Charm City LGBT Film Festival
LGBT Film fest features documentaries, lesbian space aliens, and transgender Indonesian superheroes
Published: January 18, 2012
Charm City LGBT Film Festival
Tickets are $10 per film, Creative Alliance members $5. Three screenings for $25, Creative Alliance members $12.
For more information, visit creativealliance.org.
Baltimore is one of the largest cities in the United States to lack a queer film festival. Well, no more. This year’s two-day Charm City LGBT Film Festival at the Creative Alliance was meant to be the first of what would become an annual event. But just after the program was set for this Friday and Saturday (Jan. 20-21), KJ Mohr, CA’s director of film and digital media, received word that a much larger four-day festival called Baltimore QFest would premiere this June, in venues across the city (including Creative Alliance). The Charm City fest will thus be a one-off. In her other life, Mohr programs the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, a 10-day event, so choosing films for the Charm City festival was a cinch. “I’d seen all this awesome work at the festival there and it was really easy to pick all my favorites and slot them in,” she says. Here’s City Paper’s guide to Baltimore’s first queer film fest in a long, long time, annual or otherwise. (Andrea Appleton)
Leave It on the Floor
Directed by Sheldon Larry
Friday, 7:30 p.m.
When Brad (Ephraim Sykes) is kicked out of his home by his homophobic mother, he lands in Los Angeles’ ball scene, an underground party where wildly dressed sex sirens walk down the runway for adoration and ridicule. Through the ball, he makes the acquaintance of the House of Eminence, a collective of outcasts led by the ferocious Queef Latina (Mark Peacock, aka Barbie-Q). Will Brad find a new family to accept him as he truly is? Ultimately, this musical has more flash than heart, though it genuinely makes an attempt to address touchy subjects. Where it succeeds, though, it does so stylishly. The songs are catchy and well produced (the music was written by Kim Burse, who has worked with Beyoncé and Nelly, among others), and the choreography is impressive (thanks to Frank Gatson Jr., the brain behind the “Single Ladies” moves), but the characters and story are flat and underdeveloped. (Erin Gleeson)
Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same
Directed by Madeleine Olnek
Friday, 9:30 p.m.
In writer/director Madeleine Olnek’s first feature-length work, the planet Zots is facing an ozone crisis. When its inhabitants experience too much love, it radiates outward from their bodies, creating holes in the ozone layers. (Not so with hate and jealousy, which stay inside and consume the body.) Zots decides to send such inhabitants to Earth to get their hearts broken so they’ll return sufficiently black-hearted to save the planet. Zylar (Jackie Monahan) and Barr (Cynthia Kaplan) fall in love with each other while crying over the sadness of a revolving dessert tray; Zoinx (Susan Ziegler) finds Jane (Lisa Haas), a hefty, kind greeting-store clerk who doesn’t realize Zoinx is a space alien. Which is a bit of a stretch, considering the aliens remain in their other-planetary gear and talk in stilted alien English, but it just adds to the charm of this quirky ’50s-style black-and-white sci-fi search for love. (Laura Dattaro)
This Is What Love in Action Looks Like
Directed by Morgan Jon Fox
Saturday, 11 a.m.
In 2005, then 16-year-old Zach Stark wrote on his blog that he had come out to his parents; they were not pleased. They sent him to Refuge, a teen branch of the national “ex-gay” organization Love in Action, located in Memphis. Stark published Refuge’s lengthy oddball rules—no Abercrombie and Fitch or Calvin Klein, for example—in addition to the emotional difficulties he was experiencing, and soon gained national media attention, leading to protests outside the Refuge campus that continue to ripple through the ex-gay movement. Director Morgan Jon Fox conducts talking-head interviews with Stark, Love in Action “survivors,” a reporter in Memphis, protestors, and, importantly, retired LIA president Jon Smid. (Oddly, Fox also appears as a talking head himself.) The interviews are spliced with footage from the myriad talk shows and news stations that covered the movement, and it’s all packaged in the light colors and clean lines of social networking sites, lending the documentary an inherently youthful and easy-to-share feel—and this is a film that needs to be shared. (The Creative Alliance is doing its part by offering the film free to viewers under 20.) (LD)
Married in Spandex
Directed by Devin Gallagher and Allison Kole
Saturday, 1 p.m.
Philadelphians Amanda and Rachel decided to get married, and as this documentary unfolds, that simple desire becomes a bit of an odyssey as they arrange to hold the ceremony in Iowa (home state of officiant/rapper Leslie “Midwest Diva” Hall), navigate the ambivalence of some of their friends and the varying degrees of support their families offer, and go through the usual planning and mild drama that comes with pulling off a wedding. As narratives go, this one is pretty slight, but the couple in question is sweet and fun to spend an hour with, and when Amanda’s mother says on-camera that she’s concerned that some of her more conservative relatives might think the eccentric ceremony is “a normal gay wedding,” the mind reels a bit. (Lee Gardner)
Directed by Sebastiano d’Ayala Valva
Saturday, 3 p.m.
Originally from a poor family in Ecuador, Angel travels to France to earn money to send back home. Though he was once a large-muscled, highly masculine boxer, Angel now lives as a woman, earning the nickname “Mujeron” (“big woman”). She works as a prostitute in Europe, sending money back when she can, and after several years overseas she returns home briefly to see just where the money has gone. The documentary raises important questions, showing the vital and often little-known role homosexuals and transgender individuals have in some Ecuadorian families. One of Angel’s brothers points out that queer family members tend to be more financially supportive than their straight counterparts, a comment that hints at changing perspectives in a country that decriminalized homosexuality a mere 15 years ago. While it’s not a full feature, Angel manages to squeeze a lot of information into a short span of time, and the boxer-turned-prostitute-turned-family-matriarch story is so compelling it shouldn’t be missed. (EG)
Directed by Rikki Beadle Blair
Saturday, 5 p.m.
J.J. (Joel Dommett) is a gay white reggae dancehall MC in England. He takes his effeminate boyfriend Orlando (Marcus Kai) to a rap battle for the first time, though he knows the crowd may be hostile. A group of mostly black homophobic thugs—and rival MCs—beat Orlando backstage, causing permanent brain damage. At trial, they claim Orlando had called them a racial slur, and are given a very light sentence. The public defender on their case is a closeted homosexual; as one might expect, the plot thickens considerably from there. Bashment is a film with an agenda, but its approach is nuanced and emotionally engaging. Though the acting is superb overall, Nathan Clough as KKK (“Krazy Kop Killer”), the most frightening/alluring of the thugs, turns in a particularly stellar performance. He is alternately a poet, a wounded soul, and a seething ball of murderous hatred. While the film ultimately jumps the shark—in a ridiculous redemption sequence wherein the thugs discover their feminine side—it remains a thought-provoking examination of the intersection of race, class, and homophobia, as well as an intriguing glimpse into dancehall, aka “bashment,” culture. (AA)
Jamie and Jessie Are Not Together
Directed by Wendy Jo Carlton
Saturday, 7 p.m.
Jamie (Jacqui Jackson) and Jessie (Jessica London-Shields) are BFFs and roommates, though the cohabitation part is ending: Jamie’s moving from Chicago to New York to take a stab at Broadway. What she doesn’t know—though all their friends do—is that Jessie loves her. Like, for-real loves her. Will Jessie tell her? Will Jamie care? Various romcom shenanigans ensue, as do—Broadway, right?—songs. Yes, Jamie and Jessie is a musical, and while the songs are fairly well done and unobtrusive, the fact that they create so little overall impact kinda raises the question of whether they need to be there in the first place. Still, a sweet, fairly polished film with solid lead performances. (LG)
Directed by J.C. Calciano
Saturday, 9 p.m.
ECupid follows ad man Marshall (Houston Rhines) and café owner Gabe (Noah Schuffman), his boyfriend of seven years. Marshall is bored with their relationship, so he downloads an app called eCupid that has magical powers, including the ability to block texts from particular people, summon hot frat boys from thin air, and ask probing psychological questions at just the right moment. Marshall subsequently gets a chance with all the men of his dreams and discovers—surprise!—that what he really wanted he had all along. As if the endless bleating of cell phones and text alerts were not excruciating enough, eCupid is also cheesy, heavy-handed, moralistic, and predictable. If you’re just watching for the beefcake and you’re into the hair-just-so J. Crew type, enjoy. Otherwise now might be a good time to check out Creative Alliance’s snazzy new bar for, oh, about 95 minutes. (AA)
Directed by Lucky Kuswandi
Saturday, 11 p.m.
Madame X is kind of like X-Men crossed with a James Bond film, as made by an Indonesian John Waters. Awesome, in other words. This fast-paced, cheeky paean to diversity follows Adam (Aming Sugandhi), a transgender hairdresser who is swept up in a world of political intrigue when she is kidnapped at a gay dance club by the members of a homophobic gang. She is subsequently rescued by a middle-aged couple who run a dance troupe, but also, it turns out, have a high-tech control room full of state-of-the-art weaponry. Adam becomes a dancer, not suspecting that what she is learning is actually a martial art. Meanwhile a sinister political party of militaristic homophobes—whose head women wear Technicolor burkas and modish sunglasses—is gaining power. Adam is transformed into a gorgeous superhero, complete with girlish yet deadly accessories, like hairspray cans that expel fire and powder compacts that burst into colorful blinding smoke. She must avenge the death of her friend Aline (Joko Anwar)—who was killed by the gang—and stop the National Morality Front from taking over, all while making sure the seams on her dominatrix outfit remain intact. Complete with unintentionally funny subtitles. (AA)