual and cultural identities. As gay men they face repression within their own Palestinian communities, yet as Palestinians they are always facing oppression living in Israel.
Khader is an optimist who came out as a teenager. He’s unsure about whether to settle down near his friends and family, or escape the conflict zone by relocating to Europe. “There is life outside of that stupid ghetto,” he acknowledges after visiting Berlin.
Naeem is struggling to decide when to come out to his conservative family. “You either choose to live comfortably for yourself,” a friend advises, “or you choose to live comfortably for your parents.”
Fadi is politically passionate, but finds himself torn when he falls for an Israeli soldier. “I’m in love with the enemy,” he sighs. “I’m in love with everything I fight against.”
The friends form a nonviolent group called Qambuta to create social change through viral online videos. Their art represents gender equality while addressing what it means to grow up with the burden of a multifaceted identity. Oriented provides an intimate look at a bold generation that’s shattering stereotypes about queer life in Israel.
King Kellz, the hottest performer at City of Doms, New York’s premier stud/AG (Aggressives) strip club, has the full package: a deep, luxurious voice; a masculine swagger; and a long, wavy weave that she proudly installs herself. Her fellow AGs hate on her for wearing a weave, but Kellz refuses to accept that there is only one way to be masculine, remarking, “It’s not what you wear. It’s your demeanor and how you carry yourself…. Your baggy clothes don’t determine your character.”
The Same Difference is a compelling documentary that broadens the definition of what it means to be part of the African-American lesbian community. Self-identified studs—and the women who love them—discuss hypocrisy in terms of gender roles, performative expectations and the silent disciplining that occurs among community members. This film features many queer celebrities, including actress Felicia “Snoop” Pearson from the critically acclaimed HBO drama The Wire, AzMarie Livingston from America’s Next Top Model and FOX’s hit series Empire, Dee Pimpin from MTV’s Catfish, Crissle West from the popular podcast The Read and Lea DeLaria from Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black. From stud-on-stud relationships to coming out as bisexual, and from AGs who decide to get pregnant to studs dressing femme for pay, director Nneka Onuroah’s engaging documentary ensures that no topic is left untouched.
Cecilia Aldarondo grew up with stories of an uncle Miguel who had died of cancer and repented his homosexuality on his deathbed in 1987. Spurred by home movies and family rumors, she began to question her devout family’s role in his repentance, whether he had died of cancer or AIDS, and the fate of his former lover Robert, who had been shunned by the family.
The answers she found take us on a personal and historical journey into the loves, prayers and secrets of a Puerto Rican immigrant family. Spanning three generations, Memories of a Penitent Heart is both an exploration of the strength and the wounds created by religion and a lyrical comparison between the conflicted identities of immigrants in a new homeland and gay men marginalized from their families and faith.
The ultimate question Aldarondo asks of us and herself is: “How do we forgive and heal when the knowledge to do so is hidden from us?”
“The finest clothing made is a person’s own skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this” is a Twainism that remains as true today as it was in 1906. For many transgender and gender-nonconforming people, finding the right fit can play a signficant role in feeling comfortable in their own skin.
Rae Tutera joined forces with tailor Daniel Friedman, initially as an apprentice, to eventually form the Brooklyn tailoring company Bindle & Keep, specializing in custom-made suits for clients who live outside the gender binary. “For a lot of people with all kinds of bodies and all kinds of identities, clothes can make or break every day of their lives,” Rae says. “Everyone has a right to feel good and be themselves. You have the right to be handsome.”
Director Jason Benjamin’s Suited, produced by Lena Dunham, follows the clothier duo and their clients from initial consultation to final fitting. Among those sharing their unique and intimate stories are a trans bar mitzvah boy, a NYC cab driver, a law student and a transgender man preparing for his wedding. When they finally see themselves in the mirror, the expressions on their faces reveal a truly transformative, empowering moment.
Kiki revisits the world of New York’s voguing balls, explored 25 years ago in Jenni Livingston’s seminal film Paris Is Burning. The Kiki scene is a youth-focused subset of the larger vogueing scene, with strong activist and social service components.
In this film collaboration between Kiki gatekeeper Twiggy Pucci Garçon and Swedish filmmaker Sara Jordenö, viewers are granted exclusive access into this high-stakes world, where fierce ballroom competitions serve as a gateway into conversations surrounding the Black Lives Matter and Trans Lives Matter movements.
This new generation of ballroom youth use the motto, “Not About Us Without Us,” and Kiki in kind has been made with extensive support and trust from the community, including an exhilarating score by renowned ballroom and voguing producer collective Qween Beat. Twiggy and Sara’s insider-outsider approach to their stories breathes fresh life into the representation of a marginalized community who demand visibility and real political power.
QDoc co-founder and filmmaker David Weissman (We Were Here, The Cockettes) presents a project-in-progress screening of his new doc series, Conversations with Gay Elders. Weissman initiated this project to capture the experiences of gay men of the pre-Stonewall generation, in collaboration with younger-generation gay men as editors. In a departure from his previous work, Weissman’s focus here is on creating multiple in-depth individual character studies rather than a single feature film, and to create a large, rich repository of these histories for future generations who won’t have direct access to the men who lived them.
Unlike most minority groups, gay men (as with others in the LGBT spectrum) can’t readily learn our culture and history from our pr imarily nongay parents. Additionally, for a number of complex reasons, communication between generations of gay men is often difficult; Conversations with Gay Elders is an attempt to bridge some of those gaps.
This program will feature two of the “conversations” shot thus far. These interviews feature San Franciscan Robert Dockendorff (76), who grew up in rural Idaho, and New Yorker Daniel Maloney (77), raised in Darby, Pennsylvania. Editors Alex Bohs (25), who is editing the Dockendorff piece and Jake Stein (25) who is editing the Maloney piece, will engage in postscreening conversation with Weissman.
With chants of “Socialism Yes! Homophobia No!”, Cuban congresswoman Mariela Castro leads Havana’s annual parade celebrating the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Daughter of President Raul, and niece of Fidel, the straight, married mother of three has been using her position, name and irrepressibly buoyant personality to bring
about legal protections and social acceptance for Cuba’s LGBT community.
The Cuban Revolution forbade displays of homosexuality, homosexual acts and associating with homosexuals. In Jon Alpert’s revealing documentary, we find ample testimony of this discrimination, including a gay man forced to work in labor camps and a lesbian kicked off the national tennis team. Confronting the decades of cultural and institutional homophobia, Mariela tirelessly advocates for the rights of LGBT Cubans. Resolute in her cause, she recalls, “I decided to fight this prejudice knowing that in Cuba’s macho society it would be difficult, even if your last name is Castro.”
From the onset of the epidemic in 1981 until the mid-1990s, AIDS was an almost-certain death sentence. Though countless drugs were being used and tested to mitigate the wide range of AIDS-related infections, mortality loomed for the vast majority of those infected with the virus.
And then things changed. Not immediately, and not for everyone, but with the discovery of protease inhibitors and the introduction of the “AIDS cocktail,” a future that seemed lost was suddenly regained. Many people who had suffered terribly and were awaiting their impending end began to regain a degree of good health. While this was indisputably cause for rejoicing, it was not without ambiguities and complications.
Filmmakers Erin Brethauer and Tim Hussin were commissioned by The San Francisco Chronicle to collect stories from gay San Franciscans whose futures were unexpectedly returned to them, and for which they were not entirely prepared. They found men who were thriving, but also dealing with huge challenges – financial, emotional, as well as medical.
Last Men Standing opens a window into a neglected story of the AIDS epidemic: those who
survived but still carry enormous burdens. This film gives them a voice, and helps begin an
How does one survive a 15+ year prison sentence, having been convicted after a homophobic witch hunt for a horrendous crime that never really happened? Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four brings to light the heartwrenching story of Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, Kristie Mayhugh and Anna Vasquez, four Latina lesbians who were accused of gangraping two little girls during the Satanic panic of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Director Deborah S. Esquenazi combines old home movies, recent interviews with the incarcerated women and legal and cultural experts, creating a riveting truecrime journey that exposes the truth in this extreme miscarriage of justice. Their LGBT community may have forgotten these women, but their mothers, children and families have continued to stand by them.
When the Innocence Project of Texas becomes involved and one of the original victims (now an adult) recants her testimony, the four finally feel a glimmer of hope for their freedom and eventual exoneration. However, as one of the Innocence Project’s lawyers reminds us, truth and justice often have very little to do with the legal system.
— Jennifer Morris