Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival showcases community's global diversity

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Like previous festivals, the 2012 Milwaukee LGBT Film and Video Festival presents a fascinating array of feature-length and short-subject queer cinema. Beginning with the Olympia Dukakis vehicle “Cloudburst” and concluding with the Arab-themed British movie “My Brother The Devil,” the selections are international in scope at the festival presented by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts Department of Film.  The festival runs Oct. 18-21.

Following are some of this year’s festival offerings. 

‘United in Anger: A History of ACT UP’

Combining vintage footage – much of it amateur and personal – with interviews of more than 50 people, this documentary is as inspiring as it is infuriating. It’s inspiring in the way it portrays a community affecting change through desperation, organization, affinity, action and rage. It’s infuriating because it shows how the ACT UP movement ate itself up from the inside, losing much of its strength 30 years into the HIV/AIDS crisis with still no cure in sight. 

“United In Anger” highlights the March 1987 speech in which Larry Kramer calls for a “new AIDS movement.” Two day later, Kramer got his wish with the formation of the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power or ACT UP. A visible presence at the June 1987 Pride parade in New York City, ACT UP followed that appearance by the first of its actions at Sloan-Kettering Hospital.

Things escalated from there. ACT UP meetings more than doubled in attendance. People with a history of organizing mingled with newcomers, creating an amazing synergy. ACT UP fearlessly took on cultural, political and religious organizations of all stripes. From the pharmaceutical industry to Cosmopolitan magazine, from New York City Hall to the New York Stock Exchange, from St. Patrick’s Cathedral to Grand Central Station, ACT UP was there and made certain that its message was heard.

The interview component of the documentary, featuring firsthand accounts from Kramer, Peter Staley, Maxine Wolff, Michelangelo Signorile, Anna Blum and others, is highly effective. In combination with the remarkable period footage, the results are a powerful cocktail, elevating “United In Anger” to a higher level among the many docs about the AIDS crisis.

‘Mosquita Y Mari’

Like Dee Rees’ well-received 2011 film “Pariah,” “Mosquita Y Mari” presents an underrepresented segment of the LGBT community. This effectively told and performed story about two young Latinas is one that we don’t often see onscreen. 

Yolanda (Fenessa Pineda) lives with her overly protective, traditional parents (Joaquín Garrido and Laura Patalano) in the Huntington Park section of Los Angeles. A studious high school sophomore, Yolanda is respectful of adults and avoids the negative influences of her peers. But Yoli is unprepared for the changes that occur in her life when she meets new neighbor and classmate Mari (Venecia Troncoso).

Mari’s life is the opposite of Yoli’s in every way. She has to be the adult in her relationship with her mother (Dulce Maria Solis) and little sister Olivia (Samy Zaragoza). Mari thinks nothing of shoplifting or smoking pot in the girl’s bathroom at school. But a teacher pairs up Yoli and Mari in class, and soon they become study mates.

It’s fascinating to watch the friendship bud. Each girl brings something unique to the relationship. Mari nicknames Yoli “Mosquita” and is protective of her. Mari, who is not doing well in school, benefits from the study time. But outside influences threaten the relationship. Mari passes out fliers for money to help with the rent and utilities. Yoli’s parents don’t approve of Mari, especially after the gossipy grocer badmouths her.

But because Yoli’s feelings toward Mari are beyond friendship, Mari’s negative influence has an impact on Yoli’s grades and her home life. Each girl ends up manipulating the other. The friendship begins to fray at the edges, due to jealousy, parental and social pressure, and the complexities of the girls’ feelings toward each other.

“Mosquita Y Mari” has a sting, but it is well-worth enduring.

‘Facing Mirrors’

Following 2011’s groundbreaking Iranian film “Circumstances,” which dealt with lesbian relationships, “Facing Mirrors” takes on the subject of being trans in Tehran. “Facing Mirrors” vividly depicts the consequences and horrors of living in a repressive society.

Eddie, aka Adineh (Shayesteh Irani), is trying to secure a passport to Germany for gender reassignment surgery. However, Eddie’s honor-obsessed father (Homayoun Ershadi) has other plans. A wedding date has been set for Eddie, and the father will do everything in his power to make sure it occurs. 

Meanwhile, in another part of the city, seamstress Rana (Qazal Shakeri) is struggling to make ends meet for herself and her young son while her husband serves time in prison for his involvement in a business deal gone wrong. Even though it is illegal for her to drive, Rana secretly works as a driver, careful to only pick up female passengers.

While on the lam, Eddie crosses paths with Rana, who offers a ride. It is in Rana’s car that a life-changing culture clash occurs. Each character impacts the world view of the other, and they come to each other’s aid without hesitation. 

‘Let My People Go!’

In Finnish and French with English subtitles, the modern, campy farce “Let My People Go!” follows young gay couple Ruben (the elastic Nicolas Maury) and Teemur (Jarkko Niemi) as their relationship is threatened by a variety of outside influences. The first and greatest challenge occurs after postman Ruben unwittingly comes into possession of about 200,000 euros. This causes such a rift between the pair that Ruben leaves rural Finland to return to what he thinks is the safety net of his family in Paris. 

Arriving just in time for Passover, Ruben can feel the Angel of Death hovering over everything: his nephew Gabriel, his relentless mother Rachael (Pedro Almodóvar regular Carmen Maura), his unfaithful father Nathan, his sister Irene (Amira Casar), her husband Herve (Charlie Dupont) – even his own lack of sleep. Things become even more complicated when elderly, widowed lawyer Goldberg (Jean-Luc Bideau) becomes enamored of Ruben. As Ruben puts it, his life has become “one bad Jewish joke.”

Back in Finland, Teemu learns the truth about the suspicious stash of cash. He hops a plane to Paris to make amends with Ruben. Unfortunately, he’s about to make an appearance just as everything goes haywire, including the arrest of Ruben, his brother Samuel (Clément Sibony) and Nathan. Lovesick Goldberg doesn’t help matters when he sends Teemu away. However, when Teemu appears at the door on the night of the Seder, like a blond Elijah, it’s clear that Ruben’s days of suffering are over.

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