INSIDE OUT LESBIAN & GAY FILM & VIDEO FESTIVAL, from today (Thursday, May 18) to May 28. Screenings at Cumberland Cinemas (159 Cumberland). Opening- and closing-night films at Paramount Cinemas (259 Richmond West). Admission $8, mbrs $7, srs/yth $5; opening/closing night $20, mbrs $18; eight films $50, mbrs $45. Directors series $7, mbrs $6, all four films $20, mbrs $15. www.insideout.on.ca Rating: NNNNN
Ten years ago, the 'Inside Out' festival debuted in Toronto, and the gay and lesbian community embraced it like a newly found lover. Finally, queers got a glimpse of their own universe, everything from good sex, hot porn and evil homophobia to finding true love.
THURSDAY, MAY 18
PUNKS, director Patrik-Ian Polk. Rating: NNN
Queer African-American romantic comedies are as rare as a straight guy at Epic Gym. Relationship-phobic Marcus (Seth Gilliam) and his three pals drool over the hot new neighbour (Rockmond Dunbar), who's sending out a gay vibe. Polk doesn't make a big deal about the fact that he's pulling back the curtain of black gay life.
He's out to entertain, and his well-written, well-acted dramedy works just fine, thank you very much.
FRIDAY, MAY 19
THE GAY GAMES, director Ran Kotzer. Rating: NNN
Kotzer follows members of the Israeli team as they head to Amsterdam for the 1998 Gay Games. The women's basketball team and three swimmers compete hard for various personal reasons -- one wants to lash out against being HIV-positive, another to edge himself totally out of the closet. Kotzer admires his athletes, but he's gaga over open and accepting Amsterdam. This is really his love letter to the world's most tolerant city.
SATURDAY, MAY 20
OUR HOUSE, director Meema Spadola/ LITTLE SECRET, director Bobby Houston. Rating: NNNN
Our House is a PBS documentary about children growing up in gay households. It may sound like well-meaning liberal fluff, but it's better than that. The kids tell us that while they sometimes suffer due to homophobia, it's the love their parents heap on them that keeps them secure.
Little Secret is a devastating look at 10 teenagers with HIV who come together for a rafting trip.
The kids, from various backgrounds, show us their wisdom, pain and adolescent silliness without asking for sympathy. Powerful and moving.
SUNDAY, MAY 21
THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE, directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. Rating: NN
Bailey and Barbato are the hottest gay documentary filmmakers working today. Last year's acclaimed Party Monsters returns for a second showing this year, as well as their third documentary, 101 Rent Boys.
Here, the filmmakers celebrate Christianity's supreme diva, Tammy Faye Bakker, a rags-to-riches-to-rags survivor who never turned her back on her gay flock. Bakker's life is full of drama, but she turns out to be a surprisingly tedious subject for a film. Her crying, pill-popping antics wear thin over almost 80 minutes.
MONDAY, MAY 22
101 RENT BOYS, directors Bailey and Barbato. Rating: NNN
Bailey and Barbato rebound with this documentary focusing on 101 L.A. prostitutes. Don't expect cheap titillation. We hear more about dicks than we see, which is appropriate in a film about illusion. For these hustlers, sex is work, and while it can be fun, it's a job that takes an enormous toll. The film comes to life when the men shed their tough act, get honest and show us their pain.
TUESDAY, MAY 23
FUNNY FELIX, directors Jacques Martineau and Olivier Ducastel. Rating: NNNNN
This French film is probably the best work in the festival. When Felix (Sami Bouajila) discovers an old letter from the father who abandoned him, he decides to hitchhike to Marseilles and track the man down. Along the way he meets people whom he treats like his surrogate family. Felix is the most well-adjusted gay man I've ever seen onscreen, and his friendly, loving sensibilities warm the soul. The film sneaks up on you, and by the final shot I found myself crying, hoping that I'll come across a Felix somewhere in my travels.
THURSDAY, MAY 25
MY FEMME DIVINE, a program of short films. Rating: NNN
Dykes dealing with rejection, desire and marriage tie this program together. Leading off is the hour-long documentary My Femme Divine by Karen Everett, who investigates butch/femme dynamics while working through the demise of the most important relationship of her life. Halfway through I thought, "For Chrissakes, get over her," but then relented. We're watching a woman's cinematic therapy.
I loved Straight Down The Aisle: Confessions Of Lesbian Bridesmaids by Christine J. Russo and Kelly Hankin. Very honest and very funny women recount the horror stories associated with standing up for their straight sisters, who don't always appreciate the sacrifices dykes make. High heels and taffeta, -- oh, please.
FRIDAY, MAY 26
TRAN'CE ROMANCE, a program of shorts. Rating: NNN
Here are 20 shorts (!) about the transgendered experience that were pulled together with the help of our local trans community. The works are very short and to the point, and while the level of filmmaking isn't inspiring, the content is. I liked I've Always Wanted Perfection In Everything And A Little Bit More: Maybe That Will Be My Downfall, by Brian Dawn Chalkley. It warns of the dangers transgendered, transsexual and intersex people face when trying to meet prospective lovers. Don't worry, the rest of the program isn't as dire or depressing.
SATURDAY, MAY 27
THE MOST UNKNOWABLE THING, director Mary Patierno. Rating: NNNN
What begins as a somewhat stale documentary about David Patierno, a gay man with HIV who marries his chiropractor, Connie, evolves into an incredible study of fate, loss and love. Filmmaker Patierno, David's sister, takes us back in time to David's gay life with a partner and his coping with HIV. But it's his wedding and the life-altering events afterward that make us realize we can never control life, even when its path seems already set.
CHUTNEY POPCORN, director Nisha Ganatra. Rating: NN
South Asian photographer Reena (writer/director and star Nisha Ganatra) agrees to be the surrogate mother for her infertile sister, which upsets Reena's white girlfriend (former Law And Order star Jill Hennessey). This rough-around-the-edges dramedy has good intentions but suffers from the fact that Ganatra is a so-so writer/director and not a very good actor. We can't sympathize with Reena, because we're never sure what she's feeling. Ganatra would have done better to hire someone else to play the part. Disappointing.