Tag Archives: Frameline

Mystery Date – Shorts Program – Frameline36

Mystery Date

Mystery Date is the name given to a Shorts Program at this year’s Frameline.  Each story has a twist, secret, or some type of mystery/horror element.

Silver Stiletto (2012)

Click on image to view trailer

Director:  Luke Mayze

Writer:  Craig Rossiter

Stars:  Guy Edmondsr Guy Edmonds

Two gay bashers are brutally murdered and the only suspect is Silver Stiletto, a drag queen.  The story takes place in a police interrogation room with flashbacks to the crime.  Though the idea of the story is good, the execution is a little lacking.  The Short is stuck in a no-man’s land of sometimes being a comedy and sometimes being a drama, but in the end failing at both.  What it should have been is a dark comedy in the line of War of the Roses.  The acting, editing, and look of the Short are all good; the story is just lacking.

Grade = C

Regrets (2011)

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Director:  Michelle Pollino

Writer:  Rob Williams

Stars:  Matt Lundy and Peter Patrikios

Matt wakes up in a bed and bedroom he doesn’t know with a man he doesn’t remember.  After the initial disorientation of trying to remember how he got there and what he did, Peter says he is leaving to work and Matt can take his time to shower and leave.  While Peter is away Matt does some minor snooping around, and doesn’t like what he finds:  men’s underwear in different sizes & styles, multiple cell phones, keys, and a small photo album with pictures of different one-night stands sleeping in bed.  Paniced, Matt quickly discovers there are no windows in this bedroom and the doors are locked.  The story is well made and paced, but the acting is average at best.

Grade = B

Turno de Noche (Night Shift) (2011)

 Director:  Carlos Ruano

Writers:  Carlos Ruano and Susana Lopez Rubio

Stars:  Adam Jezierski and Israel Rodriguez

Israel is a young window dresser for a department star.  Adam is a new mall security guard that eyes him through the window.  They eventually meet and fall for each other.  When Israel shares with Adam he is scared to go to the storage basement for the mannequin, Adam offers to accompany him.  If you are a fan of Doctor Who’s Weeping Angels, then you will be a fan of Turno de Noche.  It is a well made and acted Short reminiscent of a Twilight Zone episode.

Grade = A

The Rookie and the Runner (2012)

Writer/Director:  Augie Robles

Stars:  Ephraim Lopez, George Perez, and Rich Gallardo

A jogger runs along a winding road.  At a break to catch his breath he runs into two potential tricks.  Choosing the jogger they go into the woods, followed behind by the motorist who left his car.  In a clearing in the woods the two joggers get close and the motorist looks on.  But then fantasy becomes reality and the other jogger is a cop there to entrap men cruising for sex.  The motorist snaps a twig as he backs away thereby distracting the cop.  The jogger runs away; the cop chases.  The Short is well shot, but the story does not draw you in.  The tension felt had more to do with the audience knowing something was going to happen by the theme of the Shorts Program, then with what you were seeing up on the screen.

Grade = C

My Night with Andrew Cunanan (2011)

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Writer/Director:  David Kordt-Thomas

Stars:  David Kordt-Thomas and Adrain Bustamante

When David discovers the rampage of serial killer Andrew Cunanan (Adrain Bustamante), he flashes back to the night he met him.  David is out at a bar when he is hit on by Cunanan.  What follows are David’s thoughts of what did and what could have happened if he made different choices.  Though the idea of the story is very good, the “what if” scenarios shown vary in quality and some make no sense.

Grade = C-

Solo Un Detalle (It’s Just a Detail) (2010)

Click on image to view short (in Spanish)

Writer/Director:  Giovanni Maccelli

Stars:  Helena Castaneda

A quick Short about a body disposal that goes wrong when the culprit is surprised in her apartment by friends & family gathered for her surprise birthday party.  Well concieved story with good acting and editing.  Short, sweet and to the point.

Grade = A

La Victoria de Ursula (Ursula’s Victory) 2011

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Directors:  Julio Marti & Nacho Ruiperez

Writers:  Julio Marti, Nacho Ruiperez, and Juan Verdu

Stars:  Irene Ferrando, Terele Pavez, and Sergio Caballero

Ursula is a young girl who sneaks into a cementary to dig-up a grave.  Before she can proceed she is caught by the grave digger.  In his quarters she reveals the motivation for her actions, eventually winning him over.  The look and feel of the Short is very Tim Burton before he became a cliche of himself.  The story successfully maintains the mystery of her actions until the very end.  A very well made, acted, and scripted Short.

Grade = A

“Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992” (2012) – Frameline36

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Writer/Director:  Dagmar Schultz

With:  Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde was an American Black Lesbian Poet who spent her summers in Berlin from 1984 to 1992.  This documentary tells the story of her life and impact in Berlin as it relates to women and Afro-Germans in particular.  During her time in Berlin she helped give voice to a small community of Black Germans who discovered themselves and each other.  She also correctly predicted with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of the two Germany’s, that a time of extreme nationalism with a concurrent rise in racism would soon develop.

Lorde was first invited to Germany as a visiting professor at the Free University of Berlin.  “During her time there she coined the term Afro-German.  She encouraged Afro-Germans to make themselves known in a culture that had made them silent; encouraged them to write and share their stories; and encouraged all woman to have a dialogue with each other in a constructive ways.  To understand the life White German Woman know and experienced was profoundly different from their Black Sisters,” (quote from documentary website).  Throughout her time in Berlin she lead groups of women in their journeys of discover and search for knowledge; always asking them questions to make them think and defend their answers; always trying to make people understand the other side of an argument.

The documentary is shown through archival footage and current day interviews.  Lorde, herself, is not present due to succumbing to cancer in 1992.  What is shown is a larger than life woman who had a larger than life effect and those around her–a positive affect.  But there is a bit of a cult-of-personality surrounding her persona.  The women are very reverential in their interviews–with Lorde on a pedestal.  The archival footage always shows a person challenging those around her to think, but no one challenges her.  It is only in the intimate moments between her and her partner that we see the fallible human.  Luckily for the director Dagmar Shultz we have those moments.  It brings a humane perspective into an otherwise idealized person.

Though the documentary informs about a person and community not widely known, there is a distance or wall felt between the audience and the subject matter.  You are allowed to look but not touch, admire but not enjoy.  In other word know the deeds but not the person.

Grade = B-

“The Watermelon Woman” (1996) – Frameline36

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Writer/Director:  Cheryl Dunye

Stars:  Cheryl Dunye, Valerie Walker, Lisa Marie Bronson, and Guinevere Turner

The Watermelon Woman is a film made to look like a documentary.  In the beginning you are introduced to Cheryl (Cheryl Dunye), a video store clerk and aspiring filmmaker.  One of her passions is looking at old black & white silent films.  A film she is a fan of is about plantation life, and had a black actress simply listed as “The Watermelon Woman” in the credits.  Cheryl asks herself who was Watermelon Woman, and what happened to her?  From here the story follows her quest to answer these questions, as well as follows her daily life.  She discovers “Watermelon Woman” was a performer named Fae Richards (Lisa Marie Bronson), and had a relationship with Martha Page–a white woman and one of the few female directors at that time.  During her search for Fae and her history, Cheryl becomes involved with a white woman as well, Diana (Guinevere Turner), that causes friction with her friend Tamara (Valerie Walker).

Dunye made some interesting choices.  All the archival footage is fabricated.  The old black & white films of Fae Richards were created by Dunye, as well as all the old photos and newspaper clippings referenced by friends of Richards.  The look of the “documentary” portions of the movie are purposely flatter and have harsher lighting.  The look of the “real” portions of the film are warmer and have more depth.  While these are good decisions, the random shots of Dunye dancing to a quirky musical score on the roof of a building are out-of-place to the whole feel of the movie.

The acting varies from decent to good.  Dunye as a character is likable and friendly.  You understand her motivations, but you are not necessarily invested in her success.  All the other actors do an acceptable job with their performances, but no one stands-out from the crowd.

The story of Dunye researching and making her “documentary” is well-developed.  The story of Dunye’s real life is lacking.  Though her relationship with Diane is carefully crafted in the beginning, its resolution is abrupt–making me feel if I had missed something.

The Watermelon Woman was the first, and until recently, only wide-released black-lesbian film in the United States.  Its sometimes low-budget appearance can be overlooked with its interesting premise and overall likability of Dunye as the lead.

Grade = B

“I Do” (2012-Sneak Preview) – Frameline36

Director:  Glenn Gaylord

Writer:  David W. Ross

Stars:  David W. Ross, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Alicia Witt, Maurice Compte, and Grant Bowler

I Do tackles the two hotbed issues of immigration and gay marriage in a non-political but personal way through Jack Edwards (David W. Ross).  The story begins a few years in the past at a dinner with Jack, his brother Peter (Grant Bowler) and Peter’s wife Mya (Alicia Witt).  During dinner Peter & Mya announce she is pregnant, and everyone is happy.  But after dinner a tragic accident occurs.

Fast-forward to the present:  Mya is a struggling single mother, and Jack has given-up his personal life to act as a surrogate father for Tara (Jessica Tyler Brown)–picking her up from school, tucking her into bed at night before he heads home, and always being there to help Mya in emergencies.  But then everything changes when Jack’s extension for his work visa is denied.  Off the record his immigration attorney informs him unless he gets married he will be forced to leave the country and reapply for a visa from his native England.

Desperate to stay, Jack asks his friend & work colleague Ali (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) if she will marry him.  Being rash, recently broken-up from her partner, and needing a place to live Ali accepts.  As they live together they develop a platonic “married” relationship which Ali grows to enjoy.  But then Jack meets Mano (Maurice Compte)–a Spaniard with dual citizenship since he was born in the United States while his father was stationed in the country.  Mano is understanding and compassionate about Jack’s living situation and his obligation towards Mya & Tara.  They grower closer together and spend more & more time with each other.  Ali finds herself alone at Jack’s apartment when immigration officers appear for an inspection, and request for an interview with the recently married couple.  Shaken by the impromptu visit, subsequent interview, and the very real possibility of serving ten-years in prison if their marriage is revealed to be a fraud, Ali asks Jack for a divorce.  Once again Jack faces the possibility of deportation.

The story is well crafted and genuine.  It comes to a believable conclusion where everything does not have a happy ending, but you know everyone is going to be all right.  Throughout there are heartfelt moments where real pain is expressed.  Mya admitting to Jack during a heated argument that she wished it had been him and not Peter who died hurts, but is a sentiment most people can identify with given her circumstances.  Also, the script does not downplay Tara; giving her “out of the mouth of babes” moments that ring true and are not forced.

Each of the characters is well-developed and believable.  David Ross (Jack) and Alicia Witt (Mya) are raw, broken and desperate during their emotional argument.  Ross and Maurice Compte (Mano) are very touching when together.  The interplay between Ross and Jamie-Lynn Sigler (Ali) at the end runs the gamut from annoyance to anger to regret and then reconciliation.

The only negatives of the film are minor.  The Mano character is a little too perfect in the beginning.  Also, if Ali and Jack work for the same photographer how is it that they haven’t seen each other since she moved-out of his apartment?  It is a detail that could have been explained away early by making it clear she was a contract employee for specific photo shoots and not a full-time employee.

Overall I Do is a timely film.  Like Naked As We Came, it has good potential to appeal to a straight audience.  But whereas Naked As We Came is a story where some characters happen to be gay, I Do  is a story that can only exist because the protagonist is gay.

Grade = A-

PS (Slight Spoiler Alert) There is a scene where Mano, being an American Citizen and with the both of them living in New York, proposes to Jack in order for them to be married and Jack to stay in this county.  The immigration attorney correctly states that though gay marriage is a state issue and New York allows it, immigration is a federal issue and does not recognize it.  It is in interesting fact which I never thought of before, but has horrible consequences.  In effect, if your partner is forced to leave the county because of an immigration issue, and even though you are legally married, then the only way you can stay with him/her is to leave the country with them.  Think about that.

What will the federal government do if and when gay marriage is legal in more states?  At what number does this move from inconvenient problem to serious issue; in other words how many states have to approve it before the federal government acknowledge it has a serious legal issue?  Thirty states?  Twenty-Four?  How about Fifteen that represent 60% of the population?