YOU MIGHT AS well tack on a fourth F-word to Intermedia Arts' hyper-alliteratively named Flaming Film Festival--that's another "f" for fringe. Now in its third year, the queer film fest formerly known as "MiX Minneapolis" has rounded up enough raw emerging talent to offer a genuine no-holds-barred alternative to that other GLBT gig held over the fall at U Film Society.
"This is the first year we've really gone bigtime," says Flaming curator Lisa Ganser. "I wanted to push the envelope, as far as what it means to [present] a queer film festival." Besides pulling together three diverse shorts showcases from both queer and straight filmmakers, Ganser has included performance art, a photography exhibit, and a queer youth cabaret in this year's eight-day lineup. Four other Midwest curators will add their red-hot shorts collections to the mix, and a total of 12 filmmakers from around the world will appear in person to unspool their works.
One of the most honored guests will be New York's Katrina del Mar, whose latest portrait collection of hard-nosed, hard-livin' women and men, American Toughie, will be on display at the Spyhouse Espresso Bar and Gallery (2451 Nicollet Ave. in Minneapolis) from May 17 to June 20. On the exhibit's opening night, del Mar will be on hand to screen excerpts of her documentary in progress, which emerged from her work on the photo collection, as well as her first "dykesploitation" film, Gang Girls. While del Mar's portraits definitely live up to their bad-ass bravado--the prints themselves even seem to be roughed up with plenty of scratches and burns--they also bear a certain sensual vulnerability.
As with any bona fide edge fest, you're going to have to sift through a lot of muck before finding the gold. Such is the case, anyway, with several of the shorts showcases, which range from lesbian erotica (Playing With Ourselves, screening May 19 at 9:30 p.m.) to extreme experimental cinema (Manipulation, May 20 at 7:00 p.m.). Consider the opening-night showcase, Strike the Match (Thursday, May 10 at 8:00 p.m.). Three of the shorts, making up the "Cucumber Chronicle" trilogy, will quickly fatigue you with their repetitive, Monty Python-like animation and mundane discourses on sexuality. But then another animated short, "Guileless Guile," will win you over with a quaint representation of a love triangle between a woman, her suitor, and a brawny naked cowboy. Overall, the extremely experimental showcase, along with Fuel the Flame (May 12 at 8:00 p.m.) and Sparky the Dog (May 20 at 5:00 p.m.), could have used a few political sparks to rescue it from conceptual burnout. The hot flares in there, however, keep the overall temperature well above normal.
The hit-and-miss nature of being on "the fringe" is perhaps best exemplified by the festival's only hour-plus feature, Fucked in the Face (May 12 at 9:30 p.m.). Directed by Shawn Durr, the film follows a young gay Everyman, Henry Normal, who develops an obsession with an Andrew Cunanan-esque serial killer. At its best, the graphic tale offers offbeat, sometimes morbid commentary, poking fun at gay iconography, porn banality, and gay-femme-dyke-butch social tension. At its worst, the movie descends into pure shock-core, swallowing up any sign of a coherent story; the blood-cum montages include, yes, face-fucking, a few beatings, slashings, and shootings, and the various violent exploits of some queen-hating dykes.
"At the festival last year," Ganser recalls, "when we screened Durr's short 'Meat Fucker,' several people got up and left. One guy even asked for his money back. I kind of considered that a personal victory. I mean, we're supposed to agitate people once in a while, right?"