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The Big Gay Musical

Philadelphia Q Fest
July 9 - 20, 2009
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Celebrating its 15th year, QFest is the largest LGBT film fest on the East Coast – 12 days full of 100+ films plus outdoor screenings, special guests, and loads of parties and events. For information about the films, locations and times, log onto

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Jason Bushman’s
Hollywood, je t’aime
15th Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
July 9 - 20, 2009
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

The Philadelphia Qfest has so much to offer this year that it blows Newfest right out of the gay water and is definitely worth a trip to check out some of the fabulous film festivities.

The Fest opens with Jason Bushman’s bittersweet, enchanting film, Hollywood, je t’aime, which follows a gay Parisien’s journey to Hollywood so he can forget his failed relationship and become a star. The film masterfully avoids the typical success/failure clichés that usually run rampant in these types of movies.

The story begins (in Wizard of Oz-like black and white) in Paris, where our protagonist Jerome (newcomer Eric Debets) realizes that his hottie ex-boyfriend (the oh-so-cute Jonathan Blanc) is not coming back so he decides a radical change is needed. The film bursts into color as he lands in Los Angeles and begins pursuing his dream of becoming a successful actor. But things quickly go awry when he gets to his motel. Along the way, Jerome meets stoner Ross (Chad Allen in a good but small turn) who ends up helping him land his first commercial.

Jerome also encounters a tranny hooker (Diarra Kilpatrick) who has a crush on him as well as a jaded drag queen (Michael Airington) who gives him a place to stay. Watching the bond that develops between these three characters is one of the many joys the film has to offer.

Debets is charming and has great charisma and sexy, slightly used looks. (There is an ongoing joke in the film that he resembles Adrien Brody—which he does.)

The script vacillates between comedy and drama and the blend works seamlessly with some remarkably funny and poignant moments.

Bushman has a way of really capturing tinseltown and the surrounding area. His is a Day of the Locust-light presentation. “When the weather is beautiful all the time it is no longer special,” Jerome utters, perfectly summing up why Hollywood is a nice place to visit but no place to live.

In English and French with English subtitles

Jacqui Morris’
Mr. Right

15th Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
July 9 - 20, 2009
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

The great Robert Altman may be dead but his influence is far reaching. Gay-oriented filmmakers, in particular, seem to have adopted the Altmanesque ensemble-mosaic perfected in films such as Nashville, A Wedding, Short Cuts and Gosford Park and are placing their own personal stamp on the genre.

Mr. Right, Jacqui Morris’ savvy and screwball directorial debut, is a terrific example of taking the best of Altman, funneling it through the urban frenzy of Michael Winterbottom (Wonderland specifically) and giving us a clever spin on character-driven cinema.

Mercifully avoiding the camp stereotypes, Mr. Right follows the journeys of a gaggle of London blokes who happen to prefer other blokes. These guys, like most folks, are simply attempting to live their lives amidst a world moving seemingly at the speed of sound.

The dudes include: Alex (Luke de Woolfson), the cliché actor currently waitering banquets; his older significant other, Harry (James Lance), a TV producer who hates his job and longs to travel to Asia; William (Rocky Marshall), an antiquer with a precocious 9-year old daughter, who is attempting to date a TV star (Leon Ockenden); Larrs (Benjamin Hart), an arrogant model/hustler who is being ‘kept’ by Tom (David Morris), who is either oblivious, pathetic or both. Add into the mix, Louise (Georgia Zaris), the obligatory fag-hag and her current beau (Jeremy Edwards), who may or may not be a closeted homo, and the plot is just boiling over with possibilities.

Ms. Morris and her screenwriter brother, David Morris, do a nice job of weaving plot together in a frenetic, yet unpredictable way. The film insightfully explores the struggles these folk go through as parents, children, lovers and friends, sexual orientation notwithstanding. Mr. Morris’ script boasts the witty, bitchy Brit banter without relying on the obvious.

I especially liked the film’s exploration of how people sometimes get under our skin, without our realizing it or even wanting it to happen.

The cast does a fantastic job. The two standouts (among standouts) are: Marshall who effectively conveys the conflicting feelings of being an overprotective father with the desire to have a love life and de Woolfson who is poignant and heartbreaking as the actor realizing he just may not be good enough.

Ms. Morris sometimes shortchanges certain characters but that’s my only beef because Mr. Right rocks!


Ella Lemhagen’s
Patrik, Age 1.5
15th Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
July 9 - 20, 2009
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Suburban gay couple Goran (Gustaf Skarsgard) and Sven (Torkel Petersson) are about to adopt a child. Goran is extremely excited. Sven, not so much, since he already has a petulant sixteen year-old daughter from his marriage to Eva (an impressive Annika Halin). When Patrik finally arrives on their doorstep, it turns out he isn’t 1.5 years old, but actually fifteen--and a juvenile delinquent and gayhater to boot! Now they must deal with red-tape nonsense in order to get him out of their house and find out what happened to their “Patrik.” They discover the blunder was a typo in the adoption letter and the ONLY child available is the homophobic teen.

Based on a play by Michael Druker, this film could have gone wrong in so many ways but because of Ella Lemhagen’s wonderfully satiric yet loving vision as well as the endearing performances by terrific cast, the film emerges as heartwarming and richly satisfying.

Gustav Skarsgard (son of Stellan and brother of Alexander) is, not surprisingly, a wonderful actor in his own right and his bonding scenes with Patrik are never contrived—quite the contrary—they’re understated and deeply moving. Much of the credit also goes to Thomas Ljungman as Patrik who plays petulant and dangerous at first but slowly warms to Goran and allows us to see the pain that bad behavior masks.

I really loved this film and what it has to say about how family is really defined as well as the contradictory ways suburbia cloaks its true demons.

It is also fascinating to witness how homophobia is ever present, even in countries we consider to be progressive.

Patik, Age 1.5 is in Swedish with subtitles.

David Kittredge’s

15th Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
July 9 - 20, 2009
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Chosen as one of Qfest’s Centerpiece screenings, the audacious thriller Pornography challenges and mindfucks it’s audience the way the best David Lynch films do (Mulholland Drive, in particular leaps to mind).

In his (non-linear) narrative feature directorial debut, David Kittredge poses fascinating and disturbing questions and refuses to answer them in any direct, cohesive or obvious way and how fucking refreshing is that? Instead, audience participation is key to enjoying this bold and exciting film.

One of the many joys of Pornography (love that fragment!), is the various themes presented about the nature of desire and why people are drawn to porn. The movie also delves into the dark side of the industry and how aficionados of porn (as well as folks in general) are soon bored with the same old-same old sexually, and crave the new and thrilling—and how dangerous losing oneself in fantasy can be.

Kittredge is a clever filmmaker and he keeps the mystery of his crazy/crackers/cuckoo narrative alive. He even pokes fun at the expectations—requirements that audiences have (thanks mostly to Hollywood) that films be simple and packaged---all must be explained in the end…well, not in this madflick! Kittredge dares the audience to fill in their own blanks—to think, for a change—to piece it together themselves, but to also ruminate on their own complicity in the necessity for pornography.

Broken into three specific portions, the film first chronicles the last few days in the life of porn star Mark Anton (Jared Grey). The bracingly lengthy scene between Alton and the sleazy producer is compelling and a perfect example of how well written, directed and acted the film is. The look of this first segment has a very gritty, 70s-movie feel to it with a porno-blue color domination.

Just when you’re settling in for being unsettled, the film jarringly switches gears a we flash forward 14 years and writer Michael Castigan (a believably grungy Matthew Montgomery) is investigating the actual disappearance of Anton. He has just moved into a new place with his lover and the apartment seems to hold some clues to the ever-growing mystery.

But don’t get too comfy because just when you feel you’re becoming as unhinged as the characters onscreen, the film shifts a third time as we watch porn star/writer/director-wannabe Matt Stevens (Pete Scherer) writing the story of Mark Anton. Apparently he’s been dreaming his life, not even certain there was ever a real Mark Anton, and has been typing it into a porn extravaganza. Stevens insists on playing Anton and directing. Many of the characters in this segment resemble people in the first and second segments.

The surreality of the situation reaches a plateau as the film speeds towards its highly ambiguous and spellbinding conclusion.

The cast is mostly above par with Jared Grey and Pete Scherer particularly outstanding as the porn star and his portrayer. Ironically, these two actors are also in The Art of Being Straight. Kudos to both for being discerning.

Midway through Pornography, images are shown of a hot young porn star and a story is told about how he went berserk and killed his director and co-star. On occasion these images are returned to but I was hoping for another alternate reality link to the already spider webby story. And maybe there was and I just need to see it a third time…or wait for the DVD deleted scenes.

I look forward to seeing more of what Kittredge has to offer as a filmmaker. His work is vital and original and he isn’t afraid to piss the viewer off. I can respect that. In a year where there is a dearth of good gay films, Pornography’s a fabulous f**king exception!

Simon Pearce's
15th Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
July 9 - 20, 2009
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

The brutal yet seductive Brit indie Shank opens with a hot hookup that turns violent, setting the stage for the pull-no-punches narrative director/co-writer Simon Pearce and co-writer/producer Christian Martin have planned. Shank is not an easy sit and there are moments you want to enter the screen and hurt someone yourself. It is, however, a very gritty portrait of just how difficult it is for a teen to come to terms with his sexuality when everything around him tells him his natural feelings are unnatural.

Cal (a fierce Wayne Virgo) is an eighteen year-old gang member who fights his secret same-sex urges as much as he can. Cal lusts for his best pal Jonno (Tom Bott) who seems to have mega-repressed feelings of his own. Their gang leader, Nessa (Alice Payne) is a controlling bitch, who has a history with Cal and is now with Jonno. When the group gaybash a cute young student, Olivier (Marc Laurent), Cal can’t take it anymore and has the balls to fight back—putting his life immediately in danger.

The atypical love story that emerges between Cal and Olivier is tender and surprisingly sweet, amidst the dangers around them. Pearce’s camera is probing and explicit. He isn’t afraid to show the boys in various stages of lovemaking.

Shank builds to a lurid, harrowing climax that is quite disturbing and, arguably, gratuitous.

My partner (who watched with me but got very upset with the final scene) asked me who this film was being made for? If the self-hating closeted gays could see what repression can produce, it could affect them but-unless it receives a commercial release (highly unlikely), that would never happen.

My reply was that the film is an uncompromising vision of what is happening now, not some glammed Hollywood version where the hero fights back and emerges triumphant in the end. Shank shows just how far we need to go to make certain things do change.


Harry & Bernard Schumanski’s

15th Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
July 9 - 20, 2009
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Pushing the narrative feature-meets-porn envelope to new and audacious heights, Wrecked is an absorbing, mega-low budget indie about a sweet 18-year old boy’s downward spiral into the seductive, yet destructive world of drugs and indiscriminate sex.

Ryan (Theo Montgomery) wants to be an actor but may not have what it takes--although from watching the two other thespians who were being (unjustly) praised by the theatre director, he was definitely better than they were! Ryan is given an opportunity mostly because the male director wants to sleep with him.

Ryan’s ex-boyfriend, Daniel arrives on his doorstep, without warning, insisting he is clean and ready for a real relationship. He is, of course, not telling the truth. There is an unhealthy animal hold Daniel has over Ryan and he sucks him into his drug-infested, sex-obsessed mess of a milieu.

The film is loaded with very explicit sex scenes that—for gay audiences only—prove erotic as well as inviting, although when they are over the viewer is left with the desire to shower.

The cute cast (of which there is no info available), when they are allowed their moments, deliver—although much of the film is too focused on mood and carnal pleasures via drugs.

I would have liked to have seen more of Ryan’s journey, especially since the running time is only 73 minutes, but the feature debut by Harry and Bernard Shumanski (of which NO information is available) is impressive.

The film’s ending is as abrupt as it is powerful and, without being preachy or didactic, makes a potent statement.

Wrecked is a provocative and hypnotic film that, like Shortbus, dares to take risks and cross lines--and that is f**king refreshing!


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