Marlon Riggs Film Festival continues this weekend

Back in black

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs changed the face of black gay America with his monumental film Tongues Untied. The 1989 documentary was controversial, but his legacy endured. Two decades later, the Fahari Arts Institute strives to keep Riggs relevant — especially to a younger audience.

“Youth is a big focus this year,” says arts director Harold Steward. “We are encouraging people to bring their families to the festival.”

The Marlon Riggs Film Festival returns for a second year on Feb. 18. The festival is presented in association with Black Cinematheque, Q-Roc TV and the  South Dallas Cultural Center as well as with the cooperation of the United Black Ellument and AIDS Arms.

Read the entire article here.

—  Rich Lopez

BACK IN BLACK: The 3-day Marlon Riggs Film Festival returns to mark the gay black pioneer

CUT AND PRINT | Cleo Manago’s ‘HIV Healing in Young, Black America’ screens as part of Fahari’s Arts and AIDS series.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs changed the face of black gay America with his monumental film Tongues Untied. The 1989 documentary was controversial, but his legacy endured.

Two decades later, the Fahari Arts Institute strives to keep Riggs relevant — especially to a younger audience.

“Youth is a big focus this year,” says arts director Harold Steward. “We are encouraging people to bring their families to the festival.”

The Marlon Riggs Film Festival returns for a second year on Feb. 18. The festival is presented in association with Black Cinematheque, Q-Roc TV and the  South Dallas Cultural Center as well as with the cooperation of the United Black Ellument and AIDS Arms.  In efforts to expand the quality, panel discussions with filmmakers have been added to supplement the screenings. The inaugural day is centered on Riggs and his work: I Will Not Be Removed: The Life of Marlon Riggs and the short Tongues Untied: Still in Vogue.  In a nod to those works and Riggs, this year’s festival is titled Untied, but not Removed.

“Each day has a theme which helps our film selection,” Steward says. “We always start with Riggs and Lamond Ayers who worked with him will come to speak about his relationship with him and working in media and film in the ’80s and ’90s.”

The Texas Health and Human Services Department stepped in to sponsor the second night that gives attention to health issues and the impact of HIV/AIDS on the black community. This serves as part of Fahari’s Arts and AIDS series. HIV Healing in Young, Black America: Getting the Language Right by Cleo Manago screens alongside Claudia Malis’s Why Us? Left Behind and Dying. Malis will be in attendance to discuss the issues of youth today becoming infected and her initiatives in which youth research the impact first hand. Free HIV testing will be offered through the evening.

“It is a gift to have her here to talk about that,” Steward says.

The three-day event wraps on Sunday with a series of short films thematically addressing the idea of black masculinity in a gay world. Julien Breece’s short The Young and Evil may raise the most eyebrows. The film takes on the controversial topic of bug chasing and looks at one man in his quest to contract the virus. Robert X. Goldpin’s Punch Me follows a man as he struggles to accept himself in the midst of his father dying and the loss of his boyfriend. Goldpin will Skype in to the festival for a virtual panel discussion about his film. Patrick Murphy’s Animal Drill rounds out the three films.

The goal of this festival is to use these films and media as a guide through black America,” Steward says. “Riggs addressed culture, sexuality and health in his work. We just want to continue that work.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 11, 2011.

—  John Wright

Teen gay dream

GLEEK HERO   |  In just four episodes, Criss has become a popular gay on ‘Glee.’ (Photo by Robert Hart)

Darren Criss, the breakout heartthrob from ‘Glee,’ isn’t gay or a teen, but welcomes more romance for Blaine

MARK LOWRY  |  Special Contributor
mark@theaterjones.com

Aside from the hot pink sunglasses, and the assistant who occasionally makes sure that his natural curls fall just so on his forehead, Darren Criss doesn’t come across as the young actor whose star is on a rocket’s upward path.

A new, popular actor on the hit Fox show Glee, Criss possesses an articulate intelligence and level-headedness that belies his age (he turns 24 in under a month). On the show, Criss plays Dalton Academy gay student Blaine, the teenage dream with the glassy brown eyes and plush eyebrows that make Kurt (Chris Colfer) — not to mention the rest of gay America — swoon.

Criss was in North Texas last weekend at the Fort Worth auditions for The Glee Project, a reality show that will debut on Oxygen in June where 12 contestants will vie for a role on Glee. The winner is guaranteed multiple episodes next season. Whether this new character (which hasn’t been written yet, so it’s open to gender and type) becomes a recurring character depends on his or her popularity with audiences.

The winner would be lucky to repeat the feat accomplished by Criss, who in a scant four episodes has already proven so popular that he’s been confirmed as a series regular for the rest of Seasons 2 and 3. The real question that the gay fans of the show — and we hear there are a few — are asking: Will the Kurt/Blaine friendship develop into something more?

“I’m just as curious as everybody else,” Criss says. “Obviously the potential is there. As much as all of us want to see that happen immediately, I think the most important thing to convey between the two of them is that of a support system. It’s really important to show young people especially that there’s a person to confide in, and that friendship is possible. If that does evolve into a romantic relationship, then awesome. But let’s hope that it’s warranted, and real. And there’s no greater way to portray a love story than to prolong it as long as possible.”

Criss knows a thing or two about fictional love stories. The San Francisco native has been doing theater for much of his short life. In high school and as a student at the University of Michigan, he appeared in musicals like the “lost Sondheim” show Do I Hear a Waltz and the Rodgers and Hart classic Babes in Arms.

“I’m a big Rodgers and Hart fan. For my audition for Blaine, I sang ‘Where or When’ [from Babes],” he says. “I was a big musical theater rat. I was just a fanboy who got lucky.”

During college, Criss became a member of the UM alumni theater company Team Starkid, playing Harry Potter in the spoof A Very Potter Musical and writing songs for the original musical Me and My Dick (the recording is available on iTunes). He also released a solo EP called Human, showing off his smooth tenor. (There’s a Facebook group called “I liked Darren Criss before he was on Glee.”)

He landed a few TV roles (Cold Case, the short-lived series Eastwick), but it was with Glee that he became an instant hit singing lead in an all-male a capella version of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” The opportunity is something that the actor, who is straight, doesn’t take lightly.

“It’s incredibly important to me,” he says. “As an actor, you’re always worried that you’re going to be stuck doing ancillary things, like the boyfriend or the cop or the football coach or something. You just hope for something that you feel has some kind of significance. This would be one of those things that has a great amount of value to me personally and, I think, to a greater community.”

As for his rising fame, he’s cautious to use the word “celebrity”(although the screaming fans in Fort Worth on Saturday would argue otherwise). But he’s preparing himself for it.

“Everybody wants to know who you are, which is a very unfair position to be in because all of us are trying to figure that out on a consistent basis,” he says. “So it really forces you to evaluate and analyze yourself. It’s really forced me into really trying to solidify myself because if people are paying attention, it’s important to step up to the plate and make sure that [I’m] representing something positive.”

Millions of Gleeks can’t be wrong.

New episodes of Glee resume with a special Super Bowl Sunday episode.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011.

—  John Wright