By Peter Knegt | Indiewire May 21, 2013 at 1:16PM
One of the most fabulous, transgressive people to ever almost cross into mainstream American culture is at the heart of Jeffrey Schwarz's new documentary, "I Am Divine." Framed around the 1988 death of then 42-year-old Harris Glenn Milstead -- the man behind Divine -- it is mostly a loving, hilarious (there ain't no talking head like John Waters') and complex tribute to a man and his female alter-ego, both of whom lived their lives to the fullest. It takes us from Milstead's challenged Baltimore upbringing as an overweight kid (where he grew up just blocks from Waters, though the two didn't cross paths until they were both 17) to the night he died in his sleep ("of happiness," friend and manager Bernard Jay says in the film). The film must be watched by anyone who thinks, say, Lady Gaga is transgressive. Because Mother Monster has nothing on who the film rightfully proclaims "the Queen Mother of us all.
"Interior. Leather Bar." (directed by Travis Mathews and James Franco)
Actor-director-playwright-academic-etc James Franco has collaborated with up-and-coming queer filmmaker Travis Mathews for this film that explores the idea of the two of them remaking the 40 minutes of explicit S&M material allegedly cut from William Friedkin's controversial 1980 film "Cruising" to avoid an X-rating. While that in itself is a worthwhile concept for a film (and a part of "Interior. Leather Bar." is indeed a hardcore recreation of just that), the film extends well beyond it to offer footage -- perhaps real, perhaps not -- of Franco, Mathews and their cast and crew as they attempt to full off the feat. The result is a discussion of representations of queer sex in both Hollywood and society in general that won raves when it debuted at Sundance in January. Say what you want about Mr. Franco, but try not to admire his attempt at utilize his celebrity to push certain boundaries in this film.
Yen Tan’s quiet, moving "Pit Stop" made its world premiere at Sundance back in January, where it was largely overshadowed by more name-heavy (though also very good) queer flicks like the aforementioned James Franco co-directed "Interior. Leather Bar." and David Sedaris adaptation "C.O.G." Hopefully it will manage to find the audience it deserves on the LGBT film circuit (and more hopefully, beyond that). The film depicts a series of characters living in small-town Texas, among them two lost gay men in their mid-30s (Bill Heck and Marcus DeAnda). Similar in tone to 2011's queer cinema breakout "Weekend" (a staple on this circuit two years ago), "Pit Stop" has a sincerity that creeps up on you and will linger in your mind long after the credits roll.
"Valentine Road" (directed by Marta Cunningham)
Eight-grade student Brandon McInerney shot his openly queer classmate Larry King during first period at a school in Oxnard, California on February 12, 2008. On Valentine’s Day King died in the hospital and his story became a topic of considerable discussion across America and beyond. Six years later, filmmaker Marta Cunningham takes us beyond what we saw then and into an extensive and heartbreaking investigation of that terrible incident and the events that led up to it. And she doesn't simply look at King’s side of the story. She provocatively also looks at the idea of McInerney -- who was sentenced to 21 years in prison back in 2011 -- as an additional victim in the narrative. Both King and McInerney rose damaged from physically and emotionally abusive childhoods, and "Valentine Road" -- though certainly respectful of the undeniable tragedy that came from murderous and horrifying behavior -- also asks why McInerney's behavior came to be in the first place. Both a tribute to Larry King and a discussion of the state of society in America, "Valentine Road" is as haunting a film as you'll find on the LGBT fest circuit this year.
"Que(e)ries" is a column by Indiewire Senior Writer and resident homosexual Peter Knegt. Follow him on Twitter.