The Dallas International Film Fest includes some gay films in its lineup, two with Texas ties
Last year’s Dallas International Film Festival was an orgy of gay content, and while this year’s version — which started this week and runs through April 13 — isn’t quite so flush with fairy dust, there are still several gay-interest films screening over the week. And two of them, both feature-length documentaries, have substantial Texas ties.
Queens & Cowboys: A Straight Year on the Gay Rodeo. You might expect that a movie about gay rodeo would not have too much to teach the gay community in a city that boasts the Round-Up Saloon … and you’d be wrong. While much of Queens & Cowboys looks familiar, it packs plenty of surprises as well.
I once asked a gay cowboy why his culture got along so well with drag queens, considering that they seemed on the opposite spectrum of gay culture. “It’s just a different kind of drag,” he drawled.
In the case of some folks (men and women) on the gay rodeo circuit, though, it’s much more than just playing dress-up and pretending to be something you’re not.
Most of the participants in the International Gay Rodeo Association (and it’s Texas expression, TGRA), are actual working cowboys and cowgirls — ranch hands who grew up on horses and always loved the cowboy life. They just happen to be gay.
The case for Wade Earp, a North Texas native and descendant of lawman Wyatt. “It’s not a sport, it’s a lifestyle,” says Earp, who’s won every kind of award in a career of nearly 20 years. But the most elusive — the title of IGRA’s season winning rider — has eluded him. Q&C starts here in Dallas with Earp and follows him and others across the U.S. and Canada until the finals in Fort Worth.
Gay culture takes many forms, and rodeo is simply one of them, from riding broncs and bulls to barrel racing to roping calves to, of course, more camp events, like putting panties on a goat. (“We are homosexuals,” notes one participant dryly.) But the demands physically, financially and emotionally can make you wonder why these people do this … until you experience the familiar humanity they do.
Even after Brokeback Mountain, there are many in the straight rodeo circuit who don’t respect gay rodeo, or even consider them “real” cowboys. But gay rodeos are all about raising money for charities, and the wherewithal it takes to be out and work in a field where many encounter homophobia should cause many heteros to rethink their concept of manliness. If you don’t tear up at a buckle auction to raise money for a sick rider, you must be sleeping.
That probably won’t be the only lump-in-your-throat moment (it wasn’t for me), but the direct, unsentimental tone of this doc provides keen insights into the men, women and trans (bet you can’t tell which one) — and even straight riders — who make the gay rodeo a tradition worth preserving.
Screens April 5 at 2:30 p.m. and April 6 at noon.
Tomato Republic. Jacksonville in East Texas is the kind of small town that the 2012 feature film Bernie was about: Slow-paced, neighborly … and crazy as all hell. The town, best known for its tomatoes (the way Tyler is known for its roses) is proud that it’s not like the rest of America, where liberalism and diversity threaten old-fashioned Bible Belt bigotry. OK, maybe that’s not how they’d put it (though one resident resignedly calls the region “to the right of Attila the Hun”).
But their beliefs are put to the test when an openly gay restaurateur named Rob Gowin, dissatisfied by the city council’s inaction to beautify and preserve the town, decides to run for mayor.
Gowin isn’t some nobody — he’s well-known throughout the community as the man who hosts One Dollar Pie Day at his restaurant, and is an outspoken booster of the city who looks and sounds like a Southern version of Michael Kors. But will the town ignore his “alternative lifestyle” and vote for him, or will it cleave to the old-line current mayor? Or will the 23-year-old African-American upstart surprise everyone?
Tomato Republic is as quirky as the people it profiles, a fast-moving and sharply edited film that gives screentime not just to Gowin, but to his cousin with Down’s syndrome, a supporting wig-shop owner, a local county judge (proud of the city’s place in the Guinness Book of World Records for its salsa-making extravaganza) and other amusing denizens that make Texas … well, Texas-y.
Screens April 9 at 7:15 p.m. and April 10 at 5:30 p.m.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 4, 2014.