February 2010


Bloomington’s Pride Film Festival: A few last thoughts…

I’m probably one of a very few people who managed to make it to all 25 movies that were shown during Bloomington’s Pride Film Festival and I’ve talked about all but four at this point.

So to mention them, starting with the two shorts: The Island was an odd live-animation out of Canada in which the filmmaker thinks about how he would respond to a hate letter from the USA-a bit surreal and forgettable. The other short was Make A Mate, an odd animated film in which somebody goes to a “create-a-bear” type shop, except it’s “make-a-mate” and picked out the attributes that were most important, including ambiguous gender. It was cute and forgettable or maybe forgettable and cute.

Which leaves us the two last feature films that I’ve left unmentioned so far: Out in the Silence and Coming Out. These two, along side Switch, were films that were free to the general public and had “guided community discussion” after the films were over in order to enhance the shared experience.

Out in the Silence was actually a rather enduring film that looked at the consequences of publishing the first same-sex marriage announcement in a rural Pennsylvanian city—it actually improved the quality of life for a large number of people including a gay teen who was harassed out of school by his classmates. It was a nice film and one of the directors was present to participate in the guided community discussion. I liked the film: It was interesting; It was thought provoking; It was well done.

Unfortunately the guided community discussion was a disaster. The moderator didn’t understand that her role in this discussion was to simultaneously direct the flow of questions and otherwise keep her mouth shut. I actually wanted to talk to one of the panelists, a fellow University of Wyoming graduate, but I was so annoyed by the moderator that I decided to leave before I did something rash.

The last film of the series, on Sunday night, was Coming Out, the first, last, and only gay film from East Germany—it premiered the night that the Berlin Wall fell. I’ve seen the film several times before and I own a copy of it on DVD. Honestly seeing it on the big screen was a lot better and I saw things I hadn’t noticed before—I was better able to see the nuance. It kind of amused me because it seems to me that the streets of (East) Berlin where the film was made haven’t changed all that dramatically. The S-Bahn still runs. The Strassenbahn are still there. The buildings haven’t changed. About the only thing that’s changed dramatically are the cars: fewer Trabants roam the streets.

The panelists for this film felt that it was a period piece, and perhaps this says more about me than anything else, I find that the film resonates—even twenty years after the fact. It is, in many respects perhaps the most extraordinary and stunning film to come out of East Germany because, and this is key, it was state sponsored and it had a positive message about the place and role of gays in society. I believe one of the panelists pointed this out and observed that the US was behind because its (my/our) government hasn’t sanctioned such a gay positive film—and while this is technically true, I might point out that, in general, the US government isn’t involved in the process of green-lighting films made by film studios.

I would heartily recommend Coming Out (Buy USA | DE/Germany) as an amazing film worth watching—and if you can place it in the context of being made in an authoritarian society by the official state film making agency, that helps explain why the film is so amazing.

2 comments to Bloomington’s Pride Film Festival: A few last thoughts…

  • Reko

    Hi, Adamo! Actually, one of the panelist (viz, ME) did NOT refer to “Coming Out” as a “period piece.” I actually thought that participants in the talk-back were misusing the term a bit. I understand a “period piece” as a film or play that self-consciously portrays a period in the past, indeed, takes (great) pains to recreate clothing, speech patterns, public spaces, interior designs, social mores and concerns, etc. that are markedly different from those contemporary to the film-makers or theater artists. Thus, the film “54” is a period piece, because it sought–in 1998–to recapture the Disco world of New York in the late 1970s. “Saturday Night Fever,” on the other hand, is not a period piece, even though it is also set in the Disco world of New York in the late 1970s, because the film itself was made in the late 1970s. Of course, the contemporary viewer may experience the world of “Saturday Night Fever” as dated in certain ways, but that was not the intent of the film-makers. Likewise, those viewing “Coming Out” in 2010 will no doubt note differences between now and 20 years ago, but the film itself was simply meant to portray the world as the film-makers knew it at the time.
    I didn’t go into this, mostly because time ran out for the panel, and I was afraid that the point might have been a bit too “technical” for the setting anyway.
    I think that “Coming Out” is a TERRIFICALLY good film. In my comments, I tried to stress just how much material the film-makers packed into a single movie.

  • koko

    I wish I had the time to come down to the film fest. I really enjoyed it last time I went…which, sadly, was too many years ago now.