Seems like only yesterday Miami had no Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. And here comes the third one. Like the previous two, this festival is stacked with movies of all shapes and sizes: They come in the form of documentaries, Hollywood features, short series, gay-themed, lesbian-themed, animation, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, and German, color, and black and white. What's a little different this year is the pure bulk of the festival itself, stretching over two weeks with screenings at the Colony Theater. There's sex, ethnic diversity, humor, and pain. What's missing are a few more truly experimental offerings. Especially in the full-length feature department, the fare tends to stick to the straight and often to the narrow.
There are gems in the features category, though, two of which have been reviewed in these pages this week (more to come next issue). Highlights that aren't: Stranger Inside, about black lesbians in prison; The Iron Ladies (a big winner at the Berlin Film Festival), about a Thai volleyball team; and Sex Becomes Her: The True Life Story of Chi Chi Larou, a documentary about the famous drag queen-turned-porn director from a small town in Minnesota. Although the Japanese representative, Taboo (from Nagashi Oshima, director of In the Realm of the Senses), doesn't quite follow through with its promise, the subject of homosexual love and honor in the samurai code is hard to beat. Two European films -- the The Man I Love (France) and Return to Go (Germany)-- remind us in a gentle, sophisticated, post-twentieth-century fashion that AIDS is still with us, and still killing us.
On to the shorts, where experimental work its way in, as does comedy and love and disturbing behavior. One of the best sets is "La Vida Loca," which includes six Latin shorts: the funky Pantalones, starring a pair of pants; the sexy Behind Walls, which involves a pair of male lovers, a jealous sister, and a hole in the wall; and an unsettling, almost voyeuristic view of a cavernous sex room at the back of a Spanish gay club, El Cuarto Oscuro.
"Boys to Men" is another good grouping -- look out for the wonderful mating dance in Mountain King, performed around a pool by a hustler and his conquest to Grieg's Peer Gynt.
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"X Marks the G-Spot" does indeed deliver some sexy, even raunchy, clips. Neither Fuck This, Ginger nor O.P.P (Other People's PussX) need further elaboration except to note that both star black lesbians. Bargain Lingerie shows up in this series of shorts (as well as in "La Vida Loca"); it's a Spanish offering about a girl and her developing obsession with breasts.
"Opening Closet X" is a mixed bag, with the most intriguing short being Jake: Today I Became a Man, about a young cross-dressing-soon-to-be-singing sensation.
"Family Ties" groups three disparate shorts that look at family relationships, including the black-Canadian Welcome to Africville and Theme: Murder, a documentary made by the daughter of a murdered art curator who lived a very secret life.
Finally "Under the Palms" features shorts from Florida filmmakers: Positive for Life by Josef Woodson; Jumping Through Windows by George Contini; this is not a road movie by Eric Freedman; and Me and My Baby in Miami, from Aldo Picini.