Queer As They Come
Varsity Theater, District 202, and Bryant-Lake Bowl
Wednesday through Sunday
All these straight boys wanna fantasize about two lesbians together--it's not me [they're imagining]. It's two people like Christina Aguilera, not me and Christina Aguilera.
--God-des in "Hip-Hop Homos"
If the experimental shorts in the 5th Annual Flaming Film Festival have any theme in common, it may be the notion that queers are a lot queerer than mainstream images of homosexuality, con or pro. And the realm of queer doesn't just concern gender and/or sexuality. Queer also covers--as in rapper God-des's quote above--limitless ungovernable intersections of non-normative bodies and desires with popular culture and society. Where there's a meeting, there's a repercussion. In other words, the Right is right: Queer changes the rules (even its own).
The most explicit enunciation of the queerness of queerness may be Philipe Lonestar's "Gender Play," screening in Friday's catchall showcase Feel the Heat (7:00 p.m. at District 202). The documentary short is visually static (people cavorting on playground equipment) and aurally goofy with its succession of queer individuals attempting to characterize their gender and sexual identities. Given the indistinct visuals, the filmmakers seem impatient with gender markers; along with their subjects, they seek to duck definitions, whether those of mainstream or gay society. (Can they?) Language infuriates as well: You can hear even flippant descriptions ("femme boy housewife") decay into stereotype as they're pronounced. In the end, pragmatic confusion reigns: "It's something I'm figuring out," one voice asserts, "and I don't think I ever will--or really feel I need to."
The tension between such queer fluidity and its general social context is explored in Lonestar and Courtney Trouble's "Secret Picnic," included in Wednesday's opening-night program D202: Young and Emerging (7:00 p.m. at District 202). Candy-colored and wittily soundtracked with Muzak, the short seesaws between surreal celebrations of gay communality and lonely (if equally campy) scenarios of physical oppression. By the last stuttering scenes, the giddy colors have bled into black and red. It's your guess which vision is more "real."
Another visual gem, though much less fantastical, Desirenna Almoradie and Christina Quisumbing Ramilo's "Green Stalk" tracks a video store clerk--seemingly an émigrée--as she stalks an older (lesbian) woman. Presented in Thursday's Asian Pacific Islander program (7:00 p.m. at District 202), the short film features rich location shots redolent of the dislocation of movement even in their ultra-crisp stillness. "Green Stalk" reaches for rootedness while admitting its impossibility. Through its "queer eye," the urban United States is disordered, displaced, remade anew.
Whatever you do, don't just ram it in.
--Miss Cookie LaWhore to Tralala in "Girl on Girl"
Michele Mahoney's take on the cinematic institution called The Graduate disorients with a great deal less subtlety: "The Undergrad," playing Saturday on the Laugh in the Afternoon bill (3:00 p.m. at Bryant-Lake Bowl), is a dykes-in-drag remake in which Ben and Mrs. Robinson fuck on a giant sandwich, Mr. Robinson gets lucky with Ben's dad, and the bride is a gay man. This bride's panicky reaction to a Saturday Night Fever-themed drag show is part of Mahoney's winking satire of politically and culturally conservative gayness. Within the comic parameters of her clever if overlong short, the image of gals pretending to be guys screwing older gals is queer, and gay is the new straight.
Similar dynamics appear to fuel two shorts in Saturday's erotica showcase, XXX Multiple Flavas (9:30 p.m. at the Varsity Theater). Erica Cho's "School Boy Art" mines the sexy-professor vein with sweet earnestness, but few surprises--except that the gay professor seems to be a woman dressed as a man. The Miss Nomer Collective's "Girl on Girl" pledges to confront the taboo of gay male/gay female desire: The short observes Miss Cookie LaWhore and his gal pal, sometime porn actress Tralala, as they embrace and penetrate for the first time. "What better way to pop your girl-cherry," drawls Miss Cookie, "than on camera?" For all its slight air of self-importance, "Girl on Girl" endears with its uncompromising gracelessness: The lovers school each other, laugh, and admit insecurities ("ass cellulite," "body hair") with a disruptive (and sexy!) honesty that's rare in cinematic depictions of sex. At the same time, the whole idea of an "honest" depiction is complicated by Tralala's porn experience and Miss Cookie's sardonic distance.
If I'm the faggot, what the fuck does that make you?
--Ty in "On the Low"
If some of the festival's movies keep pressing to destabilize the definition of "queer," others are plenty busy investigating and supporting gay presences within vigilantly patrolled "straight" environments. Saturday's On the Low selections (7:00 p.m. at District 202) delve into representations of black male sexuality. Director Luther Mace brings his narrative short "On the Low," a finely crafted look at a young man taunted at school by the hetero-identified classmate who is secretly having sex with him. The movie ends on a positive spin, but its representation of young men constantly judging each other's "authentic" masculinity is killing--and resonates across racial lines.
The festival ends Sunday at Bryant-Lake Bowl (7:00 p.m.) with StreamClubbing, a night of queer music videos and films. Besides song clips by Le Tigre and Gravy Train and animated groovin' Barbies from Micki Poklar, the showcase features Dave O'Brien's bittersweet documentary "Hip-Hop Homos." O'Brien's skillful portraits of gay rappers God-des and Deadlee get at the risks of these intercessions--not only because of hip-hoppers who find gayness "alien," but because of family members who find hip hop frightening. This viewer wished for a more complex view of hip hop's assumed "straightness" than the people-on-the-street interviews here. However, I can't help getting swept up with performers who want to replace Elton John on the walls of queer folks everywhere. "I'm like a faggot superhero," claims Deadlee, "without a cape an' shit."
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