Saturday, October 13, 2007

Civil Obedience: Reel Affirmations social justice short films; plus one "horror" short


Reel Affirmations 17 held a number of documentary programs at the Washington DC Goethe Institut today, and I attended one of them, a program called “Civil Obedience”.

The longest film in the set, “Freeheld” was reviewed on this blog June 17 (from the AFI Silverdocs festival).

Get Running: Stories from the Campaign Trail,” (2007, Victoryfund, dir. Dve O’Brien, Borga Dorter and Samantha Reynolds, 22 min, consists of three portraits of openly gay candidates for public office: Jim Roth, candidate in Oklahoma City for a local office; Virginia Linder, candidate for state supreme court in Oregon; Matt McCoy, state representative in Iowa. The first portrait was in 4:3 aspect; the other two were wider and reduced to fit as video. McCoy was presented as a family man, once married, with a small boy. The last two of these candidates won their elections. Whether one should run for office and play partisan politics, or scribe from the sidelines, has always been a controversy among gay activists.

"We Belong" (2006, qWaves.com and Current TV) dir. Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, 11 min) examines anti-gay bullying in public schools in Yenango County, PA (Franklin, near Oil City), a rural area on the edge of the Appalachian Plateau. One kid who was attacked nevertheless is railroaded with a disorderly conduct charge by the assistant principal. The kid wanted to make a movie about homophobia as his senior project, and was denied the opportunity to “criticize the local school”. So he started to make the film anyway but was forced to leave school. Another kid left a neighboring school and the parents sued the school district and won a $300,000 award but lost their business and received personal threats because of the publicity. The film, possibly with the assistance from the students, may become a feature. The Q&A afterwards established the idea that the locals in these communities did not tolerate their beliefs being questioned by others. It's relevant to look at my review of Susan Lipkins 's book on school hazing in my April 2007 books blog (link).

"Courage Doesn’t Ask" (2007, Zaydoe / Modern Digital / Spliced Films, 8 min) has a soldier (Robert Guthrie) being fitted with an artificial prosthetic leg. He recalls the battle in Iraq when he lost his leg. Though shot 4:3. the flashbacks of the battle are quite compelling, with tracers flying overhead as in night infiltration course in Basic. The graphic battlefield violence is hard to watch. All of the actors in the film are now openly gay veterans. (The film does not say who, if any, were discharged under “don’t ask don’t tell”). The mood of the film recalls Minnesota filmmaker Darin Heinis ‘s WWII short “The Retreat” (2002), a film for which I tried for a part.

Today, I also got to see an unrelated short (at the Lincoln Theater), "Hitchcocked" (2008, Unicycle, dir. David M. Young). Two gay men meet over the Internet, and then in person, expect a "shower." While clothed, there is a lot of tension in the acting. Once in the "shower," we wonder if this is a bit of “Psycho” or just an S&M joke. Only Mother knows for sure. David Grant Beck plays the aggressor, with Yuval David as the enticing “mark.” This would look great on Saturday Night Live, even with a mixed audience. On the Lot (the film-making contest this summer on Fox), this film would, if entered, have come across as having a definite beginning, middle and end. The film is included in Wolfe's 2007 collection "Boy Crush".

You can watch this film on YouTube (must be signed on to an account, as adult) here Get's interesting at about 3.10.  "Glad you like it."  Then "I'll do that".  Read what you want into the ending.  

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