REVIEW: ‘Bridegroom’ at USA Film Fest

Bridegroom-3Shane and Tom were the cutest twink couple you’ve ever seen. From the time they first met, it was a real connection: Both were from small Midwestern towns; both had conservative families; both loves to sing and perform and listen to Garth Brooks. Only Shane’s folks understood when he came out that being gay wasn’t a choice, and supported and loved him unconditional.

Tom’s parents were not so understanding. They claimed Shane “converted” (and perverted) Tom. That it was a sin. Tom’s dad even threatened to come to California and “gut” Shane for what he did.

Shane and Tom were stunned, but they kept on, traveling the world and vlogging about their adventure in Macchu Picchu and the Great Pyramids.

Then Tom died.

Bridgegroom, which is just one of the gay-themed films at the USA Film Festival this weekend (it plays tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Angelika Mockingbird Station), traces they tragic but beautiful relationship as they struggled to achieve marriage equality and combat homophobia. The documentary, directed by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (creator of Designing Women), is brief (less than 90 minutes) but punchy, filled with tons of video diaries, home movies and personal interviews (the best with Shane’s sassy great-grandma) explaining their struggles (when Tom is taken to the hospital, Shane is excluded for not being a relative) and Shane’s recovery from the pain of his loss, including his conflict with Tom’s parents. It’s a plainspoken and deeply moving story that strikes many familiar chords. Try leaving the screening with a dry eye.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Blood Bath 3 film fest at the Texas Theatre

Not too late for some frights

We don’t Halloween is ever over for the guys at DOA Blood Bath Entertainment. As if to perpetuate the freaks and frights of last week, they feature two days worth of independent horror films in its Blood Bath 3 film festival. Local queer filmmaker Shawn Ewert even has an entry with his short Parallel Lines, but that’s no suprise. It’s Ewert and Andrew Rose of DOA who also put on Fears for Queers in the summer.

DEETS: Texas Theatre, 231 W. Jefferson Blvd. Through Sunday. $. DOABloodbath.com

—  Rich Lopez

Horror film fest Fears for Queers 2 — benefiting Youth First Texas — announces 2011 lineup

DOA Bloodbath and out filmmaker Shawn Ewert‘s Right Left Turn Productions have announced the films for this year’s Fears For Queers 2. Last year, Fears for Queers was held at the Studio Movie Grill in Addison, but this year, the one-day LGBT horror fest takes place June 25 at the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff. And now we know what movies will be screening.

But first, if you’re not familiar with Fears for Queers, the fest says its mission is to “showcase a selection of independent feature and short horror films that have been written and/or directed by LBGT filmmakers and/or of gay interest.” Bloodbath has also produced other fests highlighting horror filmmakers that may not get attention elsewhere, including Pretty Scary, a festival featuring all-female directors, and Texas Blood Bath.

The films for this year’s Fears for Queers 2 are …

—  Rich Lopez

Making use of a chance to educate

Instead of working to block controversial film, TENT wants to put transgender issues on the front burner at Austin film fest by sponsoring discussion of movie

Recently, Transgender Education Network of Texas has made a very difficult decision. We have been following  the controversy surrounding the film, “Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives.” We have been discussing the issue with Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (AGLIFF) and both organizations believe that there needs to be dialog surrounding the film.

To that end, AGLIFF will bring the film to their well-attended festival in the fall, and TENT will facilitate a discussion afterward. This was not a decision we made lightly and we want to take a moment and clarify our position.

Many trans activists, as well as GLAAD, have been very vocal critics of this film and the “negative portrayal of trans people in it.”

The majority of our board has screened this film and, though many of us don’t think the film the greatest piece of celluloid art out there, we all pretty much agree that on its surface, it doesn’t portray trans folk too negatively.

Quite to the contrary, it shows drag queens (part of the trans community) fighting back against people who want to hurt them (and are very successful … at least physically).

I’d like to lay all of our cards on the table here. Originally, we were looking at this film to use as a fundraiser for TENT. After all, with all the controversy and shouting, it was bound to be a money-maker.

And we felt strongly that we needed to have a conversation around what was really making us angry; as an organization whose mission is to educate folks about the gender diverse, we felt an obligation to facilitate a conversation.

But after our second viewing and subsequent discussion, it became clear to many of us that using this film as a fundraiser would be adding more fuel to an already over-stoked fire.

We also felt that doing nothing was not an option either. You know, if folks didn’t raise a fuss about this film it may not have even made a ripple in our community.

As a matter of fact the controversy, arguments and protests have done more to pique the interest of viewers than any standard marketing that La Luna Entertainment had planned to do.

So, it is out there; we can’t do anything about that. So we feel it is necessary to talk about it.

We also feel that to have an intelligent discussion about the film, it is necessary to actually see it. Many of the protesters have not seen it and don’t plan to for fear of giving the appearance of condoning the film. We hope they change their minds when it comes to Austin.

Let’s take a moment to talk about what the critics are saying.

One of the biggest issues early on was the use of the murders of Angie Zapata and Jorge Mercado in the trailers marketing the film.

The film gives a nod to the “blacksploitation” films of the 1960s and is graphically violent, shot in high contrast and is very campy. The protesters (rightly, in my opinion) strongly objected to the use of the two very real and very tragic murders in the marketing of this admittedly violent and campy film.

The filmmaker listened to the critics and quickly removed those quotes. I didn’t see that trailer (it had already been pulled) and when I spoke to Israel Luna, the maker of the film, I said to him that had I seen the original trailer, I would probably be equally as offended.

I asked him if he understood that and he answered, “Yes, and that is why I removed those references.”

Although they have been removed from the trailer, this is still an issue that the critics hold on to as a reason to protest.

The other reason that the protesters and GLAAD would like to see the film banned is because “… it demeans actual transgender women who struggle for acceptance and respect in their day-to-day lives.”

We’re not so sure we agree with this statement.  Whereas drag queens are not indicative of all or even most of the gender diverse community, they are a part of the community and, I for one, am proud to stand side by side with them.

After all, it was the drag queens that hurled the first bottles to start the protest at Stonewall, a protest that launched a movement.
Now drag queens, by definition, are usually caricatures of women. We all know what it means to wear “drag queen” make-up, and few women wear the exaggerated make-up and clothing on the street in their day-to-day lives.

But that is the nature of being a drag queen; they are performers wearing a costume. And guess what?  They exist in real life. I know quite a few and are honored to call them friends.

In my opinion, the drag queens characterized in the film are pretty darn accurate. For the most part, I liked these characters. They were real!  Yes, I said it: Real.

Finally, there are a couple of criticisms that I may agree with. The first is the title.

I don’t condone the use of the “T” word; I don’t use the “T” word, and I advocate that no one use it.

The other criticism that has a bit of credence is the speed in which the film goes from a relatively realistic portrayal of horrendous violence perpetrated against these trans women to a “check your brains at the door” campiness. I have some real problems with that and would have a few suggestions for Mr. Luna for a re-edit if he wants to hear them.

But, all of those things aside, it is time to watch the film and talk about it.

It is for that reason that we are not blocking AGLIFF from bringing it to the film festival. In interest of full disclosure, we were given the opportunity to block it; if TENT said “no,” AGLIFF would not have brought it in.

But we feel strongly that this controversial film can open a dialog that can do a lot of good. So we said, bring it in and let us sponsor the discussion after. We hope to have the filmmaker, the critics, the supporters, and GLAAD all participate in this important discussion.

Lisa Scheps is executive director of Transgender Education Network of Texas, based in Austin. The talk-back will be held immediately after the screening of the film on Friday, Sept. 10 at 9:45 p.m. at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. Everyone is welcome to attend.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Dallas activist’s National Equality March documentary to premiere at Austin gay film fest

Lesbian Dallas activist Laura McFerrin sends along word that the long-awaited premiere of her directing debut, “March On,” will take place during the Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival in September. The full-length trailer is above. From McFerrin’s press release:

March On documents the 2009 National Equality March through the lives of five families who put aside their daily routine, packed up their hopes and went to Washington DC to demonstrate that they believe in Equality. Along with footage from past marches, interviews and powerful speakers, March On takes you to this fantastic and historic event. In addition, March On includes Lt. Dan Choi, Lady Gaga, Cleve Jones, Cynthia Nixon, Stacyann Chin and Michelle Clunie.

McFerrin says she will attend the premiere along with some of the men and women featured in the documentary. The showing will be at noon Sept. 12 at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, 1120 South Lamar Blvd. in Austin. Also featured at AGLIFF will be Dallas filmmaker Israel Luna’s “Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives.”

—  John Wright