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My weekend at the Long Beach QFilm Festival

In a few days, I’m heading to Palm Springs to attend its Cinema Diverse film festival. I warmed up for it over the weekend by taking in six features and one program of short films at the Long Beach QFilm Festival which I really love because it is so intimate and filled with good movies.

FRIDAY: On opening night, I saw Cloudburst which starred Oscar winners Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker as an aging couple who break out of a nursing home in Maine and head to Nova Scotia with a cute hitchhiker played by Ryan Doucette. Dukakis, whose character describes herself as an 80-year-old dyke, is a revelation from the very first frame when we see her driving her red truck. I loved the movie and was pleasantly surprised that it was filled with humor and light moments and had kind of a Thelma & Louise feel to it at times.

That was followed on Friday night by the romantic comedy Love or Whatever directed by Rosser Goodman and written by Dennis Bush and Cait Brennan. It tells the story of a psychologist named Corey (a very funny and moving Tyler Poelle) who sets off on a wild journey of self-discovery that leads him to new love and a life-changing choices. His lesbian sister with problems of her own is played by the brilliant Jennifer Elise Cox (Jan from the Brady Bunch movies) who steals just about any scene she is in – what a riot. As far as the hunk factor, today’s Morning Man Joel Rush fits the bill nicely! A very enjoyable film with some big laughs and strong performances.

In between movies, I attended the opening night party and chatted up the Ron Sylvester (pictured with me) who is in charge of the festival and emcees the whole things very nicely. Also there was Chris Carpenter and Robert Cano who are the event’s film programmers and moderators. Also met a really talented artist named Tyler Milleron whose paintings are currently on display (and for sale!)  at The Center, Long Beach.

SATURDAY: Made it back to Long Beach for the documentary RAID of The Rainbow Lounge which recounts the events surrounding the 2009 raid of a gay bar in Fort Worth, Texas. It sparked outrage in the community and also took place on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Writer-director Robert L. Camina really did his homework for this film which is narrated by Meredith Baxter. Although there is no footage of the raid, we find out what happened that night through eyewitnesses and are taken on a journey that really changes a city and how it treats the LGBT community. There are a lot of twists and turns, a lot of interviews, a lot of documents, but Camina does a masterful job of moving the story along so you never feel bogged down in the details and you are eager to find out what happens next.

The RAID screening was immediately followed by a program called Men in Briefs which was not at all sordid. It was simply a program of six short films that were a real mix: Fallen Comrade (written and directed by James Valdez who won the award for best director) about two soldiers who fall in love during boot camp then one of them is killed; the hilarious El Nido Vacio (The Empty Nest) about a scatter-brained sex therapist who embarks on a mission to re-connect with her gay teenage son with the help of her housekeeper who is essentially a member of the family. This 24-minute movie is so wonderful that it should be made into a TV series; and the funny and sexy Performance Anxiety, a 15-minute short from writer-director Reid Waterer about two straight actors who rehearse for a movie’s upcoming gay love scenes. It was great to chat with Reid after the screening. We had met a few years ago at the festival when he had another memorable short, You Can’t Curry Love which I loved and can now be seen HERE. Anyway, also in the short program were Alone With Mr. Carter, My Night With Andrew Cunanan, and Why We Ride: The Story of AIDS/Life Cycle.

I took a dinner break then was joined by my friend Art Marroquin for the moving drama Elliot Loves written and directed by Terracino. It tells the story of Dominican-American Elliot Ayende at two stages of his life – as a nine-year-old sidekick to his single mom who is barely keeping it together – and as a 21-year-old looking for love in New York City. The movie has some laughs but it also is deeply moving and really gets you in your wounded inner-child.

SUNDAY: Got to The Center just in time to grab some of the brunch that was being held before the screening of the documentary Gay Latino: Los Angeles. Art joined me for this movie as well which is the story of three young men who open up their lives to filmmaker Jonathan Menendez. They seek to define what it means to be a gay Latino and each are very different from the other which makes for a very compelling film. I’ll share some of the Q&A in the coming days.

Barely had time to have a quick cup of coffee with Art before I had to return to the theater to catch the documentary I Stand Corrected, the true story of jazz base virtuoso Jennifer Leitham, formerly known as John Leitham who risked everything when she transitioned publicly during the height of her career. Leitham is so compelling and articulate which really makes the film – and she’s happy. I love that she’s happy and that shows. Even when she was John she was happy when she was performing with the late Mel Torme and Doc Severinson who is interviewed in the film. What makes the film unique is that it places at the center Leitham’s music career and how her transition impacted that. I loved this movie and was not surprised when director Andrea Meyerson was awarded with the best documentary prize.

I had seen the rest of Sunday’s line-up, Morgan (winner of best screenplay) and I Do (winner of best feature!), at Outfest so headed back to LA before dinner feeling very satisfied with a wonderful weekend of moviegoing in Long Beach.

Can’t wait until next year.

Full List of Award winners:
Best Picture – Feature Film ($10,000 prize from Greenhouse Studios: I Do
Best Director – Feature Film: Aurora Guerrero for Mosquita Y Mari
Best Screenplay – Feature Film: Terracino for Elliot Loves
Best Documentary: I Stand Corrected
Best Short Film ($5,000 prize from Greenhouse Studios): Polaroid Girl
Best Director – Short Film: TIE: Bob Pondillo for The Miracles of Honeybee Hill and James Valdez for Fallen Comrade

FILE UNDER: Awards, Film Festivals

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