“Gen Silent” explores challenges facing the elderly LGBT community

Gen Silent PosterThere are almost 38 million LGBT Americans over the age of 65. This number is expected to double by 2030. Yet in a Fenway Institute study fifty percent of nursing home workers said that their co-workers are intolerant of LGBT people. That collision of a rapidly aging queer population and a nursing home system ill-prepared to serve them is explored in Gen Silent, a documentary showing at the GLBT Cultural Center (401 Branard) on Thursday, January 26, at 6:30 pm.

Gen Silent, from award-winning director and documentary filmmaker Stu Maddux, follows six LGBT seniors as they struggle to make decisions about their twilight years. These seniors put a face on what experts in the film call an epidemic: gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender seniors so afraid of discrimination in long-term health care that many go back into the closet.

Gen Silent startlingly discovers how oppression in the years before Stonewall now leaves many elders not just afraid but dangerously isolated and at risk on not receiving medical care. The film shows the wide range in quality of paid caregivers –from those who are specifically trained to make LGBT seniors feel safe, to the other end of the spectrum, where LGBT elders face discrimination, neglect or abuse, including shocking bed-side attempts by staff to persuade seniors to give up their “sinful” lifestyles.

This free screening will be followed by a call-to-action and panel discussion with some of Houston’s GLBT senior leaders.

View the trailer for Gen Silent after the break.

—  admin

Respect the board

Hollywood-Issue-logo-(color)

Filmmaker Israel Luna gambles with his supernatural indie thriller ‘The Ouija Experiment,’ a remake of his own earlier film ‘Is Anybody There?’

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Israel Luna learned quickly when he was in junior high this lesson: There are three rules when it comes to playing with a Ouija board. Luna’s phase — or rather, his creepy curiosity— lasted long enough for him to turn his own paranormal activities into the basis for his new movie, The Ouija Experiment.

Rule No. 1: Never ask the spirit how it died.

“Ouija is actually a remake,” Luna, formerly based in Dallas but now making his home in San Francisco, says. “It was originally shot in 2001 as Is Anybody There?, which had low production quality. [Then we realized] we had access to all this cool equipment, so we remade one of our own movies!”

Not that he spent a fortune on the remake. Luna and his crew worked on the movie for nine days and with a budget of just $1,000, but he knew the story could be shot on the cheap and still look good. Without the need of a special effects monster, Luna felt the tone created a scarier environment by suggesting more than showing.

Four friends, gathered to play on a Ouija, encounter three spirits who instill a sense of suspicion in the gamers. The “found footage” of them playing gives it a Blair Witch feel, but Luna says the film is based on his own actual experiences with the board. And those were kinda scary.

“When I had the rules, I knew this would be easy to write basing it on the real things I experienced,” he says. “My own scariest moment is in the movie. We were playing with a friend who didn’t believe in it and asked it to prove itself. The board spelled out BDRM, and later we saw a picture of his wife and girl face down in his bedroom. He got really upset by that.”

Rule No. 2: Never ask a spirit how
you are going to die.

With the success of his film Ticked Off Trannies With Knives, Luna felt some pressure to come up with a big follow-up. He knew this would be the movie that gets compared to TOTWK, though he is working on a companion piece for that. With Ouija, he’s managing expectations.

“This is not at the scale of Ticked, but I hope people see it as a different kind of movie,” he says. “This was just an experience in shooting a quickie project.”

That was the plan, at least. But after seeing the finished product, he became dubious about Ouija. At first.

“I was nervous before the Dallas screening [this month] so I called my producer, Toni Miller,” he says. “We agreed that we didn’t think the movie was very scary. And we weren’t thrilled at all by that.”

But the audience reaction contradicted Luna and Miller’s fears. Then he took the film to screen in his home town.

“I screened it in Wellington when I went home for Thanksgiving and there were so many screams! It wasn’t until then I realized I might have something,” Luna says.

Rule No. 3: Most importantly, do not stop
playing without saying goodbye.

Despite the success of TOTWK on the festival circuit, it didn’t help Luna’s bottom line all that much. More money was going out than coming in, so taking a note from Kevin Smith’s model for Red State, Luna decided to show the film himself. He says his plan poses the $64,000 question.

“You’ve caught me at a big change in my career,” he admits. “I am going to experiment with this and I think I’m going to be four-walling the movie. We’ll book the theater, screen the film and come out ahead.”

The only trick at this point is marketing and getting exposure. Luna wants to take the movie to smaller towns without indie art houses. If all goes according to plan, the movie goes into release in February — just as he wants it.

“We got a small chunk of money the last time around, but this is the fight for indie filmmakers,” he says. “I’m kind of excited but I’m kind of scared. I don’t know what I’m doing!”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

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

Yen Tan’s gay movie nears funding goal, needs last-minute infusion

This summer, I wrote about Texas filmmaker Yen Tan’s latest feature film, which like his last, is Texas-set and gay-themed. Pit Stop is about a romance between rural gays (one Latino, one Anglo) who begin a relationship, and how it affects and is affected by their small-town lives. Tan was tagged for a fundraising campaign similar to Kickstarter.com called UnitedStatesArtists.org, which helps filmmakers and other artists get the money they need to make their dream a reality. In Tan’s case, the goal was $22,000. So far, he’s accured $20,600 — that’s 94 percent.

It is not, however, enough — and this is a question of winner-takes-all. If Tan doesn’t hit the $22K figure within the next 13 days, he gets none of it. That’s a pretty important $1,400.

Pledges as low as one dollar count, and there are perks depending on what you pledge, from an on-screen credit to a walk-on role. If you go here, you can pledge directly. You have some time, but why taunt fate? And on-screen credit is pretty cool, actually.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Princess of Persia

The lesbian romance “Circumstance’ breaks many taboos, but for director Maryam Keshavarz, it was simply a story that had to be told.

The Arab Spring has meant a significant liberalization in Middle Eastern countries. But political freedom is one thing; artistic expression is still quite another. And, for that matter, Iran is not Egypt or Libya.

Not that the revolutions in those countries mattered to Maryam Keshavarz, who made the dauntingly radical film Circumstance. Although shot in comparatively open Lebanon (where it is still illegal to be gay), the story tells a tale of two Iranian woman who enter into a romance.

Keshavarz chatted with critics recently following a screening of her film to discuss how the film was made, the price she and the crew had to pay and what it’s like taking on taboo subject matter in a country where her film cannot even be shown.

Opens Friday at the Angelika Film Center Mockingbird Station.

………………….

Question: How much of the film is autobiographical? Maryam Keshavarz: It is not an autobiographical film, but the girls navigating the underground world is my experience as a teenager with my cousins. The structure of the family is based on a very liberal uncle I had that was at university in America, went back to Iran in 1979 and got stuck there. Since he was very liberal, I wondered what it was like for him to raise his family in a very conservative environment.

Where was this movie made, when and how? The film was completely shot in Lebanon. We could not shoot in Iran due to the subject matter, but I wanted to shoot in the Middle East. Even shooting in a liberal country, like Lebanon, was still difficult. It is still illegal to be gay there. Also there is a lot of tension in the country.

As a filmmaker, did you run into backlash or difficulty making the project? There was a lot of risk in making the film. I had serious discussions with the actors that we likely couldn’t go back to Iran after making the film.

What has the reaction to the film been like in Middle Eastern countries? Unfortunately, we cannot show the film in Middle Eastern countries. The only countries that will show the film are Turkey and Israel. But we are trying to screen in other countries soon. There have been a lot of Middle Eastern immigrants who have seen the film and their reaction has been mostly positive, but some extremely negative. In terms of the young Middle Eastern and gay Middle Eastern, it has been extremely positive.

What has been the response from the gay community? The response in the gay community has been amazing. We won the audience award at Outfest and the Jury Award at New Fest.

What were your cinematic or visual cues that inspired the look and feel of the film? In terms of the visuals, I worked closely with my director of photography. I met him at the Sundance lounge in 2007. We created an 80-page look-book where we mapped out the entire course of the film. The beginning is open and airy, with smooth dolly shots, but as the film progresses, as the brother becomes more intrusive, the image becomes more crowded and darker to make a sense of unease.

Any specific films or filmmakers you modeled the film after? Or was it mostly intuitive or organic? I love Lucrecia Martel and Atom Egoyan.

Were you pressured at any point to walk your audience more explicitly through mile-markers of Iranian history and social context? I trusted the audience in making the film. In terms of when I write, I try to write scenes that resonate with me both as an Iranian and an American. I wanted people to feel the social context, not necessarily be told about it. We painted those strokes with camera and music. There are specific references to political ideologies. There’s the whole scene from Milk.

Did you always plan for dance and music to play such central roles? Yes, music has always been a major character in the film. Especially the use of Persian hip-hop in contrast to the Persian classical music. In the beginning of the film, there is a lot of music and joy. As the environment becomes more oppressive, the music that does appear is discordant. Gingger Shankar and I worked on the music cues even before we shot the film.

How open is the broader society to that kind of Persian hip-hop? Does it ever tackle these subjects directly in the music socially? Persian hip-hop is highly political. It’s all underground, but the lyrics are very political and it’s very popular with the young people in Iran. We will be releasing the soundtrack in November and there will be a booklet with the translations of the songs.

Can you talk about your upbringing? Are you able now to go back to Iran? I grew up going between New York, New Jersey and Shiraz. Since my parents came to the U.S. in ’67, I never had any issues going between countries. I had two passports. My uncle was killed in the war between Iran and Iraq. Because of this, my mom moved my brother and I back to Iran, so I actually went to second grade in Iran. I also did some of my graduate work at the university in Iran. I love that toggling back and forth.

How important was the influence of Marjane Satrapi [Persepolis] on you? I think Marjane and I both speak to a lot of Iranis’ experiences. I think what she did was only possible in animation. The broad historical analysis of a little girl.

Were there any specific challenges or issues with filming in the Middle East? Was production ever halted? I’ve shot two films in Iran before, so I know shooting in the Middle East is a very delicate matter. It’s about flying under the radar and picking the right team. We encountered some obstacles in terms of shutting down the production, but we were able to overcome them.

I like how we don’t know at first what headmistress means by “people like you,” and how you raise issues of wealth/class. Can you say more about that? “People like you” refers to Shireen’s parents’ political background. She’s been marked because of this. In terms of class, the film shows that the girls are on parallel paths until they are arrested. This is where circumstance of class comes in to play. Atafeh’s parents can buy her way out. Shireen’s choices are much more limited.

Did you specifically try to find a beautiful cast? Casting was a huge problem. I auditioned 2,000 girls for the roles of Atafeh and Shireen. I was looking for girls that were over 18, but looked under 18, had two passports, were good actors and weren’t afraid to tackle the subject matter in the film. It’s both girls’ acting debuts.

What are men most afraid of in regards to women in a culture like Iran? Women in Iran — it’s a touchy subject. Because it’s an Islamic state, women occupy a largely symbolic position in the culture. If women show too much of their hair or dress too promiscuously, this is an assault on the state. Women are largely more harassed in the culture. But it also creates very strong women as a result. The film is sort of a love poem to strong Iranian women, who in their daily lives and small acts stand up against the state.

Given the environment, why is there not a mass exodus of women? That’s not to say women don’t create their own spaces for freedom of expression. You have a sense in the beginning of the film that despite all the surveillance cameras, the girls have found a way to still live their lives. They ride around in the city, still see their friends — like typical teenagers. The family has done quite well for themselves. The mother is a successful surgeon. So in any oppressive environment, safe spaces are created. But I was trying to evaluate, when are those safe spaces compromised?

Are you currently working on any new, similarly risky projects? I’m working on a trilogy on Iran.

Surveillance cameras have become a way of life in all countries and cultures. How do you think this changes us fundamentally as human beings? It’s only when the threat comes from within that tragedy strikes. It’s when the brother brings the state [surveillance] into the sanctuary of the home that everything starts to fall apart.

Given Mehran’s arc, are you comfortable with viewers seeing his newfound fundamentalism as its own form of addiction? Is that too pat or a viable read of the character? Mehran’s not truly a fundamentalist. He’s attracted to religion because it comes with power in Iran. His extremism is another form of articulating his addictive character. But he’s quite lost and lonely. He’s disempowered. I don’t see him as a villain. Just as someone trying to find his place in the world.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Dallas Pride: OutTakes Dallas movie event tonight at Texas Theatre

Make a Pit Stop in Oak Cliff

As you might have read, queer filmmaker Yen Tan is hard at work on his next project Pit Stop. After the success of his film Ciao, Tan focuses again on the community with his latest film about two men who find romance in each other in a small Texas town. The film is still in the works but he gives a sort of preview tonight with staged readings from the script as well as showing clips from Ciao. He teams with OutTakes Dallas for tonight’s movie launch event in Oak Cliff. The night will also feature a conversation with Tan and producer Eric Steele.

This is an official Dallas Pride 2011 event.

DEETS: Texas Theatre, 231 W. Jefferson St. 7:30 p.m. Free. OutTakesDallas.com.

—  Rich Lopez

Project pinklight

For his upcoming ‘Pit Stop,’ Texas filmmaker Yen Tan tackles another gay romance

screen-1
THE BUSINESS OF SHOW Yen Tan hopes to raise money for a spring start date to shoot ‘Pit Stop,’ about small town gay life in Texas. (Arnold Wayne Jones/ Dallas Voice)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Writing coaches often tell authors, “Write what you know.” But for Yen Tan, the more interesting assignment is, “Write what you can’t get out of your head.”
Back in 2004 — when he was still living in Dallas, Tan wrote a draft screenplay called Pit Stop, about two gay men in small-town Texas who begin a romance. It wasn’t anything he knew about from personal experience.

“It’s hard to pinpoint what drew me to the story,” he says. “I have a tendency to pick up on things that don’t register with others. Being gay and middle class in small-town America is very foreign to me — it’s odd there are gay people who choose to live in small towns. What’s the decision behind that?”

He liked the script, but he couldn’t seem to get it off the ground financially or creatively. Instead, he made Ciao, which became his biggest hit as a filmmaker (it scored an honorable mention at the AFI Dallas International Film Festival in 2008). But Pit Stop drifted around in the back of his head until 2009, when he submitted it to the OutFest L.A. screenwriting lab.

“Hearing the comments by other filmmakers, I knew I had something and had underestimated its potential,” he says. Tan immediately started in on rewrites, including making the cast more diversified.

“The big change in the script is that two major characters are Latino now. It was all-white originally, but that was not entirely accurate of the Texas landscape,” Tan says. He also consulted with colleagues to make sure he got the feel of Podunk, Texas right.

“Thankfully I’m a bit paranoid about those things,” he laughs. “I would verify and re-verify [what I wrote about small-town Texas and gay Latinos]. I’d ask my friends who know, ‘Is this right or just totally made up?’ And I usually rely on my actors to put it right — is this what an American would say or is it totally ESL [English as a Second Language]? But I am also trying to make these elements work within the framework of my ideas.”

The issue now isn’t the script — it’s getting the film made. He hopes to begin filming in the spring, either around Austin or in the DFW area, but needs to raise money first. Tan was lucky enough to snag a grant targeted to Texas filmmakers, but he also wants to raise money from individual investors. That’s why this week, he’s teaming with OutTakes Dallas and the Texas Theatre to showcase his movie and allow people to contribute via United States Artists, a high-prestige donation site that allows people to make tax-deductible contributions and comes with matching grants.

“We’ll be showing clips from Ciao and do a staged reading of some scenes from Pit Stop,” he explains. “We’re also trying to set up Internet stations so people can donate on the spot. But to me it’s not about raising all the money at one time — just to kick it off.” He’s still trying to set up his goals for the fundraising, but Tan estimates something less than $20,000 would make a huge difference. In fact, he’s learned how to do more with less ever since moving to Austin last year.

“People are doing stuff with very little resources there — they just make do. You kinda have to put less emphasis on monetary stuff because someone right next to you is doing the same for $10.”

He’s looking forward to finally getting the cameras rolling.

“After making films all these years, the most gratifying part is production itself,” he says.” Once a film is finished and you’re going to the festivals… it’s fun but it gets old quickly. I know enough by now that that’s really the part that makes me not want to make another film.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: Local filmmaker Shawn Ewert previews his new feature film ‘Sacrament’ with teaser

Dallas queer filmmaker Shawn Ewert, who co-founded the Fears For Queers film festival, is in the process of working on his newest horror flick, Sacrament. He previewed the movie with this teaser at the festival. At the same time, he and his company Right Left Turn Productions are also inviting people to contribute to the making of the film with donations. Basically, offer them some scratch and you could have a credit in a movie. How often does that happen?

They are about to release an extended clip after so many views of the one below. I wouldn’t say this is NSFW, but if you’re not that much into blood and cannibalism at the dinner table, well, maybe watch at home. Sacrament is the first feature-length film by Ewert and his company.

Oh yeah, what’s the movie about? Well, here’s the synopsis from RLTP:

Leaving work and school behind them for a weekend of hedonism, seven friends take a trip down to South Padre, Texas to relax and party it up. A breakdown lands them square in the rhinestone jewel of the bible-belt, Middle Spring during a tent revival. Middle Spring is known for their famous barbecue, and for their fervent preacher Isaac Renneker.

Our friends soon find themselves trapped in this town of food and faith. Every second that ticks by blurs the line between the two. With Renneker’s fire and brimstone whipping the town into a righteous whirlwind, the friends have to stick together to keep from winding up at the altar, or on the menu.

Watch the teaser below.

—  Rich Lopez

QUEER CLIPS: USAFF Short Film Showcase

Hello Caller: A suicidal woman calls a help line only to find the man on the opposite end (gay filmmaker Tom Lenk, pictured, who produced and wrote the script) seems not to understand the situation. A gem of a comedy with very dark undertones and a great twist.

Clara’s Carma: A psychiatrist (Dallas native Stephen Tobolowsky of Glee) deals with a flaky patient and unexpected expenses on his new car.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Short Film Showcase plays April 29 at 9:15 p.m. with short film awards presented May 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the Angelika Film Center Mockingbird Station.

—  John Wright