This year’s SXSW Film Festival includes more LGBT works than ever, including Wu Tsang’s insightful look at LA’s most popular Latino gay bar in Wildness, Jonathan Lisecki’s quasi-homo pregnancy comedy Gayby and Chris James Thompson’s Jeff, a low-key yet emotional portraits of Jeffrey Dahmer’s next door neighbor and lead investigator.
But the festival has also featured films with unexpected LGBT inclusion, an encouraging indication for viewers who want to see our community included in larger film narratives. After the jump, find my a list of more movies that have screened this week along with a reviews and exclusive interviews with actors Willem Dafoe and Minnie Driver below (click links for trailers):
A Cabin in the Woods — There’s a reason that all teenage slasher flicks involve a jock, slut, egghead, moron and virgin all getting hacked to pieces by rural psychopaths — and it involves lots of blood and belly-laughs in this genre-skewering horror comedy produced and co-written by lesbian-friendly Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon.
The Announcement — After he announced his HIV status to the world in 1991, beloved NBA superstar Magic Johnson found himself playing on a whole new court where even his closest friends weren’t necessarily on his team. This ESPN documentary covers the lead-up to Johnson’s seroconversion and how he turned his virus into a nationwide awareness campaign.
We Are Legion — Surprisingly, the story about the infamous international “hack-tivist” group Anonymous involves possibly transgender American political prisoner Bradley Manning, gay journalist Glenn Greenwald, numerous mentions of bleeding heart “moral fags” as well as Egypt’s Arab Spring uprising, which may have made life for LGBT people on the Nile much more difficult.
Los Chidos — The Mars Volta frontman Rodriguez Lopez brilliantly skewers homophobia, machismo, Mexican pop culture and hypocritical Catholicism in this brutal satire which follows a moronic family of tire store owners who ensnare a white foreigner in their nonstop orgy of drunken rape, gleeful spousal abuse, incestuous adultery and much much more. Think Pink Flamingos meets Sabado Gigante.
The Hunter — Willem Dafoe has played a range of social outsiders like Jesus from The Last Temptation of Christ, vampire Count Orlock from Shadow of the Vampire and the Green Goblin from Spider Man. In director Daniel Nettheim’s The Hunter (which premiered Sunday at the festival), Dafoe plays Martin David, the titular hunter hired by a shadowy biotech company to hunt down the last existing Tasmanian Tiger in a desolate landscape.
We asked Dafoe why it’s important to play outsider roles and how he went about crafting his glorious gay FBI agent Paul Smecker in the movie Boondock Saints (which, if you haven’t seen, you should).
We also asked Nettheim how hunting the Tasmanian Tiger compares hunting LGBT people and other social minorities targeted by violence. He said that he used the Tasmanian Tiger somewhat as a symbol for the aboriginals wiped out in Australia in ways very similar to the American Natives and added that these hunted humans still have stories that need to be told.
Hunky Dory — Meet Aneurin Barnard. He plays as Davey in Welsh director Marc Evans’ musical film Hunky Dory—and his co-star Minnie Driver calls him “a combination of James Franco and Jeff Buckley.”
Hunky Dory takes place in 1976 Wales during the hottest summer on record. Drama teacher Vivienne (Driver) inspires her working class students (Barnard included) to stage a rock opera version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest set to the music of David Bowie, ELO and —think a Welsh version of Glee; there’s even the requisite gay kid.
The fact that the film’s actors actually sing and play their own instruments provide the best moments along with Driver digging into the indignant teachers who insist “these kids will never amount to anything.” The rest of the film features mostly flat student characters dealing with moody parents, break ups, comings out and the pressures of being slutty and becoming a skinhead.
But while fewer subplots would have helped strengthen the story’s emotional core, it’s still a pleasant, harmless bit of adolescent nostalgia that makes light rainy weekend viewing that will hopefully hint at Barnard’s newly budding career.
We spoke with Driver, Barnard and Evans at the SXSW red carpet premiere. While Driver mentioned the international appeal of Elton John’s music, Barnard said that kids need public school drama programs because without them, young people will find unhealthy ways to explore and express their powerful and often conflicting emotions.