Arriving as it always does in the midst of summer, QFest once again offers hundreds of LGBT films from around the world, from high profile releases with famous faces to obscurities from the fringes. Here are some worth considering. (All reviews by Gary M. Kramer unless otherwise noted.)
The dozens of diverse LGBT elected officials profiled in this absorbing documentary are heartening role models who give a voice to minorities. Though there are some unnecessary reenactments, the subjects’ candor is quite forceful. Affecting testimonies address the agony of keeping one’s sexual identity secret, the impact of coming out, and — in the case of Senator Tammy Baldwin, and Hispanic Democratic Lesbian Sheriff Lupe Valdez (in Republican Dallas County) — the thrill of victory in a hard-fought campaign. Sunday, July 14, 12:00 p.m., Ritz at the Bourse
Meet Cassie (writer Brandon Alexander III in drag), a fast-talking, “totally rockin’ superstar extraordinaire.” She’s new in school, and wants to be cool, but butts up against the Heathers (Lauren Rose Lewis and Karli Kaiser) and their hunky boyfriends. Hoping to become popular before her 16 befriends another outcast, Maggie (Dudley Beene, also in drag). "First Period" generates laughs from the fabulous costumes and hilarious dialogue, as well as popsicle porn, gross-out jokes, and a stunning catfight. Saturday, July 13, 9:45 pm, Ritz East; Monday, July 15, 5:00 p.m., Ritz East
'Interior. Leather Bar'
When no one was paying attention, James Franco has directed twenty films. His sixteenth will only raise more questions about his gay rumors. Part documentary, part fiction, it delves into Franco's obsession with the missing 40 minutes of "Cruising," William Friedkin's notorious thriller set amidst the gay leather bar scene of late '70s Greenwich Village. He hopes to recreate the sleazy, often pornographic excised footage, with a straight, married man as his tortured Al Pacino. This is a tiny film, only somewhat realized by design, and one that only brings up more questions about its maker than answers. Friday, July 12, 7:00 p.m., Ritz East. Saturday, July 13, 12:15 p.m., Ritz East. — Matt Prigge
'Lose Your Head'
Cute young Spaniard Luis (Fernando Tielve) gets into the groove in Berlin when he enters a nightclub, takes some drugs, and meets a bunch of strangers, who get him naked. So far, so good, especially when he hooks up with Viktor (Marko Mandic). But when he encounters Elena (Sesede Terziyan) who is searching for her lost brother — who is surprisingly also Viktor’s ex — 'Lose Your Head' becomes a silly thriller. Luis gets beat up, naked again, and paranoid. While the film builds some real tension as Luis’ investigation gets farther-fetched, the ending ends up being both a cheat and obvious. Tuesday, July 16, 9:30 p.m., Ritz East; Thursday, July 18, 5:00p.m., Ritz East
At a meth awareness fundraiser, Kyle (Lukas Haas) tries some crystal, and begins his downward spiral. So too does co-writer/director Jane Clark’s well-meaning but lousy addiction drama. Losing his job, his boyfriend (Wilson Cruz), and his self-worth, Kyle starts lying, cutting himself and selling his body — even having bareback sex for cash to buy drugs. Haas gives a nervy performance, but "Meth Head" is too over-plotted and preachy to be an effective cautionary tale. The salient points about addiction may be based in truth, but this trying-too-hard film repeatedly feels contrived. Only trans actress Candis Cayne impresses as Kyle’s saintly neighbor. Friday, July 12, 5:00 p.m., East; Saturday, July 13, 9:30 p.m., Ritz East
Handcuffed in a jail cell, Caleb (Sean Paul Lockhart) recounts a crime he doesn’t recall. Is he being honest when he recounts his sweet-turned-sour romance with Jeremy (writer/director Rob Moretti)? What about his confessions of being abandoned by his mother as a child? Is Caleb ever telling the truth? Moreover, can he trust Jeremy? "Trust" starts out compelling — save for some hammy/cheesy flashbacks — but as secrets and lies are uncovered its third act, it devolves, like the characters, who behave badly. Still Lockhart is appropriately sexy and sinister here, and most viewers likely won’t mind all the manipulation. Friday, July 12, 9:30 p.m., Ritz East; Sunday, July 14, 12:00 p.m., Ritz East
While the title suggests another adult film by gay pornographer Michael Lucas, "Undressing Israel" is actually a benign, PG-rated tourist-board informercial on same-sex rights and benefits in the Holy Land. While an opening man-on-the-street vignette suggests most folks don’t know if homosexuality is even legal in Israel, Lucas interviews dozens of attractive models as well as entertainers, politicians, partners, and gay parents (including a co-founder of Rainbow Families) about same-sex benefits, surrogacy options, and nightlife in Tel Aviv. This informative fast-paced documentary wears its intentions and agenda on its sleeve, but it still seems both slight and biased. Sunday, July 14, 2:15 p.m., Bourse
'Where I Am'
This poignant documentary profiles Philadelphian Robert Drake, a gay writer and Quaker who was attacked by two young men in Ireland back in 1999. While Drake suffered brain damage and other trauma, he opted to “get better, not bitter.” His attitude and resilience —as well as his capacity for forgiveness — is what makes this film, about his return to the scene of his crime, so moving. Drake’s ex and gay writer Colm Toibin offer eloquent thoughts about their friend, but it is the emotional scenes — Drake breaking down outside his former residence — that make "Where I Am" so powerful. Friday, July 12, 7:15 p.m., East; Friday, July 19, 5:15 p.m., Ritz East
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