I have a love/hate relationship with LGBT films. Overall, I enjoy films with gay themes but find most of them ‘color-by-numbers’ or slutty without substance. Weekly, I surf Netflix, desperate for a great gay release, only to suffer through 90 minutes of bad acting or yet another film consisting of a gay man who can’t deal with the fact he’s (trigger gag reflex) gay.
Luckily, a tremendous amount of great foreign films (I Killed My Mother, Plan B and Weekend) and a few U.S. releases (Save Me, Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same) have reignited my belief that LGBT filmmaking is alive and well. The program for the 2nd Annual Fabulous Independent Film Festival (FIFF) solidifies that belief. Having screened several films, I can honestly say that festival director Magida Diouri has selected a great lineup, both innovative and fun. As lead programmer of the 2012 Sarasota Film Festival, Diouri already holds a respected track record for discovering “what’s next” in film, and founding FIFF has only added to her reputation. Partnering with The Harvey Milk Festival, Diouri hopes the festival will continue to grow, offering locals a cinematic alternative: the chance to view features that the major houses may never run. For those less adventurous, have no fear, Diouri’s been doing it for ages. Little known fact: Diouri’s father owns an independent movie theater in Belgium, where Diouri began assisting with reels soon after she could stand.
Here’s a quick review of three of the six films you can expect to see at the festival.
The Wise Kids
Following the small-town lives of three teens in a Southern Baptist youth group, The Wise Kids (directed and written by Stephen Cone) illustrates the struggles and triumphs of becoming an adult in the eyes of God while learning life doesn’t always follow a straight path. Who will the group look up to when the pastor and select churchgoers don’t live up to the teachings in the scriptures? How does one hose down a case of unholy hormones? Cone places a spin on the familiar story by creating likable characters that may not always engage in likable behavior. With several standout performances including Allison Torem portraying the awkwardly devout Laura, Wise Kids is equally pleasant as painful to watch, slowly igniting its spiritual bonfire by counteracting heart-wrenching moments with ones that can warm the iciest soul.
Sassy Pants (Opening Night Film)
Bethany Pruitt is the valedictorian of her senior class, but home-schooled, she is also the only member of her senior class. Thus begins the charmingly bumpy tale of a teen girl struggling to break free from the grip of a paranoid mother who was recently abandoned by her husband for a younger flamboyant cowboy (The Sixth Sense’s Haley Joel Osment). Absurd or not, writer/director Coley Sohn sacrifices campiness in her feature debut by towing the line between playful (Sixteen Candles) and peculiar (Welcome To The Dollhouse), ultimately creating a tale to which anyone can relate. Following Bethany (Sarasota native Ashley Rickards) as she flees her mother’s home to live with her gay father, the film finds humor in rich dialogue and well-timed comedic performances by seasoned actors Osment and the ever-amusing Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad). Moviegoers preferring substance to silliness will enjoy the blooming romance between Bethany and the boy-next-door, revealing a side of teen innocence rarely captured on the silver screen as of late.
Love or Whatever (Closing Night Film)
Therapist Corey (Tyler Poelle) leads a charmed life, complete with a sexy boyfriend and an outlandish sister (Jennifer Elise Cox), until his boyfriend, claiming to be bisexual, leaves him for a woman that’s also a client. Following the gushy footprints of most romantic comedies, Love or Whatever manages to stir a few good laughs by realistically chronicling the awkwardness of a break-up and the madness that often follows. When Corey meets pizza boy Pete he is left to decide whether to start love anew or return to his ex. Fans of half-clothed muscle men with adequate acting skills will stand and applaud this touching effort, while those with more refined film palates will need to look elsewhere for something outside of the box. But then again, what other movie has the guts to ask, “Have you ever been taken from behind by a mountain lion?”
The 2nd Annual Fabulous Independent Festival
August 18-19th, 2012 Burns Court Cinemas
506 Burns Lane, Sarasota Fl. 34236
Advance tickets are available here. Tickets also available the day of show (upon availability).
10:00 p.m. – Celebration Pre-Party @ Throb Nightclub/$5.00 donation
3:00 p.m. – United in Anger: A History of ACT UP
5:15 p.m. – North Sea Texas
7:00 p.m. – Opening Night Film: Sassy Pants w/short The Cover
9:15 p.m. – Opening Night Party at eat here
3:00 p.m. – The Wise Kids
5:15 p.m. – Cloudburst
7:00 p.m. – Closing Night Film: Love or Whatever
9:00 p.m. – Closing Night Reception at Caragiulos