The 2010 Palm Springs International Film Festival ran January 5-18, ending just before torrential rains hit southern California. Chances are the celebratory crowds who attended wouldn't have minded if the storm had arrived earlier. This year's fest featured nearly 200 movies from over 70 different countries, and saw Oscar winners Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren mingling with the likes of Mariah Carey and the super-cute stars of The Big Gay Musical!
Indeed, the festival's 21st annual edition included 20 GLBT-themed movies, an all-time high. It's Gay!La centerpiece on January 14 was the California premiere of I Love You Phillip Morris, in which Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor play imprisoned, star-crossed lovers. The fact-based comedy, co-directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, was enthusiastically received by a sold-out audience. It is scheduled for theatrical release in March.
Other GLBT films from the fest that I was able to screen were:
Eyes Wide Open (Eynaim Pekukhot), an extraordinary Israeli story about two orthodox, Jewish men in Jerusalem who have an affair. One is a married father of several children who works as the local butcher; the other is a younger rabbinical student recently kicked out of his yeshiva due to his homosexuality. As the older man eventually admits of his feelings, "I was dead, and now I'm alive." Written and directed by the talented Haim Tabakman, the film is sure to be controversial and is not to be missed. Eyes Wide Open won the fest's John Schlesinger Award for Best First Feature.
Brotherhood (Broderskab), a Danish film by Nicolo Donato features — in contrast to Eyes Wide Open — two neo-Nazis who fall in love with each other. Initially members of a racist, gay-bashing club, the young men gradually come to see the errors of their ways. Of course, their leaders are less than pleased when the relationship is discovered. The movie effectively shows how easily the disillusioned can become conscripted by such ideologies, as well as their hypocrisy.
Paulista (Quanto Dura o Amor?), which had its world premiere at the fest, depicts the romantic successes and failures of several different people in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Writer-director Roberto Moreira pays tribute to both playwright Anton Chekhov and filmmaker Hector Babenco (who cameos) in this sometimes affecting, sometimes heavy-handed dramedy. Silvia Laurenco, as a transgender legal secretary, and the sexy Gustavo Machado, as her would-be husband, give noteworthy performances.
In the documentary Dzi Croquettes, also from Brazil, former members and supporters reminisce about the late gay performance group of the title. The scantily clad Croquettes emerged in the late 1960's, in the wake of a particularly conservative turn in Brazilian politics. They provided subversive amusement to their countrymen and became an international sensation when they eventually went on a European tour. Sadly, AIDS claimed many of the troupe's members in the 1980's and 90's. The documentary becomes repetitive and overlong, but archival footage of the Croquettes' performances and commentary by one of their champions, Liza Minnelli, will keep most gay viewers' interest.
The Big Gay Musical, directed by Casper Andreas and Fred M. Caruso, is a thoroughly silly, occasionally overbearing but ultimately entertaining tale of two gay actors who strive to overcome their personal issues while starring in an off-Broadway production of Adam & Steve: Just the Way God Made 'Em. The musical numbers are fun, the men are hot, and the film's good-natured attack on the religious right is timely. Gossip columnist Michael Musto has a funny cameo, as does Trick's Steve Hayes as God in the show-within-a-show.
The Palm Springs International Film Festival got 2010 off to a fabulous cinematic start! Look for these GLBT films on the big screen in your area and/or on home video later this year.
Ed. Note: We hope one or more of these might find their way to the Berkshire International Film Festival in Great Barrington or the Williamstown Film Festival. Or perhaps to the Beacon, Triplex or Images just because there is an audience for LGBT films that goes beyond the obvious.
This review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.