Light at the Edge of the World

What do Anita Bryant and David Schwimmer have in common? In addition to whatever punch line you may have come up with, they also both grace this year's Queer Flickering Light (QFL), South Florida's lesbian, gay, and bisexual film/video festival. QFL offers local audiences an opportunity to view gay-theme works that probably would not otherwise play the area because of their perceived noncommerciality, experimental techniques, or controversial subject matter. Both Everything Relative, a sort of lesbian Big Chill that opens the festival on Friday night at 8:00, and Raising Heroes, which bills its protagonist as "the first gay action hero" and which closes the festival on Sunday evening at 8:00, will also unspool at New York City's gay and lesbian film festival -- a week after they screen here. Given Miami's reputation as a second-rate market for outside-the-mainstream films, beating the Big Apple not once but twice qualifies as something of a coup.

QFL programmer Don Chauncey has assembled an eclectic mix of features, documentaries, and shorts designed to provoke as well as to entertain. No two films better illustrate that contrast than the pair spotlighting Bryant and Schwimmer. At 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, producer David Meieran introduces Out Rage '69, an hourlong documentary tracing the roots of the modern gay rights movement back to the Stonewall riots of 1969. Education and stimulation (of discussion) are the goals of this film, which follows the movement's tenuous growth throughout the Seventies and focuses on citrus pitchwoman Bryant's notorious efforts to turn back the social/cultural clock with her 1977 Dade County "Save Our Children" campaign. Meieran will stick around to field questions from the audience. At 6:00 p.m. Saturday, it's Schwimmer's turn; the lovably inarticulate Friends star appears in Lisa Udelson's comical 35-minute short Party Favor (which screened during 1995's South Beach Film Festival), about a lesbian couple that attends a straight bridal shower and goes home with the best party favor, courtesy of Schwimmer's character.

Where Party Favor features a gentle, turkey-baster approach to humor, Nick Katsapetses's caustic comedy Get Over It (Saturday at noon) uses a sharp skewer. (He describes it as "Melrose Place on sexstacy.") Katsapetses garnered the Best New Director award at the 1995 Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival for Get Over It, which he wrote, produced, directed, edited, and acted in. The film pokes fun at a group of twentysomethings whose members blithely refuse to grow up. "The film was made in response to what I perceived to be a swamp of feel-good queer cinema," Katsapetses explains in the production notes. "It is at times a bit critical of the gay subculture, but I wanted to show some misery that is at least a little more realistic than two queens in their briefs giggling in bed all day."

Mel Chionglo's Midnight Dancers (Friday night, 10:30) is an erotically charged (read: lots of nubile and nearly naked young Filipino men) tale of three brothers who consider themselves straight, yet who work as nude dancers and call boys in Manila's teeming gay underworld. Chionglo has a lot to say about the connection between poverty and moral decay. Male prostitution in a far more affluent corner of the world A Montreal A drives the action in Jean Beaudin's Being at Home with Claude (Sunday, 6:00 p.m.). When a male hustler turns himself in to police for the bloody murder of his lover, a dogged inspector must untangle a web of passion in order to reconstruct the chain of events that led up to the killing.

World and Time Enough (Saturday, 8:00 p.m.), a contemporary American drama set against a Midwestern backdrop of industrial parks, strip malls, and home shopping networks, delicately chronicles the lives of two gay men A a radical activist and a garbage collector A as they search for identity and the meaning of family. Eric Mueller's 90-minute feature debuted at the 1994 San Francisco Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for Best Picture. World and Time Enough is followed at 10:00 p.m. by Frisk, director Todd Verow's adaption of Dennis Cooper's controversial novel that blends homosexuality, sadism, insanity, and ritual murders into a disturbingly surreal psychosexual soup. Frisk played this year's Sundance Film Festival and boasts the most indie credibility of any QFL feature-length film, with a cast that includes Parker Posey and Alexis Arquette and a musical score by Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo.

It wouldn't be a festival if guest filmmakers weren't in attendance. Both Sharon Pollack, who wrote, directed, and produced Everything Relative, and Douglas Langway, who wore the same multiple hats on Raising Heroes, will be on hand to discuss their work. Candido Negr centsn, one of the producers of New York City-based HoMoVISIONES (a weekly cable-access show offering a funny, sexy slice of Hispanic gay and lesbian life), will screen selections culled from recent episodes of that show (Sunday, noon). And at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Fred Fejes, a professor of communications at FAU, examines the role of gay male pornography in shaping contemporary gay male identity; expect video clips to spice up his analysis.

Despite his ability to pull together all these diverse cinematic takes on the gay-bi-lesbian experience, Queer Flickering Light programmer Don Chauncey failed to reel in his two biggest potential catches: Both Anita Bryant and David Schwimmer had other commitments.

Queer Flickering Light runs from Friday, June 7, through Sunday, June 9, at the Colony Theater, 1040 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach; 531-0903. Tickets cost $6.

 
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