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The Gay Cannes -- San Fran Comes Out and Goes Beyond: The SF International Lesbian & Gay Film Festiv

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire June 26, 1998 at 2:0AM

The Gay Cannes -- San Fran Comes Out and Goes Beyond:The SF International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, So Far
0

The Gay Cannes -- San Fran Comes Out and Goes Beyond:
The SF International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, So Far

by Rajendra Roy




Though the Rainbow Flags are still flying on every corner, and the
atmosphere can only be described as "Gay Disneyland", the 22nd edition
of The San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival
demonstrates an ever-increasing willingness to move beyond the limits of
Gay Pride and embrace its role as one of the premiere global independent
film events. Bookended by starpacked features "High Art" by Lisa
Cholodenko and P.J. Castellaneta's "Relax...It's Just Sex", this year's
SFILGFF highlights indie innovation and moves beyond predictable
coming-out narratives. With an extra day of screenings added, and an
industry guest list that reads like the best-dressed of the indie-film
world, San Francisco seems ready to fulfill the duties required of the
"Gay Cannes".


In keeping with 90's sensibilities, many of the features incorporate
sexualities that cannot be described as essentially "Gay" or "Lesbian".
In fact, during a panel discussion entitled "Why Are There So Few
Lesbian Features?" "High Art"'s writer/director Lisa Cholodenko and
producers Dolly Hall and Susan Stover all insisted that they had not
made a "lesbian movie", and encouraged the audience of aspiring young
lesbian-feature makers to avoid marketing their films as "lesbian".
Fellow panelist Jennie Livingston ("Paris is Burning") went so far as to
recommend that they not make films at all (to avoid the frustration of
slamming into the glass-ceiling). The title question seemed to be
answered by default: Lesbian filmmakers don't want to make lesbian
features; they want to make films, and they want their films to make it
in the independent film marketplace. Dolly Hall ("All Over Me", "The
Incredibly True Adventure Of Two Girls In Love
", "54"), was awarded the
1998 Frameline Award for producing profitable lesbian & gay themed
independent films.


The guest-curated Festival Focus programs address three subjects which
have had a huge impact on independent filmmaking but have been sidelined
at most major lesbian and gay film festivals because they represent
thorns in the side of gay mainstreaming. SF Bi-Film Festival organizer,
Jeff Ross, selected a program of short films and highlighted relevant
features in his "Anything That Moves" series. Ross asserts that gay and
lesbian festivals often include bi-sexual narratives as coming-out
stories, rather than acknowledging that bi-sexuality is a legitimate
lifestyle and not just a stepping stone to gayness. He benefits from a
bumper-crop of strong bi-themed features including Sundance award
winners "High Art" and Jimmy Smallhorne's "2by4". Curator Susan
Stryker's "FTMTFTM..." series contains some of the year's strongest
work, exploring the hot topic on the festival circuit, female-to-male
transexuality. Included are Susan Muska & Greta Olafsdottir's Berlin
Teddy winning "The Brandon Teena Story" and Hans Scheirl's
phantasmagoric "Dandy Dust", which may prove to me the most in-demand
print on the circuit this year.


The avant-garde is alive and well in "Queer Innovators", a landmark
series curated by filmmakers Cathy Lee Crane and Jim Hubbard. As Hubbard
states, "Experimental filmmaking has always been the gay mainstream. . .
attempts to break into Hollywood have always involved accommodation (of
heterosexual narratives and stereotypes)." While this is true, gay and
lesbian festivals and audiences have been less willing to accept
experimental film than many "straight" institutions. With such names as
Isaac Julien, Chantal Akerman, Maya Deren, George Kuchar, and Kenneth
Anger on the bill, Crane justifiably argued that Lesbian & Gay
filmmaking and Avant Garde film history are inextricably linked, and
that this series could be screened at any major museum.


Taking in all that this festival has to offer would leave even the most
seasoned festival-goer exhausted (Although "Totally Confused"
spinmeister Gary Rosen seems to be gaining steam, attending every party
on the list). Celebrities make it a point to make their SFILGFF
screenings (it's been awhile since 1,500 people gave Ally Sheedy an
ovation). It's also a chance for the obscure-but-influential to shine
("Queer Innovator" and MoMA subject Anie "Super 8" Stanley had at least
1,500 baby-dyke groupies). The Festival runs through Sunday, but most
screenings sold out before Barbara Hammer held her first camera.


[Rajendra Roy works in the Department of Film and Media Arts at the
Guggenheim Museum and is Executive Director of The MIX Festival in New
York.]