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Posted on 21 Sep 2012 at 8:30am

Dallas VideoFest gets its queer on

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FLICKER BY | Gay folks put on a great party in ‘The Wildness,’ top; Ann Richards proudly meets one of her drag impersonators, above; the weirdness of Edward Albee, above right, is captured in ‘Stages;’ and a woman embraces her inner Amazon in ‘Wonder Women, on the bottom.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor

There’s almost always some gay content at most film festivals, but the Dallas VideoFest, for its 25th installment, has turned out a huge selection of queer-interest films for its annual event, starting Thursday  — all documentaries, and many from gay filmmakers. From Ann Richards to Edward Albee to the trans underworld of L.A. and the Beat Generation, the slate mounted this year is consistently compelling — one of the best festivals the DVF has yet produced.

Here are some highlights, all of which screen inside the Dallas Museum of Art.


Ann Richards’ Texas by Keith Patterson and Jack Lofton


You never needed to like Ann Richards to love her. Or hate her. Ann was the essence of Texas independence, “a character” when that term meant something. There were many men like her in public office before (including LBJ), but few women. With her passing, and that of Molly Ivins, we have simply not seen her like in a while. And probably never will again.

Richards stormed onto the national stage at the Democratic Convention in 1988 with her notorious “silver foot in his mouth line,” and a legend was made. Plain-spoken and refreshing in a way only a Texan can be, Richards was folksy and witty, a brilliant combination of down-home and uptown, of wisdom and savvy, of the art of the possible and the power of dreaming big.

Ann Richards’ Texas does justice to this friend of the gays (she was even accused of being gay on numerous occasions — a true sign of people fearing your power) and this authentically Texas-flavored documentary does a terrific job of conveying her brilliance, thanks to comments from Lily Tomlin, Ron Kirk, Dolly Parton and mostly footage of Ann herself.
Screens Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. in the Horchow Auditorium.

The Wildness by Wu Tsang

There have been movies narrated by dead people and women in comas and unborn children, but this may be the first narrated by a drag bar. The Silver Platter has been a refuse for gay Spanish-speaking immigrants to the MacArthur Park area of Los Angeles for nearly 50 years and girl, she’s seen some shit. And she’s talkin’. Wu Tsang’s magical-realism-influenced documentary about the place trans Latinas seek out for safety and acceptance speaks to a fascinating subculture of LGBT life with dignity but a serious fascination for what this seemingly insignificant corner of the barrio has meant to three generations of gay Hispanics.
Screens Sept. 27 at 9 p.m. in the C3 Theatre.

Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance by Bob Hercules

The teaming of Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino had a transformative impact on modern ballet. At a time when classical ballet and modern dance remained segregated, they melded the two, adding a sexuality and masculinity not common at the time. (For once under them, men in ballet were more than just girl-lifters.) This documentary tracks their development — as a romantic couple, then as solely artistic partners — with tons of video of the actual dances they choreographed, plus interviews with scholars and those who were there, making history.

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CORPS DE BALLET | The Joffrey Ballet infused dance with a sexuality missing before.

Joffrey is fairly conventional documentary filmmaking, and despite almost uniform praise for their artistry, some of their works (especially Trinity and some of the later stuff) seem dated and dull today. Ah, well. Geniuses aren’t always right; they are still geniuses, as this film makes clear Joffrey and Arpino were.
Screens Sept. 28 at 9 p.m. in the C3 Tech Lab Screening Room.

Stages of Edward Albee by James Dowell & John Kolomvakis

Edward Albee — and I say this having met him once briefly — is a weird man. That weirdness has served him well. He basically hated his wealthy (adoptive) family — a recurrent theme in most of his plays, which range from intense psychological dramas to screwy absurdist comedies about how terrible parents and children are.

The thing is, Albee has never tried to disguise his weirdness. He seems content making the most bizarre statements as if they were totally ordinary, not unlike many of his characters.

Dallas-based filmmakers James Dowell and John Kolomvakis (who screened their doc about their efforts at surrogacy at last year’s VideoFest) capture his abiding peculiarity while still being respectful and unblinking. With recollections from former lover Terrence McNally, Ned Rorem and others including playwrights Tony Kushner and John Guare, and actresses Kathleen Turner, Rosemary Harris and Marian Seldes, it’s a fascinating profile of one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
Screens Sept. 29 at 1:45 p.m. Horchow Auditorium.

The Beat Hotel by Alan Govenar

A bohemian enclave in Paris from about 1958 to 1963, The Beat Hotel was, like all great social legends — the Lost Generation, the Algonquin Round Table, the Golden Age of Hollywood, Woodstock — a moment that can never be fully captured in its fullness. You truly had to be there to understand it.

Alan Govenar takes a shot, though, with this documentary, and while there’s some interest here, it’s not a compelling dissection of the Beat leaders (including gay and bisexual leaders Allen Ginsberg and his partner Peter Orlofsky, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs). Successfully, it reflects the seamier side of any artistic movement … which the Beat Generation would probably love.
Screens Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. in the Horchow Auditorium.

Wonder Women! The Untold Story of the American Superheroines by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan

Gay people often say the absence of gay role models in their youth contributed to feelings of inadequacy of otherness. But women often have similar experiences — at least, in the comic book universe. Other than Diana Prince, name a female superhero! … Yeah, it’s hard. But not impossible.

“She was the only game in town,” observes Gloria Steinem in this documentary, though we find out she wasn’t — though she was the first and most important.

Wonder Woman is the heart of this story that explores not only the character and comic books, but feminism and pop culture in the broader sense. A gay comic store owner in Portland, Ore., even created Wonder Woman Day as a fundraiser for domestic violence shelters because, he says, as an openly gay man, he wanted to embody her ideals.

Princess Diana isn’t the only hero profiled here — it eventually delves into other modern characters, from Ripley to Charlie’s Angels to Hillary Clinton — though she is the focus. And what gay man doesn’t like a little Wonder in his life?
NOTE: The screening of this program has been changed. It is now Sept. 29 at 8:45  p.m. in the Horchow Auditorium.

Angel by Andrew Nelson
A short documentary about the female boxer. (No screener available.)
Sept. 30. Screens with other shorts, beginning at 8 p.m. in the Horchow Auditorium.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 21, 2012.

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