Help, he’s drowning! In good movies so don’t rush to the rescue. Both the opening and closing night films of this week’s satisfying NewFest (July 24th-29th), NYC's annual LGBT film festival in partnership with OutFest, begin with a drowning. Both drownings become romantic catalysts for the lifeguard, but the films couldn’t be more different in tone or purpose so it’s surely a coincidence. NewFest got the order right, opening with the dramatic punch and ending with a sweet drive into the sunset.
In the Brazilian/German film FUTURO BEACH, which opens the annual LGBT film festival tomorrow, two tourists are hit by violent waves. Lifeguards rush in to save them but only one survives. Donato (Wagner Moura) shaken up by losing his first swimmer, seeks out the survivor's friend, a sporty motorbike enthusiast named Konrad (Clemens Schick) to explain the process for dealing with the body. Soon they're angrily rutting, caught up in the disorienting and wrenching drama. Their hookup appears destined to burn bright and die quick due to its emotionally disconnected start and its rapid and frank visual presentation -- English language cinema still lags far behind European cinema in its depictions of sex; the full frontal here is presented as if it’s no big deal.
MORE ON BOTH FILMS AFTER THE JUMP...
[The Futuro Beach trailer... unfortunately without subtitles]
But Donato and Konrad’s connection takes and the film moves across that same treacherous ocean to Germany. The film transforms into a drama about the difficulties of uprooting yourself for love, cutting ties, and maintaining passion. How will Donato, who his adorably feisty little brother nicknames "Aquaman”, survive and who will he even be when he's land-locked?
Futuro Beach is divided into three chapters like a novel in bulky parts. Like Donato, the film changes in its second chapter when the steam from the hot sex dissipates. But in the final chapter a third character reenergizes the film. Futuro Beach is slightly uneven (as stories told in clearly marked chunks often are) and its definitely abrasive at times, the rock song laced soundtrack in particular grates and director Karim Äinouz is unconcerned with getting to the next scene and sometimes as cool as Konrad to displays of emotion, which may leave some moviegoers impatient. But the film is beautifully shot to maximize its important locations and character dynamics. Most importantly, for any romantic drama, the actors are well cast: Wagner and Clemens have a combustible chemistry and their dissimilarity also makes for striking visuals when they share the frame. While there may be speed bumps of pacing and rough waves of ambivalence as you progress through the chapters, the film finds a satisfying and appropriately moody way to close its book.
In the Canadian film GERONTOPHILIA, which closes the festival on July 29th, the drowning serves as comic introduction to an unusual premise. A lifeguard named Lake (Pier-Gabriel Lajoie in his feature debut), who is just out of high school, pulls an old swimmer from the neighborhood pool to save him. During mouth-to-mouth Lake gets a surprise and visible stiffy (swimsuits, you know). The old anonymous swimmer survives so it’s a happy ending. For both of them.
In a welcome turn of events for Lake, he quickly finds a job at an old folks home where he can ogle at will to his pervy delight. Lake is instantly fascinated with Mr. Peabody (Walter Borden), an 82 years young "old queen" (Mr. Peabody's own words) who he regularly bathes, visits, and plays cards with. Will they fall in love? Will the other nurses find out? Will Lake's girlfriend understand?
Gerontophilia isn't sexually explicit but it's too confrontational and risqué in its premise for any kind of mainstream crossover. That's a pity because it's both funny and romantic which is more than you can say for the bulk of what passes for romantic comedy. Lake and Mr. Peabody's situation may be highly specific but some of the details are as universal as they come; the film gets a huge laugh in a highly familiar moment at a gay bar but that's all I'll say.
In the end the most shocking thing about Gerontophilia is not Lake's rare sexual fetish or that queer provocateur Bruce LaBruce made it. Instead it's how he made it, LaBruce magically transforming this outré premise (imagine the funding meetings: "a cute twink is horny for a dying octogenarian in a rest home!") into his most accessible and endearing film (if not his best, which I might still argue is The Raspberry Reich from 2004). On the heels of two sexually explicit and gory films about gay zombies (Otto, or, Up with Dead People and L.A. Zombie starring French porn god François Sagat) we shouldn't jump to conclusions and assume that Bruce LaBruce is softening at his half-century mark. But, whatever's next, this is a welcome, surprisingly slick, and thoroughly entertaining detour for a filmmaker who has been frisky no-budget fun to keep up with since the birth of the New Queer Cinema.
George Takei took some time out of his busy schedule of being generally awesome to stop by Bill Maher’s Real Time hot seat last Friday to talk about the gay-themed episode of Star Trek that never was. Takei, who was not publically out as a gay may while he was playing the role of Hikaru Sulu, claims that the cast and crew of the hit series were very well aware of his sexuality.
“But they were cool about it,” Takei explained. “Because they [knew] that if they made a public statement about it or made it very obvious then my career would be destroyed.”
Star Trek, known for pushing the conversation about a number of social issues forward through the use of allegory, wasn’t quite ready for a plotline dealing with homosexuality, Takei said. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, to whom Takei pitched the idea, feared that in pushing the envelope too far, the show might run the risk of being cancelled and losing its ability to make any kind of social commentary.
Check out a clip for Takei's new documentary To Be Takei about his life on Star Trek and a gay cultural icon AFTER THE JUMP...
As expected, a federal judge in Colorado has struck down the state's gay marriage ban and issued an immediate stay, the AP reports:
Judge Raymond P. Moore's ruling Wednesday was in response to a lawsuit filed July 1 by six gay couples who asked the court for an injunction ordering that the state's ban no longer be enforced.
Colorado Republican Attorney General John Suthers and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper had requested a stay so the issue could eventually be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court — though both agreed the state ban should be declared unconstitutional.
The stay was issued until 8 am, August 25.
After 17 years of rejecting workplace protections for LGBT employees, the oil and gas company Exxon Mobil has agreed to abide by the new LGBT workplace discrimination protections for federal employees recently signed into law by President Barack Obama.
The Eagle reports that “the Labor Department has 90 days to issue regulations for how employers must comply.” However, the company has stopped short of creating and applying LGBT protections of its own.
The AP has more:
Exxon… according to government records, won more than $480 million in federal contracts in 2013 and more than $8 billion since 2006…
The company began offering benefits to legally married same-sex couples in May 2013, a month before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which had allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states.
A lawsuit against the corporation is ongoing:
… Exxon is facing a same-sex discrimination complaint in Illinois. Last year, the group Freedom to Work sent the company two fictitious resumes for a job opening in Illinois. One resume had stronger qualifications, but identified the applicant as gay. Exxon Mobil responded to the lesser-qualified applicant's resume while the gay applicant received no reply.
Earlier this month, the Illinois Human Rights Commission overturned a lower body's decision to dismiss the case. Exxon has said the allegations are without merit.
The decriminalization of sex work is among one of the most important steps needed in order to curtail the spread of HIV, according to the findings of a group of HIV researchers recently published in The Lancet and presented at the 20th Annual International AIDS Conference. The need to focus on marginalized populations grows as mainstream populations gain increasing access to HIV-preventative measures and drugs to treat the virus, the research explains.
The longer sex work remains illegal, said The Lancet’s editor-in-chief Richard Horton, the longer those involved in the profession will generally go without seeking the same kinds of treatments necessary to ensure their sexual safety.
“Why should we condemn and criminalise the exchange of money for sex,” He asked. “[E]specially if the severely adverse conditions we create for such exchange hurt women and men and often fatally so?”
In a series of seven studies delving into the role sex work plays in the proliferation of the HIV virus within a country, researchers expressed their concern for sex working individuals. Given the nature of their work, Horton explained, sex workers are at risk of becoming a group for reintroducing HIV back into the general population, in spite of public health initiatives.
Of particular importance, according to Johns Hopkins University epidemiologist Stefan Baral, are male sex workers, who are woefully misunderstood by most HIV-prevention programs.
"When you think of a sex worker, the most common picture that comes to mind is a female sex worker," he elaborated. "Often what’s happened is that people want to oversimplify and generalize the epidemic. [W]e end up in a dynamic where we know very little about male sex workers."
So Much Drama is the California-based video game house responsible for Dragopolis, a mobile game for iOS and Android that takes queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race and stuffs them into a side-scrolling action/adventure. As the studio gears up to release a sequel, founder Jeff Meador spoke to Polygon about breaking into the generally un-targeted, expressly LGBT videogaming audience.
"We never pulled back on anything. It was always more glitter, more sparkle, more beads.” Meador said of the intentionally camp Dragopolis. “We put it all in there to really create something that's celebratory of the LGBT community and the drag community as well."
Drawing aesthetic and tonal inspiration from Drag Race, Dragopolis is decidedly hyperbolic in its presentation. Unlike other video games in which queerness is optional and tertiary to overall game-play, Meador and his team are aiming at creating a game that’s celebratory of this specific aspect of LGBT culture.
"I think [drag] has such a celebratory element to it,” Said Meador. "Queens are such fun and they're such characters — it was a great opportunity to bring something like that that has such joy and passion to it.”
Watch the trailer for the original Dragopolis AFTER THE JUMP...