120 Beats per Minute could have easily been contained to the auditorium debates that the characters attend and still been riveting. Instead, the drama bounces between these meetings and the lives of a group of ACT UP activists in Paris, many of whom are HIV-positive and getting sicker by the day. It’s astounding to see the ensemble members (including Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adèle Haenel, and Antoine Reinartz) challenge one another while planning each piece of this life-changing movement. Director Robin Campillo is as interested in their politically charged repartee and the enactments of every plan to fight the system as he is in exploring the politics of dancing and bodies.
Bodies in motion — be it dancing or fucking — are framed lovingly and frankly by director of photography Jeanne Lapoirie. It’s beautiful to see how Campillo engages with eroticism, never submitting to the tiresome notion that dying queer people must be pitied. With that restraint, the film avoids any cliché that might come with a film involving inevitable demise. And there is death, as there always is when exploring the AIDS epidemic. But 120 Beats per Minute shows that even after death, there are ways to celebrate the lives still left and the lives led by those we love. Instead of having the score swelling and forcing emotion on audiences, the film urges viewers to confront death, as harsh as that is, before returning to the dance music and strobe lights that keep these hearts pumping.
9:30 p.m. Saturday, October 14, at Savor Cinema, 503 SE Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale; 954-525-3456. Tickets cost $13.
The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin (Jennifer M. Kroot)
As colorful as its namesake, The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin proves to be a wonderful documentary exploring the titular writer. Jennifer M. Kroot’s film serves as an introduction for those who don’t know the writer, as well as an exploration of the man behind the stories viewers might know well. His life is presented through archival footage, talking-head interviews new and old, footage following Maupin through his present-day life, and clips from a number of films and series to which he was tied (and some to which he wasn’t).
Maupin’s openness about himself is what makes the film so engrossing. He’s shameless in telling tales from the past but also self-reflective of the conservatism that influenced him as a young man. There are honest discussions about war, about living through the AIDS epidemic, about trying to represent all the queer people one knows, and even about the disappointment of one's first sexual experience. Kroot’s visual storytelling complements these delightful tales, with one of the most amusing moments being Maupin recalling a meeting with Rock Hudson that cuts between clips from the films the actor starred in alongside Doris Day.
Featuring actors such as Ian McKellan and Laura Linney and writers like Neil Gaiman who have grown close to the writer, The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin never shies away from its subject matter. As the beautifully animated chapter titles flip by onscreen, the audience realizes that Maupin himself is as interesting and open as the characters in his books.
2:45 p.m. Sunday, October 8, at the Classic Gateway Theatre, 1820 E Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 954-763-7994. Tickets cost $13.
“For all the kids in the Saturday Church program and people who love and support LGBTQ youth everywhere” is the message at the end of OUTshine’s closing-night feature, Saturday Church. Damon Cardasis’ film focuses on Ulysses, a young queer man embarking on a journey of self-discovery: trying on high heels, looking at handsome young men differently, and being harassed by his classmates for his femininity. It takes meeting a group of queer people for his enlightenment to begin, but even with their help, the journey isn’t without low points.
As a musical, Saturday Church inevitably leans toward the optimistic and the sweet. But it doesn’t shy away from the realities of homelessness among queer youth, who often turn to sex work to survive. It’s a well-intentioned exploration told without an ounce of pity. This is exemplified by intimately shot, small-scale musical numbers about identity and love. These moments, bursting through the silence and frustrations of life, are a fantasia of choreography and lighting that brings beauty to a painful world.
As plain as the narrative could have been, the music and genuine interest in depicting a queer community of color make the story stand out, and actor Luka Kain is a perfect Ulysses. He’s lost and afraid but determined not to let his queerness be diminished. He's helped along by a compelling cast of performers (MJ Rodriguez, Marquis Rodriguez, Margot Bingham, Indya Moore, and Alexia Garcia) whose voices beg for a soundtrack release ASAP.
6 p.m. Sunday, October 15, at Savor Cinema, 503 SE Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale; 954-525-3456. Tickets cost $40 and include a closing-night party following the screening.
OUTshine Film Festival. Friday, October 6, through October 15 at various locations; outshinefilm.com. Admission to most screenings costs $13.