Pin It
A detailed look at 10 important films from this year's Rochester LGBT Film & Video Festival

ImageOut 2015 

magnum.jpg

A detailed look at 10 important films from this year's Rochester LGBT Film & Video Festival

Now in its 23rd year, Rochester's LGBT film festival, ImageOut, will present 38 feature films and three busy shorts programs in the span of just 10 days, from Friday, October 9, through Sunday, October 18 (but not before a Festival Eve Party at Skylark Lounge on Thursday, October 8, open to festival members and opening night film ticketholders).

Unsurprisingly, the cinematic offerings are diverse, with a focus on empowering stories of LGBTQ individuals that also embrace our universal humanity in the spirit of inclusion.

"LGBT film festivals are now beyond just bringing gay romance or coming-out stories on screen," says Michael Gamilla, ImageOut's programming director. "Cinema is such a powerful medium to educate. So we would be remiss if our films do not bring awareness to important social issues and serve as a call to action. I think it's also important for our audience to realize that once they get past the sexuality of the characters they see onscreen, the stories aren't too far off from their own experiences."

ImageOut includes non-cinematic mediums as well. Additional programs coinciding with the festival proper are ImageArt, with an exhibition of work by LGBTQ artist Sue Latta adorning the walls of Visual Studies Workshop through October 24; and ImageOutWrite, Volume 4, a collection of works by local writers speaking on the LGBTQ experience.

As Rochester's biggest film festival and the largest LGBT film festival in all of New York State, ImageOut also offers two mainstay film series: the Next Generation Series, free for moviegoers under 21 years old, which focuses on films about and geared toward young people; and the ImageOut There! Series, featuring left-of-center movies that defy tidy categorization. As part of its ImageOutReach initiative, all festival venues are wheelchair accessible, and sign language interpreters are available on request. Discounted tickets are available to seniors and young adults. A Closing Night Party will be held at the George Eastman House on Saturday, October 17, after the screening of "Margarita, With a Straw."

Far from a comprehensive list, below are 10 ImageOut 2015 films that deserve your attention. For more information, go to imageout.org or call the festival office at 271-2640.

click to enlarge “Stories of Our Lives” - PHOTO PROVIDED BY IMAGEOUT
  • PHOTO PROVIDED BY IMAGEOUT
  • “Stories of Our Lives”

The five contrasting vignettes of "Stories of Our Lives" — all based on real accounts — were filmed in stark black-and-white, serving to underscore the gravity of the situations in which LGBTQ Kenyans find themselves. Featuring arguably the most unforced and natural acting performances in the festival, director Jim Chuchu's storytelling has the matter-of-fact quality of documentary, but the poetic scope of meticulously crafted narrative. Two tableaux stand out in particular: "Run," a direct and unwavering look at physical violence that threatens gays in Kenya, and "Each Night I Dream," an evocative and beautifully shot perspective on the very real fears one lesbian couple faces at the prospect of organized anti-gay political vigilantes. A project by The NEST Collective, "Stories of Our Lives" (in English and Swahili with some English subtitles) is a deeply touching film that brings the global fight for LGBTQ rights more clearly into view. (Saturday, October 10, 1:45 p.m., Little 1)

Religious antagonism toward LGBTQ individuals is nothing new. But what is life like for gay Muslims, who struggle with maintaining their devout faith while also acknowledging their identity? Written and directed by Jay Dockendorf, "Naz & Maalik" doesn't necessarily offer a comprehensive answer, but it does provide a compelling snapshot of a day-in-the-life of the eponymous Brooklyn high school students whose covert romance is a source of apprehension and paranoia for the couple. It doesn't help that the FBI begins profiling them for any potential links to terrorist plots. Of course, the movie hinges on the romantic rapport of the two lead actors, and Kerwin Johnson Jr. (Naz) and Curtiss Cook Jr. (Maalik) possess a natural ease and intimacy with one another that helps bring the tension between their two disparate personalities to the fore. (Saturday, October 10, 4:15 p.m., Dryden)

click to enlarge “While You Weren’t Looking” - PHOTO PROVIDED BY IMAGEOUT
  • PHOTO PROVIDED BY IMAGEOUT
  • “While You Weren’t Looking”

Director Catherine Stewart's "While You Weren't Looking" is a story about young love. It's also a timely cautionary tale that unflinchingly depicts the socioeconomic discrepancies between upper and lower classes that can divide us if we allow them to do so. Set in Cape Town, South Africa, we meet Asanda, the self-possessed daughter of a wealthy lesbian couple, whose chance meeting with Shado, a tomboy from the "other side of the tracks," begins to blossom into passionate romance. But will differences in their respective upbringings and social statuses keep them apart? Bolstered by a confident performance by Petronella Tshuma as Asanda and Thishiwe Ziqubu's magnetic portrayal of Shado, "While You Were Looking" (in English, Afrikaans, and Xhosa with some English subtitles) will give you plenty to think about as you leave the theater. (Tuesday, October 13, 6 p.m., Little 1)

Director-actor Sebastián Silva's "Nasty Baby" is an undeniably odd and slowly unfolding story about a Brooklyn-based artist, Freddy (Silva), his boyfriend Mo, and Freddy's best friend Polly, who make a joint decision to have a child together. When Freddy's fertility becomes an issue, Mo — thoughtfully portrayed by a stoic Tunde Adebimpe of the band TV on the Radio — is thrust into the role of biological father. Meanwhile, Freddy struggles to develop a performance art piece in which he becomes a cooing and wailing infant version of himself, and the trio encounters a mentally unstable neighbor known as The Bishop (Reg E. Cathey, of "House of Cards," in a pitch-perfect performance), with whom they have a series of increasingly problematic exchanges. As Polly, former Rochesterian Kristen Wiig continues to showcase the dramatic range and premium acting chops she demonstrated so brilliantly in "The Skeleton Twins." While the chemistry between Silva and Adebimpe is nonexistent, the effectiveness of "Nasty Baby" as a deeply unsettling drama is unquestionable. Each scene seems patently orchestrated to make the viewer perfectly uncomfortable (in the best possible way), and the cathartic moment — with its bait-and-switch plot development — will surprise you. (Tuesday, October 13, 8:30 p.m., Little 1)

click to enlarge “The New Girlfriend” - PHOTO PROVIDED BY IMAGEOUT
  • PHOTO PROVIDED BY IMAGEOUT
  • “The New Girlfriend”

Named the "Narrative Centerpiece Selection" of the festival, director François Ozon's "The New Girlfriend" explores the sometimes fluid connection between gender and identity with equal parts thoughtfulness and tenderness. When Claire's lifelong best friend, Laura, passes away and leaves behind her husband, David, and infant daughter, Claire makes good on her promise to take care of the grieving family. She soon finds that David has long enjoyed dressing as a woman (albeit only in private) and has taken to putting on his late wife's clothes and perfume as a coping mechanism. At first repulsed by this, Claire soon aids David in uncovering the woman inside — whom they call Virginia — and brought together by their shared love for Laura, their emotional bond inevitably deepens. Though the film contains a few clichés, in the service of plot advancement they are excusable, and the budding relationship between Romain Duris's David/Virginia and Anaïs Demoustier as Claire resonates with a disarming sweetness as it unfurls. In French with English subtitles. (Wednesday, October 14, 8:45 p.m., Little 1)

Filmed with an austere beauty and aided by dazzling set design and costuming, "The Girl King" is a provocative biopic from director Mika Kaurismäki about the progressive Queen Kristina of Sweden (played with fierce dignity by Malin Buska), who governed her country for 10 years during the 17th century before abandoning her Protestantism in favor of Catholicism and abdicating her regal position to her cousin Karl Gustav Kasimir. Tirelessly devoted to the arts, sciences, and the accrual of knowledge, Kristina's reign was also marked by her resistance to marriage and her tomboyish manner — one might even characterize her as genderqueer. Contemporary scholarship suggests that the queen was a lesbian, and "The Girl King" advances this historical point with an allure that never minimizes the serious political implications of Kristina's lifestyle. While the hyperbolic symbolism at the film's turning point takes dramatic license to heavy-handed extremes, the biopic sheds light on a historical figure with whom many of us were likely unfamiliar. "The Girl King," the festival's "Spotlight Feature," is certainly worthwhile (in English, French, and Finnish with some English subtitles). (Friday, October 16, 6 p.m., Little 1)

click to enlarge “Beautiful Something” - PHOTO PROVIDED BY IMAGEOUT
  • PHOTO PROVIDED BY IMAGEOUT
  • “Beautiful Something”

The dark and moody atmosphere that pervades "Beautiful Something" feels like a character all its own in this sensual series of intersecting stories following the romantic exploits of Philadelphia bohemians on one particular evening. The all-male ensemble cast traverse the emotional territory of writer-director Joseph Graham's seductive yet gritty night environs with brooding intensity. Brian Sheppard is exceptional as the struggling poet and loser-in-love Brian, and Zack Ryan's portrayal of the charismatic yet detached actor Jim is mesmerizing. Graham infuses his characters with singular vulnerability, pride, defiance, and sensitivity — and it is the poignancy these traits bring to the relationships formed, however fleeting, that makes this film sing. (Friday, October 16, 8:30 p.m., Little 1)

click to enlarge PHOTO PROVIDED BY IMAGEOUT
  • PHOTO PROVIDED BY IMAGEOUT

"Margarita, With a Straw" radiates empathy and respect for its characters in a way that is rarely seen in film. Co-directors Shonali Bose and Nilesh Maniyar's story (in English and Hindi with some English subtitles) about a young woman's path to self-acceptance is all heart. Kalki Koechlin is an absolute revelation as Laila, an effervescent if somewhat shy Indian college student and musician who happens to have been born with cerebral palsy. The film follows Laila as she moves to New York City on an NYU scholarship, discovering the budding expression of her nascent bisexuality and developing a healthier self-image in the process. Unequivocally, on the strength of Koechlin's performance alone, this "Closing Night Selection" is not to be missed. (Saturday, October 17, 7:30 p.m., Dryden)

The iPhone 5s used for filming "Tangerine" — directed by Sean Baker and executive produced by mumblecore kings Jay and Mark Duplass — brings a close-quarters, earthy vibe to the raw, sun-drenched Los Angeles streets where we meet best friends Alexandra (Mya Taylor) and Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), two transgender sex workers who reunite on Christmas Eve after Sin-Dee's recent stay in prison. While Alexandra goes to meet old and new clientele and promote her evening performance as a club singer, Sin-Dee sets off on a rampage to find her boyfriend and pimp Chester and the woman she is convinced slept with him. A well-balanced mix of drama and humor, the film eschews passing judgment on its characters in favor of an authentic look at the personalities behind the characters and the difficult realities they face. Ultimately, "Tangerine" is a movie about indispensable friendship, and from the outset, the bond between Alexandra and Sin-Dee percolates with irrepressible energy. (Sunday, October 18, 6:45 p.m., Little 1)

click to enlarge “Margarita, With a Straw” - PHOTO PROVIDED BY IMAGEOUT
  • PHOTO PROVIDED BY IMAGEOUT
  • “Margarita, With a Straw”

"Coming In," an utterly heartwarming film by Marco Kreuzpaintner, tells the tale of Tom Herzner, a young, openly gay hairstylist in Berlin at the top of his game, having staked his career catering exclusively to male clientele.  In the interest of expanding his product line, Herzner begrudgingly goes to work at a unisex salon run by the quirky Heidi. As Tom begins to develop feelings for Heidi, it is uncertain how he will reconcile his professional and public life as a gay icon with his burgeoning new private life, in which he discovers a part of himself he didn't know existed. The romance between a smolderingly sexy Kostja Ullmann as Tom and Aylin Tezel's irresistibly endearing Heidi is charming to the utmost. While "Coming In" (in German with English subtitles) doesn't stray far from the proven rom-com formula, the underlying message touts the power and beauty of personal connection regardless of sexual orientation in a way that feels totally fresh. (Sunday, October 18, 9 p.m., Little 1)

Thursday, October 8

7 p.m.: Festival Eve Party at Skylark Lounge (Free with opening night film ticket)

Friday, October 9

6:30 p.m.: "Liz in September" Little 1

9:30 p.m.: "Fourth Man Out" Little 1

Saturday, October 10

11:30 a.m.: "Upstairs Inferno" Dryden

1:45 p.m.: "Stories Of Our Lives" Little 1

2 p.m.: "Drag Becomes Him" Dryden

4 p.m.: Quick Licks (Shorts Program) Little 1

4:15 p.m.: "Naz & Maalik" Dryden

6:30 p.m.: "Two 4 One" Little 1

6:30 p.m.: "Those People (Spotlight)" Dryden

9 p.m.: "S&M Sally" Little 1

9 p.m.: "54: The Director's Cut" Dryden

Sunday, October 11

12:15 p.m.: "Patong Girl" Little 2

12:30 p.m.: "The Guy With The Knife" Little 1

3 p.m.: Taking Chances (Shorts Program) Little 2

3:15 p.m.: "Game Face" (Documentary Centerpiece) Little 1

6 p.m.: "Alto" Little 2

6:15 p.m.: "In The Grayscale" Little 1

8:45 p.m.: "Stuff" Little 2

9 p.m.: "Kiss Me, Kill Me" Little 1

Monday, October 12

6 p.m.: "Tab Hunter Confidential"" Little 1

8:30 p.m.: "Cut Snake" Little 1

Tuesday, October 13

6 p.m.: "While You Weren't Looking" Little 1

8:30 p.m.: "Nasty Baby" Little 1

8:30 p.m.: "Kiss Of The Spiderwoman" (Archive) Dryden

Wednesday, October 14

6 p.m.: "That's Not Us" Little 1

8:45 p.m.: "The New Girlfriend" (Narrative Centerpiece) Little 1

Thursday, October 15

5:30 p.m.: "Akron" Little 1

7:45 p.m.: "Guidance" Little 1

9:45 p.m.: Secrets & Desires (Shorts Program) Little 1

Friday, October 16

6 p.m.: "The Girl King" (Spotlight) Little 1

8:30 p.m.: "Beautiful Something" Little 1

11 p.m.: "You're Killing Me" Little 1

Saturday, October 17

11:30 a.m.: "Reel In the Closet" Dryden

2 p.m.: "Henry Gamble's Birthday Party" Dryden

4:30 p.m.: "How To Win At Checkers (Every Time)" Dryden

7:30 p.m.: "Margarita, With A Straw" Dryden (Film & Party $25-$30)

10 p.m.: Closing Night Party at George Eastman House ($15-$20)

Sunday, October 18

12 p.m.: "Seed Money: The Chuck Holmes Story"" Little 1

2:15 p.m.: Safe Space (Shorts Program) Little 1

4:30 p.m.: "Portrait Of A Serial Monogamist" Little 1

6:45 p.m.: "Tangerine" Little 1

9 p.m.: "Coming In" Little 1

  • A detailed look at 10 important films from this year's Rochester LGBT Film & Video Festival

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Latest in Culture

More by Daniel J. Kushner

Readers also liked…

Latest in Culture

More by Daniel J. Kushner

Browse Listings

Submit an event

Tweets @RocCityNews

© 2016 City Newspaper.

Website powered by Foundation.