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Stephan Lacant’s
Free Fall
Newfest 2013
The Film Society of Lincoln Center
Walter Reade Theater
September 6-11, 2013

Written by Stephan Lacant & Karsten Dahlem.

Starring: Hanno Koffler, Max Riemelt, Katharina Schuttler.

In German, with English subtitles.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

We’ve seen the basic plot of Stephan Lacant’s Free Fall before. Like queer coming out and first love stories, plots involving a closeted gay man coming to terms with his sexuality (or not) have become staples of gay cinema. This year Tribeca offered Tomasz Wasilewski’s Floating Skyscrapers, one of the best, albeit most depressing takes.

Lacant gives it his angst-ridden, moody spin and when the narrative focuses on the two men, the film is quite compelling. The problems have everything to do with the fairly unlikeable supporting characters.

Marc (gruff, sensual Hanno Koffler) is about to become a police officer and a father. He lives with his girlfriend (Katharina Schuttler) who spends most of the film asking Marc if anything is wrong. They’ve also moved closer to his parents. All seems well until Marc meets fellow police academy student Kay Engel (sexy Max Riemelt) and the two share a hot kiss and Engel gives Marc a hand job while jogging in the woods.

Engel is a rule breaker, enjoying smoking joints out in the open. Marc is more conservative. The two begin a passionate affair with Marc sneaking off to have sex with Engel (who enjoys Marc’s take charge top manner) and then back home to his increasingly annoyed and suspicious wife. (In one sequence Marc literally goes from penetrating Engel to birthing class).

Before you can say melodrama, the secret is out and Marc’s homophobic parents get involved. The look on his mother’s face when she catches him kissing Engel is one of complete devastation.

Once the baby is born, Marc ignores Engel. But his girl finds out about the affair and the shit hits the proverbial fan.

No one in Marc’s life even tries to understand his situation, which feels contrived—especially since if they were all truly so evil, why would Marc keep going back.

On the romance front, Marc’s obsession seems to be more sexual while Engel is the one falling in love with Marc. Perhaps we are supposed to feel that it’s mutual but Marc’s violent manner with Engel and his never taking his feelings into account tell us otherwise.

Lacant’s film deals with impossible situations and decisions, with boys who refuse to grow up and become men—with upbringings that never allow even the inkling that there might be something else to life for a male than a wife and children (themes also explored in the Festival film The Last Match.)

The two leads are reason enough to experience Free Fall (I wish the title were more apropos). Both Koffler and Riemelt are fantastic and bring nuance to their characters.

The film is beautifully shot by Sten Mende. And while the ending is expected, it’s largely unsatisfying. Marc deserves more of a complex journey.

NEWFEST: Screenings will take place at The Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater. 165 W.65th St, New York, NY 10023 (between Broadway and Amsterdam) and the JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave. at 76th Street, New York, NY 10023. Tickets are $13; $8 for members of NewFest and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Special prices apply to the Opening and Closing Night screenings.

Visit www.FilmLinc.com for complete information.




Gary Entin’s
Geography Club
Newfest 2013
The Film Society of Lincoln Center
Walter Reade Theater
September 6-11, 2013

Written by Edmund Entin, based on the Brent Hartinger novel.

Starring: Cameron Stewart, Justin Deeley, Andrew Caldwell, Nikki Blonsky, Ally Maki, Scott Bakula, Ana Gasteyer, Grant Harvey.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Geography Club is a film that could and should be shown in high schools across the USA.

Directed by Gary Entin, based on the book by Brent Hartinger and adapted by Edmund Entin (Gary’s twin), the film shows us just how far we’ve come with gay acceptance in this country, yet how far we still have to go when it comes to the way school systems still force antiquated notions of normalcy and where ‘fitting in’ is something every young person must cope with. And that no matter how ‘accepting’ people are, one must learn to accept himself/herself first—and that is never easy.

Good looking sixteen-year old geek Russell (Cameron Deane Stewart) is struggling with his sexuality and with the fact that he’s fallen for gorgeous, football jock Kevin (model Justin Deeley). Kevin has gotten Russell a spot on the team so he can hang out with him without raising any eyebrows. An Asian student, Min (Ally Maki) catches the two making out and sends notes to each inviting them to the Geography Club—which is a ruse for a room where gay and lesbian students can secretly meet.

Russell soon finds himself bullying fellow teammates in order to gain the acceptance of the jocks but after a few humiliating incidents, he decides he’s ready to come out. It’s a bold move for a teen. But will Kevin follow suit? And will his fellow misfits support him?

Geography Club is The Breakfast Club meets Get Real (a Brit gem from 1998), a timely, trenchant comedy that has quite a bit to say about what it’s like to come out in 2013 but doesn’t feel the necessity to be didactic or melodramatic.

Stewart’s winsome and charming performance anchors the film. And Deeley is more than just eye-candy; his tormented jock turn—despite the fact that his family is so accepting—encapsulates the insecurities every teen feels at one time or another.

Slickly made and cast very well, Geography Club sends a clear and pertinent message out to young America about the actual joys of being different and how empowering that can be. It takes balls to stand up and acknowledge who and what you are—especially when you’re at an age where you’re still trying to figure it all out.

NEWFEST: Screenings will take place at The Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater. 165 W.65th St, New York, NY 10023 (between Broadway and Amsterdam) and the JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave. at 76th Street, New York, NY 10023. Tickets are $13; $8 for members of NewFest and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Special prices apply to the Opening and Closing Night screenings.

Visit www.FilmLinc.com for complete information.




Cory Krueckeberg’s
Getting Go: The Go Doc Project
Newfest 2013
The Film Society of Lincoln Center
Walter Reade Theater
September 6-11, 2013

Written by Cory Krueckeberg.

Starring: Tanner Cohen, Matthew Camp.

Reviewdc by Frank J. Avella

A genre-blend of documentary, gay fiction and Warholian homage, Cory Krueckeberg’s Getting Go: The Go Doc Project is a seriously good film that is provocative, entertaining and quite thought provoking.

Just how much is fact and how much fiction? The press notes call it a “nearly no-budget, post-indie, hybrid of documentary, narrative & art film forms.”

Krueckeberg co-wrote and produced the fabulous Were the World Mine a few years back and decided, after frustration over waiting for money for projects, to shoot a film that would cost nearly nothing. Getting Go: The Go Doc Project is “in many ways a reaction to all of that industry nonsense.”

After obsessing over a hot young go-go dancer, Krueckeberg decided to fashion a film on that obsession. He cast Were the World Mine star Tanner Cohen as Doc, his alter-ego, a shy, awkward but sexually-curious college boy who so desperately wants to meet his crush (a go-go boy) that he makes up a story about being a documentary filmmaker wanting him as his subject.

Since real life go-go boy Matthew Camp was the helmer’s inspiration, he became the actual central focus in the film (and the faux filmmaker).

So begins Doc’s odyssey of obsession, interviewing Camp in his apartment, the gym, grocery shopping, at the market—even in the shower.

And, for inspiration—and since Camp mentions him, Doc watches a few classic Andy Warhol portraiture films, Eat, Sleep and Kiss. These groundbreaking works will factor into the project and add to the artistic statement Krueckeberg is making.

Soon the virgin Doc and the sexual dynamo Camp have become a couple of sorts and we get to see some very hot scenes that show off just how sexy these two are and just how seriously perfect Camp’s ass is. Ah, but all is not superficial…

You wouldn’t expect a film ostensibly about a student’s crush on a go-go dancer to be so intelligent and bring up a controversial issue that is vitally important to the LGBT community—that of assimilation. But that’s exactly what Krueckeberg does.

Doc is an admitted social misfit who wants to be like everyone else. Camp challenges that notion in a few terrific debate scenes. We can see the “new” gay who has been born into acceptance vs. the old gay (not that Camp is old, just older) who knew what is was like to be treated like a pariah. The new embraces normalcy while the old cherishes his individuality.

Quite subversive and similar to what James Franco and Travis Matthews are doing with Interior. Leather Bar., Krueckeberg challenges his audience by featuring incisive dialogue about how gays are losing their identities as they pursue all things straight—in particular, our sexual identities.

In addition, the film masterfully challenges notions of how we’ve become desexualized creatures who would rather sit in front of a computer and get off than actually physically be with someone. Camp is a stripper and that used to be seen as a way of detaching oneself from sex…and consequently from true intimacy, but social media and the Internet have made that look like the ultimate in intimate.

We are voyeurs watching these two horny guys get it on, but Krueckeberg also makes us feel like we have a stake in what happens—probably because we can all relate to the excitement, desire and fear involved in embarking on any type of romantic/sexual relationship.

The juxtaposition of all the various types of images the director uses, combined with his smart, perspicacious words as well as his genius casting of Cohen and equally genius use of Camp (and Camp’s appeal and intelligence as well) make

A Qfest favorite, now New Yorkers will get to see why Getting Go: The Go Doc Project is one of the most bewitching and potent films of the year.

NEWFEST: Screenings will take place at The Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater. 165 W.65th St, New York, NY 10023 (between Broadway and Amsterdam) and the JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave. at 76th Street, New York, NY 10023. Tickets are $13; $8 for members of NewFest and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Special prices apply to the Opening and Closing Night screenings.

Visit www.FilmLinc.com for complete information.

 



Travis Matthews & James Franco’s
Interior. Leather Bar.
Newfest 2013
The Film Society of Lincoln Center
Walter Reade Theater
September 6-11, 2013

Written by Travis Matthews.

Starring: Val Lauren, James Franco, Travis Matthews, Christian Patrick, Collin Chavez, Brenden Gregory, Brad Roberge.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

In 1980, Exorcist helmer William Friedkin made the controversial film, Cruising, starring Al Pacino, which was seen by many as homophobic and sparked outrage and mass protests. The film tanked at the box office and has gained even more notoriety through the years. Friedkin alleged that the MPAA would not give the film the necessary R-rating until he cut 40-minutes of footage from the film. Later he would say that the cuts were graphic leather bar sex scenes and did not take away from the plot but would have added mysterious twists and turns. When prepping the DVD, Friedkin looked for the missing footage but discovered that United Artists had destroyed it.

Actor/writer/director/provocateur James Franco, along with maverick gay director Travis Matthews have used the forever-to-remain-mysterious 40-minutes as a springboard for a fascinating docu-film thesis about artistic creation and sexuality.

Franco and Matthews never really attempt to recreate those lost forty minutes. They have something more subversive in mind.

The film does contain some tame sex scenes between men (especially considering Matthews’ previous effort I Want Your Love) but it’s the interviews with the creators as well as cast members that take up the majority of the running time—in particular, the lead/Pacino stand-in, Val Lauren, who is straight and very uncomfortable with the idea of even kissing a man, let alone watching homosexual acts go on around him.

Lauren agreed to be a part of the project because Franco called him and he’s one of his best friends. “I don’t personally like this project,” Lauren exclaims, but he’s responding to “James’s mission.” They made a yet-to-be-released film about closeted-gay movie actor Sal Mineo together with Franco directing and have known each other for years. Lauren’s friends lovingly refer to Interior. Leather Bar. as the “Franco Faggot Project.”

And no one, including Franco, seems to know what the project is really going to be—which adds to the excitement (and frustration for Val and the other “straight” actors.) Franco does want it to “come from an artistic place” where he feels “nothing should be taboo.” “I’m fucking sick of that shit,” Franco explains, “Sex should be a storytelling tool.” Lauren disagrees and takes a more traditional approach where less can convey more.

There’s honest dialogue about how gay marriage and the pursuit of all things straight seems to be erasing all the queerness from gays—any radicalness that was left.

There is a definite audacity in the way Franco insists on trying to see the world, not as he was raised to see it, but as a place where all types of sexual expression are allowed and celebrated. He’s appalled that he lives in a country that sees gay sex and gays as inferior—taboo.

In Cruising, the Pacino character infiltrates this lurid world where obscene and unspeakable behavior goes on behind closed doors. Franco and Matthews are trying to say that there’s nothing wrong with the world of the leather bar and perhaps it’s attitudes like that of Val Lauren that need to change. Perhaps his frightened, borderline-homophobic notions are the ones that are obscene.

The final shots may be manipulated for effect but there’s a stunning transformation witnessed that can be seen as either hopeful…or inevitable.

In Interior. Leather Bar. Part Two. I would love to see Lauren dive into some gay sexual act with abandon and not worry so much about his image and his alleged straightness.

NEWFEST: Screenings will take place at The Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater. 165 W.65th St, New York, NY 10023 (between Broadway and Amsterdam) and the JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave. at 76th Street, New York, NY 10023. Tickets are $13; $8 for members of NewFest and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Special prices apply to the Opening and Closing Night screenings.

Visit www.FilmLinc.com for complete information.

 



Christina Voros’s
Kink
Newfest 2013
The Film Society of Lincoln Center
Walter Reade Theater
September 6-11, 2013

A Documentary

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

The ubiquitous James Franco is the producer of Christine Voros’s documentary, Kink, which purports to legitimize (or at least lessen the demonization of) the BDSM porn.

Voros takes us inside the world of the lucrative Kink.com.

We are introduced to a host of oddball people who indulge in extreme types of bondage and S&M on camera. Some of them seem pretty normal—whatever that word means. A few look (and behave) like they may have bodies buried in their basements.

There are a slew of hard penises and spread vaginas on display as well as penetration moments where certain equipment is used. I even had to look away a few times.

It is explained that they are striving for real reactions, no faking—even if that means changing the situation during a scene. But they show that a lot of the extreme moments are exaggerated and/or simulated—a bit contradictory.

The film does show that the Kink employees keep the environment safe and friendly, before, during and after each session. And they discuss the “sub-space” where each submissive reaches a euphoric place. We also are told that each Dom was also, at some point, a Sub, so he/she has been in the other shoe--so to speak.

And while violence toward women is addressed it is done so in the spirit that these women choose what they want. No one forces anyone to do anything. But the bottom line is they’re still doing it for money. I wonder how eager anyone would be to provide torture moments on camera if they were only given a fruit basket at the end of the workday.

I do commend Franco for continuing his open dialogue about sexual identity by producing this film on the heels of Interior. Leather Bar.

Should there be continuous stigma surrounding porn? Gay porn? BDSM porn? Where is the line drawn? Should it be? Who has the right?

How far have we come? How far is too far? Will Franco ever work for Disney again?

In a truly poignant moment near the film’s end, a dominatrix discusses that the most difficult thing for her will be having to tell her three children about what mommy does. There’s a sadness to her speak. A few moments later she’s spanking the crap out of another gal with glee.

Visit www.FilmLinc.com for complete information.


Antonio Hens’s
La Partida (The Last Match)
Newfest 2013
The Film Society of Lincoln Center
Walter Reade Theater
September 6-11, 2013

Written by Antonio Hens & Abel Gonzalez Melo.

Starring: Milton Garcia, Renier Diaz, Toni Canto’.

In Spanish, with English subtitles.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

In impoverished Havana, Cuba, cute young Renier (Renier Diaz) has a wife, baby and values-challenged grandmother-in-law to support so he sells himself to older men at night. During the day, he plays soccer (very well) and hangs out with his friend Yosvani (Milton Garcia) who is also saddled with a girlfriend as well as a very powerful mob-like father-in-law, whom he works for.

One really hot day on Yosvani’s roof the two boys cannot contain their desire for one another any longer and they sexually attack one another. They fall pretty hard but they’re familial situations keep getting in the way of their love/lust for each other.

Complicating things is the fact that Renier has met an older Spanish gentleman who richly rewards him for his services. His grandmom-in-law (who any viewer would initially think was his mother) feels school is a waste of time and that Renier should go off and marry the older gent so he can send money back to take care of his “family.”

Both boys want to escape from their stifling world. Renier is sought by a soccer scout to try out for the majors. Meanwhile, Yosvani hatches a plan that involves stealing money from his homophobic dad-in-law. Suffice to say the film’s denouement is not cheery.

Diaz and Garcia have an electric intensity onscreen and Diaz, in particular, is just beautiful to watch.

The Last Match is a film that depicts what repression and an ignorant upbringing can lead to. You watch, dreading the outcome and understanding that there’s still much ground that needs to be broken before many places in the world accept same-sex love as normal and healthy.

NEWFEST: Screenings will take place at The Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater. 165 W.65th St, New York, NY 10023 (between Broadway and Amsterdam) and the JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave. at 76th Street, New York, NY 10023. Tickets are $13; $8 for members of NewFest and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Special prices apply to the Opening and Closing Night screenings.

Visit www.FilmLinc.com for complete information.




Mark Thiedeman’s
Last Summer
Newfest 2013
The Film Society of Lincoln Center
Walter Reade Theater
September 6-11, 2013

Written by Mark Thiedeman.

Starring: Samuel Pettit, Sean Rose.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

From the strange, morphing first-images of what could be modern art to the lengthy first scene of dialogue between a teacher and a student, Mark Thiedeman sets the stage for a his own distinctive take on chronicling the last summer between two gay teens living in a small town in Arkansas.

Channeling Terrence Malick throughout, Last Summer is a poetic, magnetic, mesmerizing film where shots of nature, inanimate objects and extreme (and not always flattering) facial close-ups make up most of the non-narrative narrative. Quite often Thiedeman sets his sequences to popular classical music pieces--as in one fascinating scene of sneaker interaction between the central figures denoting their playful yet intense relationship.

Thiedeman’s film may be polarizing but I found it to be spellbinding and enveloping (like the best of Malick).

Luke (Samuel Pettit) is in summer school and is pretty academically- challenged although he is a good athlete. His boyfriend of many years, Jonah (Sean Rose), has always been a good student and will be going off to college—away from his stifling hometown—at summer’s end. The only thing he will miss is Luke—who is quite aware that Jonah needs to get out while he can. Jonah’s family—and his mother, in particular, put down education since the alternative would be to accept their own ignorance and limitations. “You can’t enjoy life if you spend too much time thinking about it,” is just an example of the wisdom mom imparts to her son, not stopping to realize that enlightenment comes from learning and perhaps life isn’t only about enjoyment.

The film gorgeously captures the two boys as they enjoy each other for one final summer knowing it is probably the last time they will be together.
The romantic in me wanted Luke to simply decide to go with Jonah—but the film is showing us the all too painful differences between these two boys. Jonah feels suffocated in his town. He can’t relate to the people who live there and is alienated by his family. Luke, on the other hand, seems to find comfort in the same locale that is destroying Jonah.

The handling of the boys’ sexuality is refreshingly matter-of-fact. It’s known. It isn’t talked about much. And if they’re bullied for it, we are never privy to any of that—although the possibility could add to Jonah’s feelings of not belonging.
Thiedeman is a filmmaker to watch. He wrote, directed and edited this penetrating film. And whether he’s capturing the boys wandering through the woods shirtless or exploring the redness of a face juxtaposed with the redness of a painting, his shots are always captivating. Kudos must also go to the camerawork by David Goodman.

Newcomer Samuel Pettit is a complete natural onscreen and etches a fascinating portrait of a boy about to sacrifice the one thing he loves most because he knows it’s the right thing to do. Sean Rose has less to work with, but does an exceptional job showing us Jonah’s angst.

While Last Summer can be seen as a film about images, lights, shadows, colors and natural tableaus, it is also a somber, bittersweet yet stunning meditation on first love, loneliness, alienation and change.

NEWFEST: Screenings will take place at The Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater. 165 W.65th St, New York, NY 10023 (between Broadway and Amsterdam) and the JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave. at 76th Street, New York, NY 10023. Tickets are $13; $8 for members of NewFest and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Special prices apply to the Opening and Closing Night screenings.

Visit www.FilmLinc.com for complete information.




Michael Mayer’s
Out in the Dark
Newfest 2013
The Film Society of Lincoln Center
Walter Reade Theater
September 6-11, 2013

Written by Michael Mayer & Yael Shafrir.

Starring: Nicholas Jacob, Michael Aloni, Jameel Khouri.

In Hebrew & Arabic, with English subtitles.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Michael Mayer’s feature debut, Out in the Dark, examines a slew of Jewish/Muslim grey areas with a gripping gay love story at its core.

Super hottie Israeli lawyer Roy Schaefer (super hottie Michael Aloni) hits on timid Palestinian student Nimr (loveable Nicolas Jacob) in a Tel-Aviv gay bar. The two begin a tumultuous affair and fall deeply in love.

But the relationship is threatened when Nimr’s visa is revoked by a bully security chief (Alon Pudt) who blackmails homosexual Palestinians into giving him damning information in exchange for not informing families about their sexuality. Nimr’s brother has been stockpiling weapons and may be planning a terrorist act--so there is much to lose. In addition, and most importantly, any idea that Nimr is gay would bring shame on his family and seal his fate—as it did with his drag queen friend, Mustafa (Loai Noufi).

Roy has his own family issues with a mother who is anything but happy about her son’s sexuality and a father who appears indifferent.

When Nimr’s secret is revealed, his once loving mother throws him out, virtually sentencing him to death. Nimr becomes a fugitive who is despised in his own hometown and not wanted in Tel-Aviv. He turns to Roy for help and Roy must make some challenging decisions.

There are no easy answers, explanations or motivations in this film and

Mayer never forces melodrama on his audience, making the film all the more powerful and the narrative all the more exciting.

Besides the thriller aspect of the film, the love story keeps us involved and invested. The prevalent and pervasive homophobia in the Middle East is presented in a very honest and heartbreaking manner.

Aloni and Jacob are wonderful—we instantly feel the passion between these two and, even when they spar, we know they believe in each other.

NEWFEST: Screenings will take place at The Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater. 165 W.65th St, New York, NY 10023 (between Broadway and Amsterdam) and the JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave. at 76th Street, New York, NY 10023. Tickets are $13; $8 for members of NewFest and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Special prices apply to the Opening and Closing Night screenings.

Visit www.FilmLinc.com for complete information.




Yen Tan’s
Pit Stop
Newfest 2013
The Film Society of Lincoln Center
Walter Reade Theater
September 6-11, 2013

Written by Yen Tan & David Lowery.

Starring: Bill Heck, Marcus DeAnda, Amy Seimetz, John Merriman, Alfredo Maduro, Corby Sullivan.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Yen Tan’s mosaic-like chronicle of love, loneliness and longing in a small Texas town is an indie triumph of subtle but potent storytelling.

We know early on that our two uber-rugged thirtysomething protags will be meeting up sometime before the end of the film. What is startling is that it doesn’t happen until the final fifteen minutes. And even more surprising, when they do meet up, they share the most tender scenes between two men I have seen onscreen in a while.

Gabe (sexy-as-hell Bill Heck) practically lives with his ex-wife, Shannon (Amy Seimetz), and his 6-year-old daughter even though he’s just broken up with another guy. He is far from out and does not like the notion that others in town might know about his sexuality.

Somewhere on the other side of town, a frustrated Ernesto (Marcus DeAnda) is still living with his younger ex, Luis (Alfredo Maduro), even though they’re no longer officially together. “Ernie” spends his free time reading to another ex who is in a coma.

The narrative refreshingly allows for the audience to do some work in terms of backstory. In addition, the screenplay (by Tan and David Lowery) lets us glimpse inside the lives of Shannon and Luis as well as to Ernie and Gabe—which gives us a good feel for the type of lives that are led—and allowed to be led--in this Texas town—where there’s a lot of discussion about “starting over” but not much actual movement in that direction.

Bill Heck is the film’s dynamo. Channeling Heath Ledger’s Ennis del Mar (Brokeback Mountain), if he was slightly more outgoing and spoke more eloquently, Heck conveys that conflict between wanting to get out of dodge vs. needing to stay and raise his daughter.

Heck has a few especially poignant moments simply singing to himself in his car. The songs, by Curtis Heath, are original yet feel like classics.

In the end, these two gay working class Joes from Hicksville may just have found a reason to not self-destruct.

NEWFEST: Screenings will take place at The Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater. 165 W.65th St, New York, NY 10023 (between Broadway and Amsterdam) and the JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave. at 76th Street, New York, NY 10023. Tickets are $13; $8 for members of NewFest and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Special prices apply to the Opening and Closing Night screenings.

Visit www.FilmLinc.com for complete information.




Scott Gracheff’s
The Rugby Player
Newfest 2013
The Film Society of Lincoln Center
Walter Reade Theater
September 6-11, 2013

A Documentary

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Scott Gracheff’s The Rugby Player is a deserved tribute to a true hero.

The film’s first half paints a fascinating portrait of a tough, athletic young man who was raised to step in when danger arose. Mark Bingham was a tall, skinny boy who loved heavy metal and partying with friends. He was also a rabid rugby player—a very hands-on, down-and-dirty sport. Mark was also one of the passengers on United Flight 93 that was forced down on September 11, 2001.

The film explores Mark’s early life, his closeness with his extraordinary mother, Alice, his fierce devotion to his friends, his love of rugby and his probable heroism on board that ill-fated flight.

Midway through the doc, we learn that this gruff, traditionally handsome guy was gay, which gives Mark an unexpected dimension and gives the LGBT community someone they can truly look up to and, to paraphrase one of Mark’s many friends, someone who is beyond reproach because he paid the ultimate price.

The Rugby Player
is an entertaining and inspirational pic. Through home-made video footage and interviews with family and friends, Mark comes off as a selfless and loving figure who, to quote his ex, was like “a human Labrador, wanting to be happy and wanting others to be happy.” There’s nothing negative presented here.

The film also shows how Alice has gone on to be quite the advocate for LGBT rights, carrying her son’s torch and fighting for marriage equality.

My only complaint is that the film felt too short. I wanted to know more about the man who probably led the charge to crash the plane before it hit the White House or the Capitol. And maybe some of his foibles could have been introduced to humanize him more. NO one is that perfect. But maybe this doc is just the intro for us. Perhaps someone will pen his story and a feature will be made about Mark Bingham.

NEWFEST: Screenings will take place at The Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater. 165 W.65th St, New York, NY 10023 (between Broadway and Amsterdam) and the JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave. at 76th Street, New York, NY 10023. Tickets are $13; $8 for members of NewFest and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Special prices apply to the Opening and Closing Night screenings.

Visit www.FilmLinc.com for complete information.




Chris Mason Johnson’s
Test
Newfest 2013 Closing Night
The Film Society of Lincoln Center
Walter Reade Theater
September 6-11, 2013

Written by Chris Mason Johnson.

Starring: Scott Marlowe, Matthew Risch, Kristoffer Cusick, Katherine Wells, Damon Sperber, Kevin Clarke, Evan Boomer.

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

To be a young gay man in San Francisco in 1985 had to be a very scary thing. It meant constant worry and paranoia about a new virus that was beginning to decimate an entire generation of young men whose sexual orientation seemed to finally be, at least, tolerated by mainstream America.

Chris Mason Johnson’s engaging new film, Test, allows us into the mind, body and spirit of one such guy, an adorable, somewhat-fey dancer named Frankie (Scott Marlowe) who lives with his probably-closeted roommate in their rodent-infested apartment.

Like most young gay men, Frankie enjoys sex but is becoming increasingly alarmed by the AIDS scare that is sweeping the nation and the varying and conflicting information about how it is spread. It’s a time when a skin discoloration or mole can be misconstrued as a death sentence and where people’s sweat can be seen as deadly.

Frankie is an alternate in a dance show called ‘After Dark,’ and is scolded by his choreographer for not being manly enough. He has a bit of a crush on one of the members of the troupe, Todd (Matthew Risch), a gruff, promiscuous dude who is seemingly unphased by the disease.

A new HIV test has been developed and, after an unsafe encounter with someone who turns out to be positive, Frankie decides to take it.

Writer-director Johnson captures the anxiety-ridden times so well it’s enough to make a person paranoid all over again—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Seeing Rock Hudson on TV or hearing the outrageous rumors about how contagious the virus was puts the viewer smack dab in the Reagan-infested, homophobic 80s.

Johnson also challenges antiquated notions of masculinity in art vs. accepting people for who they are and actually celebrating that—which the dance sequences do in a marvelous way. While we are privy to Frankie’s emotional discomfort and his self-esteem issues, we also get a sense he is aware of his own beauty and has moments where he is pleased with his sexuality and sexualness—all this through the way Johnson captures his every day activities as well as via the stunning choreography (by Sidra Bell).

And, of course, there’s Scott Marlowe’s thoughtful, layered performance as Frankie. It’s a literal full-bodied immersion into a portrait of a specific artist trying to survive the early days of a plague and the life altering changes he and way too many young people had to implement in order to live past thirty.

NEWFEST: Screenings will take place at The Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater. 165 W.65th St, New York, NY 10023 (between Broadway and Amsterdam) and the JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave. at 76th Street, New York, NY 10023. Tickets are $13; $8 for members of NewFest and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Special prices apply to the Opening and Closing Night screenings.

Visit www.FilmLinc.com for complete information.



 

 


 

 


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